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Elk Rubs

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Elk Rubs

Postby cnelk » 02 15, 2013 •  [Post 1]

When find some fresh elk rubs, what do you do?
Like you see about a dozen in a 100yds

What is the bull doing when he has been raking trees all these trees?
Is it a bedding area?
Staging area?

What are your next steps?
Do you hunt it? How?

What do elk rubs mean to you?
And how do you factor them into your hunt?

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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby BrentLaBere » 02 15, 2013 •  [Post 2]

Last year on my hunt I found about 8 rubs on the outskirts of their feeding area on the way to where I thought they had been bedding. Even with whitetails I find the same, more of a staging area. Not sure if it is as true for elk though. I would look for sign of game trails in the immediate area and try to find some type of funnel point and try to make a set up work for an early evening hunt to see if I could catch them after getting out of their beds. This would also depend on what the rub looked like. is there any green showing to indicate if it was a fresh one versus one from years past.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby BrentLaBere » 02 15, 2013 •  [Post 3]

First picture is of a spike I was go from feeding to the bedding area. He is standing on the edge of the flat area before dropping into a ravine. On the edge of the clearing is where I found the rub line. The feeding area is off to the left and behind where I took the picture. The second picture is further north of where I was standing (straight forward). It was where I thought they would travel and maybe bed. I didn't want to spook them so I never traveled into it. It was pretty thick stuff.
Sorry for the quality they were taken from my phone.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby ElkNut1 » 02 16, 2013 •  [Post 4]

Personally, I put little stock in those areas. Most are done in Aug. outside of rutting/breeding times. As you look at the size of those trees you can tell multiple bulls are mostly rubbing velvet off, it is more of a staging area & yes it's possible bulls at one time did bed not far off but not an area to sink ones teeth into during Sept hunts. Sure anything can happen & a bull may be around there but odds are low to spend much quality time at them as bulls are generally more interested in looking for cows & covering lots of country doing so. I'd look around the area for fresh coming & goings, wallows/water & see if there was anything that elk needed to hang around there. In most findings as that I would just move along! I'd rather be where elk are, not where they were. (grin)

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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby Indian Summer » 02 16, 2013 •  [Post 5]

Elk may or may not be in the vicinity. Hard to say but I'd take a look at the big picture and think about where I'd go from there once the rut kicked in. Might be over the next ridge... could be miles. One time I found an area of about 1.5 acres where literally every tree was freshly rubbed. Hundreds of them! Next year there wasn't a single one. Man did that confuse me.

The only time I'd put any thought into a rub is if were frosty or better yet a bit of fresh snow and the shavings are ON TOP of that. Of course in that case there'd be tracks and other fresh sign as well.

One thing that interests me and maybe Paul can chime in... is when I see fresh rubs during October. At that time bulls are laying low recuperating and not travelling as far as other times. A rub then catches my eye more.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby buglmin » 02 16, 2013 •  [Post 6]

I notice lots of rubs along the tree line where the elk feed at night, and I dont really bother with them. But when I start seeing more and more rubs that werent there the day before, I start to pay attention to that area. When more bulls come into an area, the hunting gets very interesting.
We found fresh rubs in November last fall at timberline, extremely fresh, like done the evening before. Why, I dunno, but something had the bull worked up.
In NM, the elk rubs can be very very impressive. KInda makes you look down at the lil longbow in your hands and swallow hard...
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby Theelkhunter » 02 16, 2013 •  [Post 7]

In the area that we hunt, most of the rubs happen in September. Last year, I don't think we saw 1 rub tree at all. The year before that, we saw hundreds. Bulls were actually uprooting aspen trees. A few years ago over in Easter Or., I was walking down an old road. The road was about a mile long. Every tree on the side of this road was shredded. You could see where he would tear up a tree and walk across the road to destroy another one. He zig zagged up this road. It was pretty neat. We found the bull a few days later. He was living on top of a finger ridge at the top of the road. Every tree on top of the ridge was destroyed.We tried to get on the bull for 4 days. We got close but didn't get him. A horsemen drove a herd of cattle crossed the ridge and blew him out. Never to be seen again....
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby >>>---WW----> » 02 16, 2013 •  [Post 8]

Elk rubs are like elk tracks and elk crap. It tells me where the elk have been, not where they are!

Most are made when they are rubbing velvet off. These are usually in bull areas away from the cow herds and before the actual peak rut. However if you find one on or around mid September or later that is smok'n hot, that wasn't there the day before, this could be a display rub and the herd may still be in the general area.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby buglmin » 02 16, 2013 •  [Post 9]

Most on the bulls we've seen use what we call service berry bushes or small trees to rub velvet off, not big, 4" or 6" trees. When bulls rub velvet off, they dont go at it in a frenzy. Several times while working bulls we've had them rub trees on the way in. Also, we have a tree in one area that gets rubbed year after year by bulls. Why this lil pine tree still isnt dead is beyond me. Guess the will to survive...
In NM, the bulls we hunt in unit 2 use sage brush to rub the velvet off. Seen this a few times. When bulls rub a tree, its usually out of frustration. Lord only knows the times we've sat across a huge sage flat and watch a bull work over tree after tree, screaming his fool head off at us, but not wanting to leave the cows or cross the flat...
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby >>>---WW----> » 02 16, 2013 •  [Post 10]

Another good one for rubbing velvet is choke cherry.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby WA Backcountry » 02 16, 2013 •  [Post 11]

I will never approach a fresh rub with my guard down again. My hunting partner and I were sneaking aroun late morning and walked up to a rub that was huge and fresh. It was the second week of September and the rut was starting to warm up. In fact this is about the same time we start to see the majority of the big rubs start to show up. Anyway, we were looking at the rub and started to talk quietly. A nice 6x6 stood up 15 yards from us in the heavy brush. You could tell we woke him up. Tried to get a shot but it just wasn't there. I wish I had that opportunity back. Live and learn. I believe in hunting the areas with lots of rubs!
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby Theelkhunter » 02 16, 2013 •  [Post 12]

The velvet seems to come off via manzanita bushes here. They seem to take the anger out on the aspens.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby WapitiTalk1 » 02 16, 2013 •  [Post 13]

>>>---WW----> wrote:Elk rubs are like elk tracks and elk crap. It tells me where the elk have been, not where they are!

Most are made when they are rubbing velvet off. These are usually in bull areas away from the cow herds and before the actual peak rut. However if you find one on or around mid September or later that is smok'n hot, that wasn't there the day before, this could be a display rub and the herd may still be in the general area.


Agree with what >>>---WW---> said 8-) . I pay minimal attention to rubs each year as the vast majority of them are velvet rubs. As far as locating elk, I rely much more on 1. Vocalization (obviously) 2. Visual sighting (duh) 3. Fresh travel/feeding sign (well used trails) 4. Where I"ve got into them before.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby Swede » 02 17, 2013 •  [Post 14]

One rub doesn't mean much. , but multiple rubs can provide information. If an area is being used frequently as a bedding area, you should see rubs that are new and old. Some from the current year may be fresh, fresher and freshest. The same goes for the beds and feces, but rubs can say it is a bull and even some about its size. I like to see if there is a good water hole nearby that is receiving recurring use. If I find a long string of fresh and fresher rubs and a well used trail, I will see where it arrives at a water hole. There may be a gap between the string of rubs and the water hole, but in dry country I have been able to put the two together.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby Vanish » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 15]

In the area I hunt, there is a section that is always full of rubs on 3" pines. I've yet to see an elk in the section during daylight.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby Swede » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 16]

Vanish: Your post is interesting. Can we assume you hunt the area you wrote about during the day, and you see fresh recurring sign, so we can be sure they are there at night? Or is it likely the elk just move through your area or get pushed out when you are not around? If I had an area that continually or routinely had fresh sign, but I never saw anything, even though I hunted it frequently, I would set up a trail camera to see what was going on.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby cnelk » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 17]

In some of my areas that have good elk rubs, I am of the opinion that the bulls are close by.
This is AFTER the velvet has been rubbed off and they are starting to heat up for the rut.

Just likes wallows, scat, tracks or beds, rubs just tell you that elk have been there.
But that is better than not seeing any elk sign...

If come into an area with fresh rubs, I will do one of two things...
Set up and call or mark it to hunt it again very soon.
Because fresh rubs mean fresh tracks, fresh scat, and sometimes fresh beds...and maybe a wallow nearby

With this technique, I have had some very nice encounters with elk.

Rubs are an important factor where and how I hunt
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby Vanish » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 18]

Swede wrote:Vanish: Your post is interesting. Can we assume you hunt the area you wrote about during the day, and you see fresh recurring sign, so we can be sure they are there at night? Or is it likely the elk just move through your area or get pushed out when you are not around? If I had an area that continually or routinely had fresh sign, but I never saw anything, even though I hunted it frequently, I would set up a trail camera to see what was going on.


The section with the rubs is about a mile uphill from where I usually find the elk. The trail camera pics from last year are from a game trail between the section with the rubs and the area where I've found most of the elk during the morning. From what I can gather, at night the elk bed near the section with the rubs, and about an hour before daylight (via trail cam pics), make their way downhill. Sometimes they lag, and we would run into them headed downhill (we have to camp above the area we hunt due to public access). Its certainly not the typical elk behavior I have read about (elk in the bottom at night, making their way up) but it is what I have observed.

I have only come across elk uphill from the section with the rubs a few times during daylight, and never cows. I think what is happening, is some of the satellite bulls head up from this area, but the elk in the herds head down. There are a couple of sections of very dark pines nearer the bottom where it seems the elk bed during the middle of the day.

Edit: some more details ... the section with the rubs has a lot of grass and young pines. It is fairly open. It absolutely bakes there during the day. So, my thought is they like to be here at night because it has good food and is open enough for them to be able to see any danger. They leave this area fast in the morning because it gets hot so quick.
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby planebow » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 19]

Where I hunt during the rut the bulls are more than likely tearing up the smaller brush such as the one in my avatar that I took a picture of last year
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Re: Elk Rubs

Postby Swede » 02 18, 2013 •  [Post 20]

Vanish: What you described makes sense. Certainly human interaction will change elk behavior. At least you know what is causing them to act the way they do. It is hard for me to visualize just what you are seeing, but it appears to me you may have an opportunity to slip in before dawn and set up for the rascals.
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