I have an 18-year old lawn from sod with assorted landscaping and irrigation. The soil is primarily clay. I have acquired a nighttime guest this spring in an area approximately 20 by 20 feet underneath a red maple tree. As soon as the snow was gone, I began to notice small holes in the grass in this area as if an animal was looking for food. The area has gradually been destroyed as if the soil were being prepared for planting. I have fertilized regularly, used weed control, grub and insect control and do not see any evidence of insects.
From the clues at the scene of the crime, it sounds like your midnight marauder is one very persistent skunk. You have a good news, bad news situation. The skunk is doing you a favor by eating plant-eating insects and larvae. However, their table manners leave your yard looking pockmarked. They not only love grubs but also worms and windfall fruit. They have no qualms about tearing up your lawn looking for them.
Skunks are creatures of habit, following a very methodical path in their foraging. You say you have applied grub and insect controls. You might check again under the lawn to see if they have been effective. The best way to discourage the skunk is to eliminate its food source. Remove a square foot of turf about an inch below the roots in the area being attacked to see if there are any grubs, cutworms or other succulent larvae drawing the skunk’s attention. If this patch test yields a grubless verdict, then you are dealing with animal habit. You may need to have the animal live-trapped by a professional and removed from the area. Please note this method isn’t foolproof because skunks are happy suburbanites. Another skunk can easily move into the vacated territory. However, with the current animal’s removal, you might break the foraging cycle long enough to eliminate the grubs and re-establish a healthy lawn, taking it off the skunk menu.