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Early Season Rubs – What Do They Mean

Finding a fresh rub close to where I selected to hang a stand usually boosts my confidence in that area! Fresh rubs are like a neon sign saying “a buck was just here!”

However, fresh rubs, especially those during the early season don’t mean the buck or bucks will return to that area. There are many factors that are changing during the early season. These factors include changing food sources and a deer’s changing dietary requirements.

Early Season Rubs – What Do They Mean

The time when bucks shed velvet from their antlers usually coincides with growing season plants maturing and cool season plants starting to grow. For example, most soybean varieties are maturing during this time while it’s time to plant winter wheat.


At the same time deer are changing from seeking a protein-rich to an energy-rich diet. For example, many whitetail hunters have noticed deer leaving ag fields and food plots during this time and switching to eating acorns and/or gains.

Rubs made when deer were still eating protein rich forage may not be an accurate indicator of where deer will be active if they change to preferring nuts or grains.

I enjoy finding rubs. However, I only use them as indicators of where bucks are active if the rub location is relevant to the source of food, cover, or water that bucks will use during that time of year.

Growing Deer together,


Dr. Grant Woods
Dr. Grant Woods
Raised in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Dr. Grant Woods has consulted on wildlife research and management from Canada to New Zealand. A hunter since childhood, he not only knows how to grow big deer, but how to effectively hunt them as well. His work serves to improve deer herd quality and educate hunters about advanced management techniques.