Opening Day Forever: The Ridgeline Gap

The perfect deer stand can make for an unforgettable opening day, and it only takes three steps

Ridgeline Gap

Some deer stands you can’t forget. They were so perfect, you go on looking for them in all the forests you hunt. My first opening-day stand was one such gem. It was a ledge at the top of a break in a cliff of white conglomerate rock on the west side of a ridge New York mountain climbers call The Gunks.

The mile-long hardwood valley below always had a dozen hunters sloshing through its stream and settling their back against familiar oaks just before sunrise on opening day. They were as good as an organized deer drive. They’d push deer through the cleft in the cliff and up to a logged area of safety cover thick with saplings beyond my ledge stand. The deer would come up from the valley panting with wild saucer eyes, thinking they’d survived the gauntlet.

I’ve learned that stand wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime spot. Finding such an opening-day pressure point simply takes three steps.

1. Get above the crowd. When deer hunters go into a mountainous public forest, they inevitably hunt too low. Be above or beyond them long before daybreak on opening day. The deer naturally move up to bed. Hunters will send them scurrying up even faster.

2. Find a bottleneck. Topo maps show the ridges, cliffs, and swamps that naturally affect deer movement. The pinch points, however, can't be found on aerial photos or topo maps. You have to walk topo lines to find the places where deer are funneled away from pressure. Look for rubs and well-used deer trails in cover.

3. Work the wind. Deer will use the same gap in the evening that they used in the morning, only the wind will be different. At midday, move so the afternoon wind will be in your face.

For more opening day tactics, click here.