Hunting Scrapes & Rubs: Late-October Magic

The month of October is maligned by bowhunters most everywhere, as that dreaded stretch when bucks seem to “disappear” into thin air. It’s a transition period between the time when deer are in their visible, predictable patterns of September.

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

While most of the month is critical for gathering info that can be valuable later on, by late October it’s time to focus on scrapes and rubs that can pay big.

OctBucks1 600The month of October is maligned by bowhunters most everywhere, as that dreaded stretch when bucks seem to “disappear” into thin air. It’s a transition period between the time when deer are in their visible, predictable patterns of September, and the rutting chaos of November. During October most bucks are largely nocturnal; the bachelor groups have broken up and the food sources are changing. Farm crops are being harvested; acorns, chestnuts and hazelnuts are available for short periods as they fall and are cleaned up. Living is easy for the deer and their movements are minimal and erratic.

Does this all mean you should stay home during October? Absolutely not. There are times when being in a stand can be very productive, and there are some other “projects” that can be accomplished during this month that will increase your odds of bagging a buck later on.

?????The first half of October is a time when bucks are doing a lot of rubbing. These rubs provide important clues to their travel routes and preferred bedding areas. As a buck rises from its bed in late afternoon, he’ll typically stretch and get his juices flowing by chafing up a few nearby trees. He may hit several trees on his way to feed. These bright scars can provide clues to help you find his preferred beds, because rubs are directional. Follow a line of rubs backwards and you will eventually end up where the buck likes to seclude himself during the daylight hours.

?????Along your “backtracking” path you might find a great place to set up and waylay that buck, but at the very least you will find some places to set scouting cameras and get a look at him. The information gathered will also help you learn more about the timing and direction of his movements. You can log each of the rubs in your HuntStand app; soon a distinct, and helpful pattern will emerge right on your screen.

October is the month of scraping. New scrapes appear every day as the bucks’ testosterone levels rise. The last two weeks of October is peak time for scraping. Primary scrapes can be found under overhanging branches on the edges of open areas. These will have fresh tracks in them most every day. It’s a great time to “inventory” the bucks in your area with a camera.

OctBucks6 600I like to put “scrape drippers” (I’m hanging one above) on these scrapes and monitor them with a Covert scouting camera. Bucks cannot resist visiting these scrapes when there is fresh new scent in them. Within three days, you are likely to have a photo of most every buck in the area. If you see daylight activity, it’s time to make your move and hunt that scrape immediately.

OctBucks4 600If I find an area all torn up with rubs and scrapes during late October, you can be sure I will be hanging a stand nearby. By the time the rut is in full swing, these scrapes will get little attention, so I want to take full advantage while the getting is good. Pictured above is a young buck “investigating” the sweet smells of one of my scrape drippers.

EarlyBucks7 600Interestingly, many studies have been done by biologists in an effort to learn how and when bucks use scrapes. They have found that by hanging cameras covering the scrapes, they get photos of bucks mostly under cover of darkness. In fact, some studies have shown that visits to scrapes by mature bucks will occur almost exclusively (up to 90 percent of the time!) at night. I say this percentage is way out of whack.

OctBucks5 600Personally, I believe most of these scrape studies feature a rather glaring, fatal flaw. I am convinced that the local bucks continue to “scent-check” these active scrapes during daylight hours, but mostly avoid having their photo taken. Think about this. Mature bucks simply do not like to expose themselves on the open edge of a field—which is where most scrapes are found—during the daylight. So if the wind allows, they will scent-check the scrape from down wind, typically from 10 to 30 yards away, depending on the cover. Only if they smell something that arouses their urges (or their curiosity) will they move right onto the scrape.

OctBucks7 600This “scent-checking” behavior offers the hunter a unique opportunity to set up and take advantage of this chink in a big buck’s armor. How? Set up your stand downwind of the scrape in a strategic location (be sure to check your HuntStand app for the prevailing wind direction of the precise spot you’re considering). Additionally, it can be wise to add some fresh scent (see above) to the scrape while hunting it; this can make a big difference. How? The fresh smells may tempt the buck to move directly into the scrape rather than “skirting” it. Be sure to use your HuntStand ScoutMarx to mark the scrape locations, then closely monitor a potential stand’s ScentCone performance (especially mornings and evenings) to determine the best stand tree.

OctBucks8 600I have fallen in love with the last week of October for hunting over scrapes and rubs. While most of my DIY road trips for whitetails have focused on the first two weeks of November, these days, I find myself leaving home to be in position to hunt a day or two before Halloween. It allows me to scout quickly and find an area that reeks of rutting activity, and gets me right into a tree to begin my hunt. This is something I wouldn’t do during November.

OctBucks9 600The last week of the month is also the best time of the year for calling and rattling, in my opinion. Bucks in the Midwestern states where I do most of my hunting seem to come to rattling during this period better than any other time. And those scraping areas are great places to rattle. Typically, bucks will come running in, expecting to find some action in an area they already know is a “buck hangout.” By rattling you’re just confirming what local bucks already know.

OctBucks10 600It is embarrassing how long it took me to figure out why I would see deer in the distance, when I was sitting in a tree over a known “rutting area.” Here was an area all torn to pieces right in front of me, but I would catch glimpses of bucks drifting through the trees 40 to 50 yards away, deer that were simply “moving through” the area. Once I figured out that these bucks were scent-checking downwind of the scrapes, the light bulb finally went on. I now use a quality scent to “spike up” natural scrapes, and any time I see a buck, I hit my grunt call a few times in an effort to turn him towards me. It doesn’t always work, but it has brought a buck within range often enough to keep me trying it.

OctBucks11 600The chance to beat the crowds is one of the greatest advantages to hunting the last week in October. In the past dozen years, outdoor television has created a hunger for big bucks away from home, and more and more hunters are taking whitetail hunting “road trips” each season. I hunt mostly public land in several states each year, and I find that the first full weekend in November is when the parking lots start to fill up. Most people have a week or two off from work, so they hunt hard for two weekends and a week. By starting my hunt at the end of October, I put myself in position to be driving to my next destination with a buck in the back of the truck, before the competition arrives in full force.

OctBucks12 600The next time the month of October finds you discouraged, try my advice on gathering helpful information, and do some smart hunting over rubs and scrapes with help from your HuntStand app. Then you, too, may soon find yourself excited to be leaving home for your whitetail adventure, a few days earlier than the remainder of the DIY crowd. And hopefully, arriving home with a cooler or two filled with some fresh October venison.




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