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Rubs, Tracks & Scrapes

When deer season arrives, thousands of hunters are out in the New Hampshire woods looking to fill their freezers. The successful ones will likely have done lots of scouting in preparation for the hunt.
Several trips to a new hunting location at various times of day, and careful observation while there, will help you determine the routines of the local deer and improve your chances on opening day.

The key signs to look for in the quest for whitetails:

deer track.tif

Tracks and trails

The most common sign that deer leave behind is their tracks. On soft ground or in snow, it’s easier to see a track’s outline and gauge its freshness. Follow fresh tracks and there’s a small chance you’ll actually run into the deer that made them; more likely, you’ll learn that deer are or have recently been in the area. You can also look for “game trails,” paths worn in the duff or snow that indicate a path is commonly used by deer or other large animals. A trail timer or camera can give you insight on who is using the trail and when.

Antler Rub.tif


When a deer rubs its antlers against a tree, the resulting abrasion in the tree bark is called, predictably, a “rub.” These rubs may be seen just about anywhere in the woods where male deer travel. If you see rubs on several trees in a row, that’s a “rub line”—made by a dominant buck when defining his territory. Find a rub line, and you’ve identified a place that a buck may frequent in his search for a female.

deer scrape.tif


During the rut, a buck “paws” the ground, scuffing away leaves, grasses and dirt to create a shallow oval-shaped scrape in the earth. The buck then urinates on the scrape; often, he’ll also break, chew and rub his facial glands on a “licking branch” overhead. The scents left on the ground and the branch are an apparent attractant to female deer. A scrape is a telltale sign that a buck’s been in the neighborhood.

Keeping New Hampshire Deer Safe From CWD

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a wildlife disease related to BSE or “mad cow” disease and scrapie in sheep. It is fatal to deer and other cervids such as elk and possibly moose. Based on the results of Fish and Game Department CWD monitoring efforts in which over 2,700 deer have been tested since 2002, CWD does not currently exist in New Hampshire. Activities that artificially concentrate deer greatly increase the spread of the disease and make control much more difficult. Please do not feed deer—ever.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans. Nonetheless, we recommend the following common-sense measures to prevent possible exposure to all wildlife diseases: 1) wear rubber gloves when field dressing your game, 2) bone out the meat from your animal, 3) wash your hands, knives etc. when done, and 4) avoid eating brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals.

The importation of hunter-killed white-tailed, black-tailed or mule deer, moose and elk from CWD-positive jurisdictions is prohibited except for: de-boned meat; antlers; antlers attached to skull caps from which all soft tissue has been removed; upper canine teeth clean of all soft tissue; hides or capes with no part of the head attached; and taxidermy mounts. CWD-positive jurisdictions include: In the U.S., Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming; in Canada, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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