There are a variety of tactics to harvest a big buck on opening day, but setting up on a rub line might be one of the best.
Of all of the aids we hunters have in helping us tag a trophy buck, good old fashioned scouting is still one of the best early season tactics we can utilize to get the lowdown on where deer are moving on our properties.
Sure, game cameras are great, but they can’t show you where bucks are making rub lines. Finding rub lines in early fall will tell you a lot about bucks that might be bedding down nearby.
Rub lines will also tell you where you should set up, if you know how to read them.
Before we get into the grits and gravy of rub line set ups, lets first agree on what a rub line is. Bucks make rubs, in most cases, marking out their territory lines.
However, when there are multiple rubs in a very specific location, or even a line, then this is the core rub area, indicating the living room of a buck.
This is the area that they pass almost daily on their way to food or bedding. Finding these rub lines are very important when looking to try to ambush this buck because how he is rubbing on this line will tell you several things.
The first thing a rub line will tell you is the buck’s direction of travel. Typically, all the rubs will be on the same side of the trees in the line. If all the rubs are on the South side of a tree, then that buck would likely be traveling from the South, heading North.
Often times, they move to and from a water source, food source, or his bed. Bucks tend to rub on trees in direct proportion to their size too. Smaller bucks like smaller saplings while larger bucks tend to go for small trees. All bucks are different, but usually this is a good indicator of size.
Now, here’s where things get tricky. Some would say, including myself, that setting up directly on a rub line is foolish. You simply should not do it. I know, I know, then what’s the point? Why write about it?
I know this contradicts what this article is supposed to be about, but to set up on a rub line is almost directly and deliberately chasing that big buck away.
Others would argue that sometimes it can be effective, because at least one buck is definitively in the area, and your odds of being in a buck’s path are naturally increased. The important thing to note from that is the word sometimes.
In reality, using the rub lines as directional indicators, strategizing based on this information, then setting up just off of a rub line, can be more effective.
Pull up an aerial map of your land and locate the rub line. Next, draw a line from the most likely bedding area and the most likely food or water source.
I would bet a sizable amount of money that the rub line on your property is somewhere very close to that line.
So here’s the rub (pun absolutely intended), set up on that path, and not directly on top of the rub line. You know a buck is traveling that path during at least at one point throughout the day, so use the rest of the common determiners to lead your decision on how to approach the hunt. By that I mean wind, cover, and more.
If you plan to hang a treestand or bring a portable one, figure out what tree, or group of trees, makes sense to attempt.
Essentially, staying out of his living room will keep him in the area longer, allowing you for more opportunities if the rub line strategy doesn’t exactly work.
Again, like I said, the odds are a little, well, odd in this situation. You know one or more bucks are around, but you’ll need to play it extra safe so as not to end up scaring them away from what’s supposed to be a safe haven.
This is also an area where trail cameras can really help dial in exactly what is happening on a rub line. Place your cameras on likely paths of travel near that line between food and bedding. If the buck cooperates, you will see if he is rubbing on his way to eat or on his way to bed.
The best chance to bag this buck is before the rut. Once rut opens up, rub lines are reduced to nothing more than cuts on a tree. More intense movement has begun, and bucks have one thing and one thing only on their minds.
If you do intend on hunting a rub line, play your cards right, and you will see for yourself why using them as part of your start of the season strategy can be so effective.
What other rub line tips do you have?