Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on February 3, 2015



February Column


Editor’s note: Anyone wishing to send a question for future Ask The Deer Tracker posts can e-mail it to:


 Q I’ve enjoyed reading some of your responses in previous Ask the Deer Tracker posts. I have taken some tips from them as well. I am doing a project for a class and the topic of the project for my discussion is: What are the 5 most essential items needed for an enjoyable deer hunting weekend camping retreat out in the woods? I wanted to have an expert’s opinion on what he or she would bring for such a camping retreat, alongside my own experiences. This will help with non-hunters, campers with no experience, and even veteran hunters such as myself with what to bring for this type of hunt and camp getaway in the woods.     A. V. – Minnetonka, MN
A  Without knowing exactly what it is that your retreat will entail, hunting, site seeing, hiking etc., I will answer this as if it were me heading for the deer hunting shanty located in the back of beyond.


  1. A great attitude. Arriving at camp with preconceived notions, baggage beyond the necessary physical accoutrements, and unrealistic expectations will result in not only a poor experience for you, but will likely taint the experience of the other participants as well.
  2. Plenty of great food. It is amazing how hungry you are when at camp, and equally amazing how much better the food tastes in this environment. Cache more than you think can possibly be consumed, no one wants to think they are reaching for the last piece of pie or drum stick.
  3. A compass. Never leave home without one, even if you have and use a GPS. I don’t know of anyone that relishes the thought of becoming lost, and certainly none of your comrades should have to spend their precious time looking for you.
  4. The proper equipment. Ensure that you have clothing that meets the demands of whatever the weather may bring. Have at least one change should you get wet. If you are hunting, bring an extra rifle or bow and plenty of ammunition. It’s surprising how many times someone’s weapon turns out to be inoperable once they arrive at camp, where there are no gunsmiths available.
  5. Camera. This might seem a luxury to some, but as a professional photographer that never leaves home without one it is essential for me. This will capture those magical moments that will illustrate stories that may be told for years to come.


Q I found a signpost rub in my travels last year and was curious what the best approach to hunting near it would be?             T. B. – Montpelier, VT


A – All buck rubs are used by the maker as a signpost. However, not all rubs are the same, and they are used for different purposes. Generally, a buck that decides to rub a tree will deposit scent from his forehead glands, saliva from licking and fluid that runs out of his preorbital glands located in the corner of his eyes. Therefore, not only is a rub a signpost, but it also acts as a scent-post as well. The location of a rub also seems to help determining if this rub becomes a community bulletin board, used by more than the original artist. A rub that is being used yearly by multiple bucks is a great find. It will be readily visible if this kind of rub is being used extensively. All of the bark will inevitably be removed and the smooth inner layer of the tree will appear polished with no residue sap. Any time I find such a post, and there haven’t been many, there have been multiple trails coming to that rub.



The best approach for hunting around this is to set up within sight of the rub, ensuring that the wind is favorable, blowing your scent away from the approach trails. On days that the wind doesn’t cooperate with your stand placement, you have two options: either don’t hunt that spot or move your stand. If possible, I would have multiple stand locations to allow for any wind direction. The best time to hunt this location would be pre-rut. After that, the next best time would be the seeking phase which occurs approximately five days before the second full moon after the autumn equinox. By the time breeding begins ten or so day’s later, buck sightings at this junction will decline drastically. I once found just such a rub while photographing in the early fall, and before the morning was done I was able to capture five different bucks of varying age rubbing the same tree.

Q I have a number of deer that winter behind my house each year and was wondering what the best food would be should I want to feed them?       C.K. – Bangor, ME


 A Unless you are determined to supplement their diet until spring, I would caution you not to even begin. It is a real commitment once you start doling out food to wintering whitetails; once they are conditioned to come these deer rely on the free handout. I would also caution you to refrain from feeding if there is any kind of a road these deer must cross to get to the food. Many whitetails meet their demise due to automobiles when coming to dine.

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The obvious best food is whatever is natural to the deer within the geographical area they live. For instance, if there were no apple trees it would not be advisable to give them apples. Bread, although it is cheap will wreak havoc with a whitetails stomach and will give the animal the false sense of being full when he is not. The best supplemental food that I have found is a corn/grain pelletized mix sold exclusively as deer feed. This can usually be purchased from any store that sells food for farm animals, such as a Blue Seal.



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