Sunday, June 21, 2009

Spend Some Time Scouting Now

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A drive to Grand Rapids 10 days ago proved one thing. I can still spot good deer cover. The deer were moving that day last week, and every location we saw from the US-131 expressway that should hold deer, did.

Deer land has a very special look to it for those accustomed to looking at quality deer habitat. Most savvy hunters can spot it at a glance, size up its potential, and not be very far off the mark.

A buddy of mine and his wife used to travel all over North America by car, and they would be zipping down the highway on whining tires, and look at the land out the window. They could spot the funnels, saddles, field corners, transition zones, and other spots where whitetails travel.

A hunter must be able to take a look at an area, and quickly size up where deer should travel. There is a knack to it, and it requires some years of intense study to do it accurately.

Granted, only about 10 days remain of June, and then there is July, August and September to go before the October 1 archery deer season opens. Constant practice can help a hunter increase his hunting odds.

Hunters who head into large blocks of unfamiliar territory would be well served with a variety of different tools. Aerial photographs are wonderful because they show different terrain features that often are not visible from ground level.

Topological maps that show elevation changes, fields, swamps and wooded areas are wonderful. Combine these two major tools with plenty of boot leather, and it’s not that difficult to find a hunting hotspot providing you have a compass and/or GPS, and know how to use them.

There is a genuine need for hunters to learn where other land features are located because deer often relate to them in a number of different ways.

Here is a short course on some landmarks, what they mean to the local deer population, and how deer utilize them on a daily basis.

*Creek bottoms - Creek and river bottoms are often thick with brush, and deer often follow them when traveling from one area to another. If the creek or river is bordered by tall marsh grass, it’s easy to find where deer move through the grass to cross the water. Locate a stand site nearby and downwind.

*Crop lands - Deer often have several routes into or out of a feeding field. Watch from a long distance, and pinpoint the morning and evening trails being used. Set up at the field edge if you place value on great visibility, but set up back in the woods if you really want an earlier shot at a good buck.

*Drainage ditches - Drainage ditches are common in flatland farm country. Look for places where deer move from a swamp or tag alder thickets, into a nearby ditch, and travel down the ditch rather than across an open field. When it comes time to hunt, set up around a bend in the ditch, and downwind of the deer and don’t move. Often the deer can be heard coming, and a draw can be made.

*Field corners - There is something good to be said about field corners. Deer love them. If there are four field corners, perhaps only one will see continuous use. Deer will move through such areas while remaining back in the heavier cover, and they can study the fields before moving out. It’s up to you to find the best spot in the best corner.

*Funnels - A funnel is where fairly heavy cover necks down from a bedding area, and it funnels deer through it to another patch of heavy cover. Look for narrow fingers of woods that connect one or more area, and many funnels will parallel a fence line although a fence isn’t required to be a funnel.

*Marshes - Marshes are low-lying areas, and often are surrounded by marsh grass and they may contain water. Size up any marsh, and the odds are great a hunter will find a trail leading into and out of it. Often, they are small and the only place for a stand is some distance away. Marshes often hold good numbers of deer, and often big bucks will frequent thick marshes.

*Ridges - Every hunter knows what a wooded ridge looks like, and over the years I’ve learned that many deer travel just below the crest of a ridge. It keeps them from being sky-lighted. Use that knowledge in your favor.

*Saddles - A saddle is a flat spot along a ridge, and such flats often provide good numbers of oaks in some areas. Other times, especially in northern areas, the saddle may hold pine trees. Christmas tree plantations often are placed in such locations. Game trails always pass through the edges of a saddle, and locating these from the air is the best bet.

*Swamps - Most swamps in this state are ringed by cedar trees and/or tag alder thickets. Some of the best cedar swamps to hunt are those with water and the occasional dry marsh hummock. A deer will wade through a swamp, and may loiter for hours in the water, especially if it feels necessary to avoid detection. Find a slightly high spot deep in a swamp or a muskrat house or dry hummock where deer can bed down. Determine their approach to it, and get set up. Often these animals will be very close when the shot is taken.

*Tag alder runs - There are other types of terrain features that deer prefer, and we will touch on them in the future. Tag alder runs can be dry, damp or wet, but the twisted trees provide excellent deer cover. A big buck with heavy antlers can navigate a tag alder run with ease while you and I have difficult getting through. Learn where bucks exit these runways, and wait for them there.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/21 at 07:18 PM
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