Late Season Deer Hunting and Scouting | Bone Collector

Late Season Deer Hunting and Scouting | How to Read Deer Sign

Rubs, Scrapes, and Bedding Areas Can Tell You a Lot About Where and How to Hunt

As a kid, you learned how to hunt and what to look for from a close relative or friend. In most cases grandpa or dad taught you how to walk through the woods and what to look for while deer hunting. You learned where and when a scrape would appear, where to look for rubs, and what caliber of buck made it. You may have learned how to pay attention to your surroundings and the when and where of deer sign, but grandpa may have skipped the lesson on how to use it for hunting. Now is the time to learn. Scouting during the late season reveals a lot of deer sign, its time you understood the real reasons behind them, and applied it correctly to deer hunting.


When photoperiods start causing an increase in a buck’s testosterone levels, velvet sheds, hormones are worked up, and scent glands start stinking. As a result bucks make signposts to announce presence and dominance for other bucks and does by rubbing a small, or in some cases, decent size trees. Research has found that in most cases, dad’s or grandpa’s teachings on rubs was somewhat true…

In many well documented studies from Georgia and Clemson University mature bucks were more likely to make rubs than younger bucks when present in the herd. They also found that a greater number of and larger rubs were found in areas with older age classes of bucks.

How to apply while deer hunting:

Finding a lot of rubs, and big rubs doesn’t necessarily mean you should hunt in that spot. However it does tell you that you most likely have an older age class buck on your hands, >2.5 years old and quite possibly in the 4.5, 5.5 on quite a large tree. Size doesn’t automatically correlate to a giant buck but is more likely.

The main takeaway from a rub is that it can help with pre-season scouting. Bucks will make rubs after they shed their velvet. Many hunters will have tabs on a buck during the summer but once testosterone rises and the velvet comes off that buck will pick up and move to different area of his home range. Finding a lot of big rubs most likely means you have found his home range. Put up some Bone Collector Bushnell Aggressor Low-Glow trail cameras in the area and find who is responsible for the rubs.


After rubs, and just as bow season begins scrapes start to appear. Hunters usually witness young bucks making scrapes first. Followed by mature bucks later in the fall, 2-3 weeks prior to the rut. Unlike rubs, both young and mature bucks make and use scrapes frequently. The size of the scrape does not compare to size of the buck, but can relate to use.

Rubs, Scrapes, and Bedding Areas | Bone Collector

How to apply while deer hunting:

Finding a scrape, small or large in a random location does not justify spending a lot of hours hunting over it. A majority of scrape activity is not during daylight, but that’s not always the case. The most practical use of a scrape is using it in addition of hunting an already established stand site. Whether it’s a food plot, edge of a corn field, a large oak flat, or a simple logging road, placing a mock scrape or finding an existing scrape is an advantage. They can and will draw deer to that specific spot in an area they will most likely already be during daylight hours. A small mock scrape, once found, has the power to draw or stop a buck for a shot in front of your stand.

Deer bed

Finding compressed leaves or grass on a sunny south slope can be one of your most important discoveries of the late season. Deer beds are extremely important for deer hunting. As the season gets later into the rut and even after peak breeding, bedding areas should consume your main focus. Quality thermal cover and spots to conceal a big buck with a doe during the rut is extremely important before, during, and after the rut. Bedding areas adjacent to or combined with funnels and food plots are a dime a dozen.

Where and How to Hunt | Bone Collector

How to apply while deer hunting:

If you find one or multiple deer beds get out! Leaving bedding areas as sanctuaries and not pressuring them allows your property and hunting area to attract and hold both does and bucks. If you find or know of a great bedding area apply your stand setup and plan accordingly. Get a map and think about morning and afternoon movements into and out of the bedding area for the early and late season. For a pre-rut setup pick a tree a 100 yards or so on the downwind side, allowing you to catch mature bucks scent checking the bedding area for hot does. For a late season post-rut set grab your Bone Collector Clothing and plan on staying warm somewhere between the bedding area and a food source.

Deer browse

Dad or grandpa might not have covered this one, but it is still very important. Deer browse when payed attention to can reveal a lot about an area’s use and deer movement. Take any of your food plots as an example. In this scenario you worked hard developing three small plots across your property in August. After some good rains, the proper fertilization and liming only two plots grew great, the other has been struggling. Upon first glance its simple…it just didn’t grow. When studied in detail however the plot has been browsed hard by deer.

Deer browse in the timber or in an early successional/old field type habitat also reveals a lot. Noticing exceptional amounts of browse on brush, saplings, and forbs indicates a lot of traffic and milling around.

How to apply while deer hunting:

Putting out an exclosure cage to see the actual productivity of the food plots and how much browse is affecting it will tell you which food plot to hunt over. Paying attention to species like blackberry and black raspberry, and other favorite browse species when the snow starts to fall in the late season can tell you where to hunt.

Whether it was your dad, your grandpa or another relative or friend that taught you how to look for and read deer sign, learning a little bit more “up-to-date” information can benefit you this late into the season. Chances are your already scouting or shed hunting, paying attention to this deer sign and applying what you now have learned can benefit you big time!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *