First, a Word About Buck Rubs

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When hunting the whitetail rut, a lot of the same questions about rubs and scrapes are asked year in and year out. Among them are: Is it OK to pee in a buck scrape? Before answering that one, let’s first address these broad categories.

The whitetailxe2x80x99s most visible rut-time signs also have spawned deep-rooted myths. Count, if you can, how many times you’ve heard someone say, xe2x80x9cSmall rubs always equal small deer. You have to find big rubs to find big deer.xe2x80x9d What’s the count? Probably dozens, right? Unfortunately, that blanket statement is yet another whitetail myth.

Although big rubs are a good indicator that a big deer is roaming the countryside, sign alone does not indicate if, or how many, big deer frequent a property. Well-developed yearlings and average-sized 2-year-old bucks can leave calf-sized rubs. These rubs, however, are usually sparse. Rub lines that feature consistently large rubs are good indicators youxe2x80x99re dealing with a mature buck.

For example, one mature big-woods buck I killed many years ago made nothing but small, sapling-sized rubs across his home territory. I knew the buck was there, and, frankly, was surprised by the lack of sign. I didnxe2x80x99t realize why until after I killed him. He weighed 245 pounds on the hoof and sported a Pope-and-Young-class rack, but his beam tips curved so far inward that they nearly touched. When he rubbed, he either had to choose a 2-inch sapling, or rub the trees with the sides of his rack.

Rubs are certainly exciting to a deer hunter, but theyxe2x80x99re highly unreliable for forecasting buck movement … unless concentrated in a well-defined line in a classic travel corridor. Rubs basically tell you where a buck has been, and close study can reveal what direction he was traveling when he made them. When hunting, let rubs confirm youxe2x80x99ve selected a good piece of terrain. Donxe2x80x99t make the mistake of merely placing a stand within shooting distance of a rub or two. Instead, dissect the area and key off of trails, corners and areas where dense cover overlaps with more open areas.

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Next up, Whitetail Scrapes

My views on scrapes and scrape hunting are similar to those on rubs, but I place less faith in active scrapes during the rut. The few scrapes that are worth hunting are those located inside the woods and include an active licking branch. Ixe2x80x99ve wasted many hours hunting over field-side scrapes. Sure, I saw a few deer, even killed some does and young bucks over them; but field scrapes are not worth the effort, because theyxe2x80x99re invariably made and revisited under the cover of darkness.

READ/WATCH MORE: 5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT MOCK SCRAPES

Licking branches are crucial because they serve as a communication hub for every deer in the area. In the absence of real licking branches, hunters can literally take matters into their own hands and create whitetail hotspots. Merely find a well-used trail or crossing and break a stout branch so it hangs at chest level. Or, better yet, saw off a branch and use wire or a plastic cinch tie to anchor it to another low-hanging branch. This tactic can be taken one step further by creating a mock scrape, but itxe2x80x99s not necessary. If youxe2x80x99re careful not to contaminate the branch with human scent, deer will start using it as a licking branch. The late, great Charles Alsheimer taught me this trick when I visited his western New York farm in October 1998, and Ixe2x80x99ve experienced incredible success with it ever since. Once deer start using a licking branch, they show up like clockwork when theyxe2x80x99re passing through an area. Bucks are typically the only deer that will urinate in the scrape, but does and fawns invariably stop and use the licking branch.

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Should I Pee into a Mock Scrape?

Can human urine be effective in mock scrapes? Most definitely. The key, however, is moderation. This is another trick that Alsheimer perfected after first writing about it in the late 1970s. After creating a mock scrape, he made sure the ground was completely void of all leaves and debris, and then urinated directly into the soil for maybe 15 seconds. He told me the resulting ammonia reaction is similar to that of deer urine. In fact, he said some hunters claimed that they get the same results by using regular household ammonia. That’s quite possible, because urine is basically the same thing after it comes in contact with air and soil.

The urination tactic is effective in prompting bucks to approach the scrapes, smell the ground and feverishly re-work them. Be warned: This tactic doesnxe2x80x99t work all the time. I have spooked deer from scrapes that Ixe2x80x99ve urinated into, but I attribute most of those failures to accidentally urinating on nearby leaves or grass. Although urinating in a scrape might sound a bit over the top to some hunters, trust me, itxe2x80x99s a cheap and effective way of outsmarting white-tailed bucks.

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I made this mock scrape earlier the previous day. This buck worked the licking branch and pawed the scrape that evening. The Browning Recon Force 4K camera caught all of the action. (author image)

Final Note: Are Deer Scent Worth It?

What about deer scents? I wholeheartedly support using them, especially in scent drippers. Estrous doe urine is a powerful attractant during this time of the season. Want to conduct your own research? Make several mock scrapes. Leave some “as is,” and doctor a couple of the other ones with scent drippers. Place a trail camera nearby. You will be amazed at the number of photos and videos you will acquire when you’ve done everything right with a mock scrape that has been doctored with deer scent. The key here is to exercise scent control to the nth-degree. If you aren’t careful and use your bare hands to touch vegetation, etc., the deer will surely notice, especially the mature bucks.

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Good luck, good hunting, and for those about to rut, we salute you!

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Sean Campbell’s love for hunting and outdoor life is credited to his dad who constantly thrilled him with exciting cowboy stories. His current chief commitment involves guiding aspiring gun handlers on firearm safety and shooting tactics at the NRA education and training department. When not with students, expect to find him either at his gunsmithing workshop, in the woods hunting, on the lake fishing, on nature photoshoots, or with his wife and kid in Maverick, Texas. Read more >>