Where Bucks Walk

Four places sure to funnel whitetails.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Both fish and game move and hide according to various structures in their environments. Angling pros can tell you where to toss a plug to catch more bass. Here are some nooks and crannies where you can hang tree stands to shoot more bucks.

Saddles and Benches
During the rut, bucks will use saddles to cross from one ridge to the next as they search for receptive does. All year long deer will use benches, especially those situated several hundred yards above a crop field or green plot. Deer like to utilize such areas because they're level and because benches often have mast-producing trees on them. Also, bucks bed in the thick, rough edges of benches and bluffs.

In the morning you can hunt deer as they move up from their feeding area, but if you try to walk up and hang a stand at midday, deer will see or hear you. Coming in over a bench is better, though you still might spook a buck in his bedroom. It's better to sneak in and set up 100 to 200 yards below a bench on a ridge or in a draw that leads to a feeding area. Hunt that stand in the afternoon when deer move down to feed and when cooling air sinks and carries your scent away from any buck that might walk close by.

Drainages and Draws
In hardwood valleys where several ridges converge, find either the big hollows or the scruffy little draws that bucks use. The best ones lead to major food sources and bedding areas.

One problem, however, is that since deer might come from three or four different directions, it's tough to predict the wind and the best trees from which to hunt. Also, I find that rather than moseying around in the bottoms of draws, deer like to move through cover on adjacent hillsides. They do this because they can see better from there and because rising thermals let them smell predators approaching from below. Look for side trails and position your morning stands accordingly. As deer move up from feeding areas, they'll use these trails to get to their bedding spots.

In the evening, set up where the foot of a hollow peters out into a crop field or clover plot. This way you'll avoid swirling winds that can spook deer.

A good low-impact strategy for early in the bow season is to set a perch 100 yards downwind of such a "deer intersection" in a draw. Your goal is to observe the ridges where they converge. Once you get an idea of how, when and where most deer travel through the area, move in tighter with your stand.

Holes and Ditches
If it's easier for you to walk around a long, deep ditch, sinkhole or rockslide, it's easier for a deer to skirt it too. Scout the flat ground around the obstacle for a fresh trail or a wide set of tracks. Big-woods habitat also has inner-terrain features that funnel bucks. Scout with an eye on the structure and you could ambush a cruising buck.

Creek Crossings
On new ground, one of my best tactics is to pack a climber on my back and hike along a creek or river in search of a shallow, narrow, gently sloping crossing pocked with a lot of tracks and at least one set of huge prints. Unpressured deer moving naturally generally won't swim deep water or traverse steep banks. Like you, deer will stroll the banks until they find a nice, easy spot to cut across.

Check your maps for the nearest bedding site. If the crossing is within 300 to 400 yards of a bedding area, find a perch where the wind is right and wait for that buck.