Reading Those Signs Can Improve Your Deer Hunting
These signs aren’t the ones erected by highway departments. They are the ones made by the deer themselves, according to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission staff members.
Deer hunters toss that term “sign” about freely. “I found some sign at the edge of those pin oak trees.” They could mean more than one thing.
Deer sign can be rubs, scrapes, tracks or trails. Looking for and paying attention to all of these helps in getting a shot at a deer and making a successful hunt.
Rubs means a bare spot on a tree or sapling where a buck has polished his antlers, rubbed the velvet or skin off. Nearly always, this rub is on a small trunk, usually just a sapling. You seldom find rubs on trees large enough to make firewood or sawmill timber.
One myth among some hunters is that the higher the rub, the bigger the buck that made it. Keep in mind that a buck bends over to rub the tree. This puts the rub two or two and a half feet above the ground, seldom more than that and sometimes even less than two feet. It’s possible that a prize 12-point buck will leave a lower rub than a spike buck.
Scrapes are regarded by some veteran deer hunters as the most important of deer signs. A scrape is a bare place on the ground where a buck has raked the ground clean with its feet then urinated on the spot. The buck puts a mark there, staking the territory as his and warning away competitors. Experienced hunters look for the freshness of a scrape, meaning it was made recently and that the buck should still be in the vicinity.
Tracks are footprints of deer. You’ll find them in soft ground, semi-soft ground or mud anywhere deer have been, and they can be read for freshness. A track with sharp edges is a recent one. If the edges are rounded, it’s been a while since the deer passed by. A newer track may be partially on top of an older one. Usually, larger deer make larger tracks, and bucks are larger than does on the average. But keep in mind that softer earth can mean a track larger than one in fairly firm earth.
Trails are indicators that ground animals come that way on a regular basis, but trails don’t tell a hunter what kind of animal it is. Possums, raccoons and armadillos make and use trails just as deer do. Several kinds of animals can use the same trail. Still, a trail is a sign that animals are in the area regularly.
Put the reading of signs in your deer hunting repertoire, and it is one more step toward becoming a more successful on the hunt. And it is another step in the story-telling aspect of deer hunting as well.