A tree that has been shredded by antlers is the most obvious sign that a buck has been in an area. But with some knowledge of deer behavior and a little scouting, a rub can tell you a lot more. You can determine when the rub was made, what the deer was doing when he made it, and the buck’s probable age. Rising levels of testosterone circulating in the buck’s blood toward the end of summer have caused the final maturation of the antler and the death of the antler velvet. In only a matter of days, the velvet covered antler is transformed into a polished weapon of competition.
These rising testosterone levels (which will continue to rise until levels peak during November) result in a number of physiological and behavioral changes that prepare bucks for the competition for breeding privileges. Whereas bucks during the summer tend to be somewhat docile creatures content to ‘hang out’ with the guys within a fairly small home range, anticipation of the upcoming breeding season literally get ‘in their blood.’ Metabolism changes and muscle mass increases, particularly in the neck and shoulders.
Behaviorally, bucks become more aggressive and increasingly intolerant of each other. Brief sparring matches begin to occur as bucks try out their new headgear and test the strength and will of their future opponents.