Sitka Gear
The meaning of elk rubs
Contributors to this thread:
AndyJ 07-Mar-10
tcosmic 07-Mar-10
elkmtngear 07-Mar-10
Jaquomo_feral 07-Mar-10
mrelite 07-Mar-10
gil_wy 07-Mar-10
ElkNut1 08-Mar-10
AndyJ 08-Mar-10
Bigdan 09-Mar-10
From: AndyJ
Aside from indicating that a bull elk was there at some point in time, what do elk rubs mean. I know many times a rub line means a preferred travel route for whitetails. Do they have a similar meaning for elk? In particular, I noticed in the elknut's playbook he says pay close attention to wallows that have rubs around them, but he doesn't say why. So why do I want to pay extra attention to them?

From: tcosmic
rubs are sign posts where other elk leave thier calling card.when they rub they activate the glands that secrete scent.there are glands located on the forhead and the eye corners.also they are taking out the aggressions of the rut.while they rub they are also conditioning the muscles in the neck.elknut might have pointed the rub thing out because now you have a spot with two factors where bulls can come to investigate other bulls in the area and leave sign.judging by the photo's bb put online of all the elk in wallows he might be the guy with some good input to as why.

From: elkmtngear

Bulls will thrash a tree when they have cows and other bulls come close. I have heard them do it many times when bugling them in. They will do it to rub velvet off also, but later in the rut it is an agressive behavior.

Or, as tcosmic states, they may do it to establish a "perimeter" at their favorite wallow

So a wallow with fresh rubs might mean that several bulls are using it regularly; possibly several different herd bulls

Best of Luck, Jeff (Bowsite Sponsor)

The more rubs around, the more the area is frequented by bulls. Maybe not the same bull, but good rutting sign. This may seem obvious, but sometimes a bull will hit an area for a day or two and rub the little trees around a bedding spot or waterhole, giving the impression he is a "resident" bull, when he may have just been a raghorn feeling his oats for an afternoon.

When scouting new areas, one of the primary things I look for are rubs from multiple years past. Means elk use the area during the rut more often than just one random pass-through by a randy bull on his way to somewhere else.

From: mrelite
The Rubs tell different stories depending on when they were made. Most all rubs have the same base concept to them (this is my turf) when you look at rubs made in July & August you have found the bulls summer bedroom / backyard and that is where he cleans his antlers up for the rut. As the testosterone increases he starts moving around keeping track of the cows the rubs start showing up away from his bedroom and in the staging areas (where the cows are) now the rubs mean more; it is my turf , these are my cows and I am one bad mofo, the cows also think very highly of the bull as he demonstrates what a stud he is. I think reading the rubs is one of the most important things a hunter can do, Old rubs tell you if they repeat the area every year. Don't forget tree branches stay green for quiet awhile and can appear to be fresh!

From: gil_wy
In my experience, 80% of the rubs are done in late Aug... Mostly polishing things up and strengthening neck muscles... Sometimes they do the same in Sept but I'm guessing they mostly rake trees in Sept. out of frustration more than anything... Just my observations...

From: ElkNut1

ElkNut1's Link

Andy, here's the spot in the book you are referring to on rubs around wallows! I think you may want to read it again? It's the only place I talk about rubs & wallows together. As you can read here it's referring to a bull making a rub line so to speak. This is done by a bull most likely living in the area & visiting this wallow regularly, you will tell especially on the height of rub & so on that it's the same bull & a lack of human activity that may upset his routine as far as his regular use. Does this help?


The overall best time for sitting near wallows is the last 2 1/2 hrs of daylight. If you choose this time then sit at the wallows closest to bedding areas, not the lower ones on the mountain that may not get hit until near dark or at night. Each area may vary. Look for wallows that have several trails leading to them where your odds are better than single trails. It’s better if you can find a well hidden wallow in thick cover where few to no one is aware of it. Look for rub trails as some areas will show a resident bull is using this particular wallow regularly and you’ll know this when you see various trees rubbed on for 100-200 yards on the way to the wallow. This is rare but worth ones attention. So check 20 your area closely. Always check the wind before using a wallow in your scouting or hunting ventures. It’s the #1 deal breaker. At times you’ll find you need to back-off the wallow and setup on in-coming trails to them for best wind direction.

From: AndyJ
Thanks for the help guys. ElkNut1 that does help, thanks.

From: Bigdan

  • Sitka Gear