Whitetail deer use licking branches as a form of communication and to leave scent marks. Licking branches are typically found near the edges of a deer’s territory or along frequently used travel routes. Here’s why whitetail deer use licking branches and why you should be using mock licking branches when you hunt Whitetail deer:
Scent Marking: Licking branches are used by deer to deposit their scent using glands located around their eyes, forehead, and mouth. When a deer licks or rubs its face on the branch, it transfers scent from these facial glands. This scent serves as a way to communicate with other deer in the area. The scent left on the branch can convey information about the deer’s age, gender, reproductive status, and dominance level. Other deer can then pick up these scents and gather information about their neighbors.
Territorial Behavior: Licking branches are often found along the edges of a deer’s territory. By using these branches to mark their scent, deer establish their presence and claim ownership of the area. This territorial behavior helps to reduce potential conflicts between neighboring deer by clearly defining boundaries.
Social Interaction: Licking branches also play a role in social interactions among deer. During the breeding season (rut), dominant bucks may use licking branches to advertise their presence to receptive does and challenge other bucks. The scent left on these branches can attract does and signal to other bucks that a dominant deer is in the area, potentially leading to competitive interactions.
Communication: In addition to scent marking, licking branches can serve as a visual and tactile signal. Deer often break and manipulate branches while marking them with their scent, leaving visual cues for other deer. The noise created by breaking and rubbing against branches can also serve as an auditory signal, alerting nearby deer to the presence of others.
Information Gathering: Licking branches provide deer with information about the local deer population. By sniffing and licking branches marked by other deer, they can learn about the individuals that frequent the area, their reproductive status, and their overall health. This information can help deer make decisions about their behavior, such as whether to engage in territorial disputes or pursue potential mates.
Hunting With Mock Licking Branches
Now that you know why deer use licking branches, you will want to create some mock licking branches where you hunt. For best results, the licking branch must be about 5 feet off the ground. If it’s a little too high bend it down to where it can be reached. If there is no branch in a particular spot, attach your own branch of a tree. It must be sturdy, alive and the end of the branch should be about as big as your pinky finger. Some other product you will need that I’ve found successful is a Pre Orbital Gland Lure. Sometimes that type of oil-based lure might be difficult to find just on regular store shelves. Trapping shops that carry lures should have the Pre Orbital Gland Lure for you to purchase. Another essential scent we use is Buck Urine.
Using rubber gloves, damage the tip of the branch. The breaks in the branch imitate the way deer work licking branches and it creates more surface area for the gland lure to be applied. Once your scrape is all set leave the area undisturbed as possible on your way out making sure not to cross any deer trails. Refresh the lure only once a week or 10 days since the pre-orbital gland lure is an oil-based lure.
Another tip, especially around the rut is to take a stick and scratch leaves away from the ground at your scrape. It adds a visual for deer and makes it look more realistic. If all is done properly bucks will use your scrape and the licking branch to find out who is the new buck in the area.