Outdoor Life Online Editor

One November morning, I climbed into a tree stand I had hung a week earlier in the head of a drainage. When the sun rose I would have a good view of several rolling ridges and hollows, as well as a brushy creek bottom 100 yards below. There wasn’t a food source in sight, and the nearest bedding area was a mile away. It was a perfect spot for an ambush.

Four-wheelers whined over on the next farm. The sun rose and rifles cracked all around. It was, after all, gun season and the peak of the rut. I knew there would be pressure, so I had factored it into my plan.

An eight-pointer with thin tines and a gleam in his eyes chased a doe down a ridge, and the pair finally plunged into a honeysuckle thicket. Then I heard more deer scrambling in the leaves. Somebody had scared the wits out of two bucks, which rumbled over a ridge and dove into a draw to my right. The lead deer was a pig, 200 pounds plus. I dropped him with a 130-grain bullet.

In early fall you need to locate multiple food sources and bedding areas and methodically scout for trails, tracks, rubs and scrapes. But when the rut cranks up and the gun-hunters hit the woods, blowing deer off their patterns, you can pretty much forget all that tedious stuff. It’s now time to employ the simplest, deadliest tactic of all: Set up in a terrain funnel where you can see a long way, and watch for bucks sprinting after does or fleeing pressure.

Funnels come in all shapes and sizes: finger ridges, draws, creek bottoms, strips of timber….Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re deciding which bottleneck to hunt:

  • The thicker the cover in and around a funnel, the better.

  • The more doe trails there are, the greater the odds are that a buck will pass through.

  • Secluded areas are best, even if there’s not a lot of buck sign there.

Try to access a funnel from a ridge. Hang a tree stand on the upper side of the ridge where you can see down and across several draws. Also, try to find a place where you can glass down into thickets for bucks. When the weather is cool and the rut is really kicking, climb into your stand and sit tight for hours, even all day if you have the fortitude. You’ll see a lot of deer, and sooner or later a good buck should show up.