This cedar post was located a half-mile off the Milk River, in a huge Montana wheat field where, for decades, at night from Halloween through November, 20 or more deer came to feed, mingle and breed under cover of darkness.
I figure the post was set by some ranch hands back in the 1940s or 50s. I figure that 10 to 13 generations of Milk River bucks have rubbed it into a perfect hourglass with their antlers since then; I mean you couldn’t have carved and smoothed it any better. I surmise bucks love the rubbing post because it is tall and smooth (the fence wire rusted away long ago) and still smells wonderfully of cedar.
Tactically speaking, the post is a “signpost,” blazed by bucks in a high-traffic spot where does and other bucks can see the post from far away and veer over to touch it, lick it, smell it and rub more on pre-orbital and forehead scent on it. It is both a visual and olfactory communication post for deer in the area.
With the rancher’s blessing, I lashed a rope to the fence post and yanked it out of the ground with a pickup. I felt a little sad, but I wanted the rub for a souvenir. It probably wouldn’t have lasted another rutting season anyway; most of the nearby fence posts had been snapped in half by the rubbing of frenzied bucks over the years.
Finding a unique and alluring thing like that post is a big part of why I still love to go hunting. On any given day you never know what you’ll see or find out in the woods.
Will the storms and subsequent record flooding in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Mississippi and other central and south-central states kill fawns that are dropping right now and into June?
Biologists note that pregnant does are good mothers, and they sense when to move out of a flood zone. The primary concern for deer populations is for stressed does that are dropping or dropped fawns in areas of rising water levels, and the fawns were too young to move to higher ground.
This is surely the case in some flood-ravaged areas.
“We know it’s going to have a negative impact,” said William McKinley, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Deer Program coordinator. “Let’s just say that up front.”
But fawn survival in flood plains is typically high, even during flood years.
“A reduced fawn crop (in the Mississippi Delta) is what I expect to see,” said McKinley. How much? We have to wait and see.”
Good-sized trees with scars that have healed and thickened over the years, and upon which current bucks rub their antlers each fall, are “sign-posts.”
Some biologists believe these trees are rubbed mostly by older bucks (3½ years and up). One theory is that mature bucks deposit pheromones on the rubs, and this plays an important role in the dominance and subordination process in a herd.
Does and all sizes of bucks have been observed interacting with sign-posts—they often nuzzle and smell them—but generally only mature bucks rub them hard.
Sign-posts are typically blazed in areas with high deer traffic, often near trails and scrapes, and should be markers for your strategy.
While you won’t hunt over a sign-post per se, it makes sense to scout out from the big rubs…look for cover edges, funnels and trails where bucks travel…find pockets of acorns and other spots where they eat…and hang tree stands there.
Dave Skinner, pro-staff for Spartan Camera and Go Cam, offers some great tips for setting and positioning your cameras:
I like to position my cameras approximately waist high, or about eye level for deer, for the best photo quality and the best angle for judging their age, and antler score.
For the absolute best photo quality, you want to set the camera 15’ or so from the target, about waist high pointing north or south so the camera is not looking directly into the rising or setting sun.
A nice wall of vegetation behind the target will reflect the infrared flash and result in better quality photos.
If it’s a trail set, angle the camera up or down the trail for a better centered image rather than putting the camera on the edge of the trail looking directly across it. Better yet, attempt to locate the camera at a spot where 2 trails intersect, increasing your odds of photographing bucks.
Spring through September the antler-growing cycle for whitetails is approximately 170 days. This gives a buck many opportunities to catch a velvet antler on a fence, smash it against a tree as he flees danger, etc.
Antlers grow fast—up to an inch per day in the summer! They have a complex system of blood vessels that carry nutrients through the velvet and down into the core.
When a growing antler is broken, it bleeds profusely, and blood can pool and fill the inside of the velvet. When the hardening of the bone process occurs in September the pooled blood can create a heavy, swollen, club-like antler.
If the injury is to the pedicle (the base of an antler) then the deformity could persist for several sets of antlers or even for the rest of the buck’s life, making him a permanent non-typical. Interesting!