-By Randy Cooper
My heart literally started to pitter patter today in the woods. I was relocating my Moultrie Gamespy 200 camera to a new location to see if I could catch a huge 10-point that I've been seeing. For about 2 weeks he hasn't showed up so I thought he might have relocated for some reason. Bucks that have been coming to my feeder have been in velvet up to this week. I noticed that the velvet had began to dry and get tighter to their antlers in the last photos taken. When I went to my stand location overlooking one of last years big scrapes on a major trail, my mouth fell open. No it wasn't a copperhead, it was the tree that the huge scrape was under. It had been rubbed so badly that it had shreds of bark hanging off it up to about chest high. Usually when bucks begin to rub off their velvet the rubs they make are half hearted and on smaller trees. I had employed a little tactic just the week before when I hung the stand that overlooked this scrape. I simply took a stick and cleaned it out and left drag marks in it like a buck had opened it up. I didn't use any scent, just cleaned it out. This was in an effort to make any passing dominate buck in the area think, in animal terms, that a transient buck had taken over that scrape and was calling this area his own. It worked!
This tree was about a 4-inch diameter. Not bad. I then turned down the trail in the direction I wanted to go and hang out the camera and was floored to find two more rubs on bigger trees including one of about an 8-inch diameter trunk. They were destroyed! I usually don't find these really aggressive rubs until during the last stages of pre-rut when their testosterone is through the roof. When I saw all this I began to shake. This is the kind of sign that I dream about finding. The kind that makes it impossible to sleep at night after finding it. It's very rare. I put the trail pod mount on a tree pointing down the trail the buck will have to use to check this scrape and left as quickly as I could. I was wearing my Elimitrax boots and leggins to make sure that my scent wasn't left in the area. Only Ms. Cleo could have known that I was there. I'm going to sneak back in there tomorrow and check the camera. The importance of all this is that, first, these are the earliest rubs I've ever seen since I started hunting big bucks. I think these bucks are in good shape because I've been feeding them a combo of high protein goat food and whole corn since December. Second, I think the tactic I used worked and elicited a response from the most dominate buck in the area. It has to either be the massive 10-point or a 20-inch 8-point that are always seen together. Now that they are going into hard antler I expect them to become more solitary and aggressive toward each other. Wish me luck on opening day, September 8th, I know exactly where my butt will be sitting that morning.