Big Rubs – Trophy Buck Sign or Sign Posts?

By Nick Pinizzotto

Deer Hunting
Big Rubs – Trophy Buck Sign or Sign Posts?
U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance
U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance

Columbus, OH –-( We have all heard the saying that “Big bucks might rub small trees but little bucks don’t typically rub big ones.

In reality, the saying should go “Big bucks rub small trees and sometimes small bucks rub big trees.” In most cases, mature bucks are responsible for starting the larger rubs that get a hunter’s blood pumping. Once a large rub is made, however, it is common for a number of bucks to visit it, large and small, in order to leave their own message to other deer in the area. If you encounter a large rub that seems to be used year in and year out, chances are it is more of a sign post for most bucks in the area than the mark of a giant buck that has been around for years.

Deer have several “check in” points in a particular area that they visit with some regularity to leave their scent mark letting other deer know that they are around. Think of it as a message board where people occasionally check in to leave a message for others to see. You see these in grocery stores or on college campuses where people can post information about current events, needing a roommate, or items for sale.

In a whitetail’s world, the bulletin boards take the form rubs, primary scrapes, and licking branches.

At this point you are probably asking how you can use this information to your advantage? What not to do is set up your ambush point over the large rub. Although it might seem exciting thinking about a giant buck coming in and working the rub right in front of you, the odds of that happening are slim to none. Instead, do your best to learn where the deer are coming from and at what time they are visiting the rub to leave their mark. Probably the best way to do this is with a trail camera positioned over the rub. Not only will it tell you what time the deer are visiting the area, it all tells you what direction they are coming from. You can use this information to establish ambush points heading to the rub where you stand a much better chance of seeing the buck on his feet. You will see more in Sportsmen’s Weekly in the coming weeks about advanced trail camera tactics.

Once you start to learn the buck’s pattern you can set your stands in downwind locations and work on learning where he is during shooting light. It is probably a good idea to set a stand a fair distance away where you can see a lot of area with binoculars. Scouting from a distance before making a definitive decision to move in could be very helpful. If you make a wrong move early on and get too close to the buck’s preferred bedding area, you might miss your only opportunity. Also, pay close attention to the trail camera photos you get. You will be able to tell what direction the deer is coming from and at what time he is visiting. If he routinely visits shortly after dark, chances are his bedding area isn’t too far away and your work to find him should be easier. On the other hand, if he shows up in the middle of the night it will be a lot more difficult to figure out how far away he is bedding or feeding. In that case it can be helpful to have additional cameras to help you figure out the pattern.

The take away message is do not assume all big rubs are made and used by big bucks only. Other bucks and sometimes does will use large rubs as sign posts, checking in regularly to leave their scent mark while also finding out what other deer were in the area. With a little patience and thoughtful scouting, you might be able to use these sign posts to decipher a big buck’s pattern, and put yourself in shooting range during daylight hours.

By Nick Pinizzotto, USSA President and CEO

About:The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen’s organizations that protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. Visit