Whitetails: If You Build It, They Will Come…

You don’t have vast acres of whitetail nirvana and deer labeled with names like High Tower. You don’t have hundreds of acres of food plots, isolated ponds in the timber or an apple orchard you’ve manicured especially for deer. No, you’re like most hunters in America. You grind it out each season on public dirt, have a small lease or earned knock-on-door permission to a small parcel of private ground. Guess what? That’s just fine, and there are a few last-minute things you can do to attract bucks, stop bucks in their tracks and get a good inventory of the deer cruising through your little slice of whitetail heaven.

My good buddy and Nebraska native, Terron Bauer, has forgotten more about whitetail behavior than I will ever know. A few seasons back, Terron introduced me to the idea of creating my own rubbing post complete with a licking branch. It forever changed the way I hunt. 

The author shows off his 2018 Nebraska buck. This old 8-point came in and hammered a rubbing post/licking branch combo.

“It’s amazing how a few cedar posts with some added licking branches can improve your success,” Bauer said. “It’s cheap, it’s effective, and bucks can’t resist it. I put a rubbing post/licking branch set up at each of my stand locations. Not only does the post and licking branch combo attract bucks, but it will also stop them as they cruise through, allowing you the chance to get the shot that you need. With a scrape/licking branch in front of your stand, you don’t have to stop deer with that annoying maaappp.

Bauer’s post/licking branch combo is super easy to build. Go to your local lumber yard and purchase an eight-foot 4×4 cedar post. Smaller circular posts work as well. Deer love cedar due to the fact that it’s fairly soft and very aromatic. Next, decide how you would like to attach your licking branch, and according to Bauer, there are multiple ways to do this.

“I’ve used lots of methods to attach the licking branch,” Bauer said. “You can use a drill, place a sizeable hole just a tad over waist high and slide a branch through. I’ve used heavy-duty galvanized staples and attached branches from the top of the post. Most recently, however, I’ve started welding brackets that hold branches much like a flag holder. I will also zip-tie branches with heavy-duty zip ties to the brackets. I then attach that bracket to the post with screws and the like.”

This photo shows one of Bauer’s creations. Note the leafy branch, the welded bracket attachment, and scrape at the bottom of the branch. It’s also important to note that the licking branch is only waist-high.

Once you decide on a method for branch attachment, dig a hole twice as wide as the post and about 28 – 30 inches deep. Remember, bucks will be rubbing and putting all of their weight on the post, so dig deep and use a tamping rod to pound the dirt in as you go. Don’t fill up the hole completely and do one big tamp. Rather, scoop a little dirt in and tamp it down hard and keep repeating this process. Adding small amounts of water to the dirt will also help set the post. 

Dig deep! A buck will put all of his weight and brute strength into the post. Be sure you dig your hole wide and deep and tamp the dirt in well.

“Now that your post is in, attach your licking branch,” Bauer continued. “You have some options when it comes to the type of branch or branches you attach. Personally, I like to start with a leafy branch that deer can really get into. Also, I like the branch about waist high, so keep this in mind when you decide on a branch-attachment device. I used to have the branches higher where a buck would have to arch his neck. Not anymore. When they can walk up to a licking branch and stuff their face in it, it works so much better. They can’t resist it. Another option is to hang a branch high and then hang another branch off of that branch that droops straight down. Deer love a branch that hangs straight down.”

Bauer no longer sets his licking branches so high. Rather than causing a buck to have to arch his neck and reach the branch, Bauer now prefers his licking branches to be waist-high.

After Bauer places the licking branch, he starts a scrape below the licking branch and adds some scent.

“I start small mock scrapes that measure about 10 inches in diameter off my licking branches. Many of those small mock scrapes, once they get taken over, grow three to four times that big. Make a scrape at the bottom of the licking branch with a stick or rake and add a buck lure. I also like to rub a little forehead gland on the rubbing post. Also, don’t be afraid to take your knife or saw and put some marks in the rubbing post. You want that cedar smell to be pungent.”

Take note of the small mock scrape at the bottom of the licking branch. In addition, take note of the straight-down hanging licking branch.

“I also like horizontal rubs. Deer simply can’t resist them. To make a horizontal rub, burry a cedar post and then run a sizeable piece of timber horizontally from the post to a metal T-Post. Be sure to drive the T-Post in deep with a post-hole driver.”

Horizontal rubbing posts draw bucks like moths to a flame. Bauer recommends having a few horizontal rubs on your particular whitetail property.

“Taking the time to add a post/licking branch/scrape combo or a simple horizontal rub will do a lot for you. Not only will it attract deer, but a passer-by buck simply can’t resist stopping to check them out. This system is a great way to get deer to stop naturally. Not to mention the fact that you will get loads of trail camera photos. Enjoy the process!”

Authors Note: Last season, Bauer harvest a pair of Nebraska monarchs when they stopped to inspect his rub/licking branch/scrape combos.  

Bauer poses with a Nebraska giant!
Terron knows big deer!

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Ace77 June 8, 2021, 9:43 am

    Thanks for sharing this info; I will be building a couple this week! Great idea.

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