Mapping Monster Bucks: Choosing a Stand Site

 

 

With a trained eye sometimes you can see all the features on an aerial photo.
By: John Stallone

Books have been written about the subject of where is the best place to ambush a big buck… I know I wrote 2 myself. The following article is actually a Partial chapter from my book The Whitetail Hunter’s Blueprint .

Using Topo Maps, aerial photos and satellite programming on the internet in conjunction with a GPS are some of my most useful tools in deciphering where I should begin my scouting.  I use this info for the framework of what, how and where I will begin my ground work.

Let’s discuss the differences and benefits to the most common landscape features.

 Inside corners: I’m sure by now you have all heard at one time or another to hunt inside corners. Take a look at figure below for an example of an inside corner on an aerial photo. By far one of my favorite stand sites in agricultural type settings.

 

Prime example of an inside corner with other landscape features making it very attractive for a stand site.

Deer will often use these corners as a travel route because it is the shortest distance between two points and they are lazy. I want you to go to a park or a place that has high people traffic where one sidewalk meets another at a 90 degree angle, tell me if you can tell that lazy people cut that corner instead of following the sidewalk see in the image below. Well deer do the same thing. Also I have found through personal experience as well as the experiences of my peers that deer often enter into fields via inside corners because it allows them to see a larger portion of the field while staying in cover.

Moreover there are often the spoils of agriculture left in tight corners that large combines or machinery cannot get to easily so it is left and becomes a mini food plot.

 

City block showing the path that people made to cut the corner instead of using the sidewalk.

 

These areas are great places to begin scouting. To make this an even sweeter location is look for inside corner that have two intersecting fence lines forming a point. I have killed more bucks along fence lines than any other feature both in the big woods and on agricultural lands. Nothing directs deer movement more readily then a fence.  

Fence lines: Fences are found almost anywhere even out west in wilderness areas there are often fence lines that were created for open range cattle control or markers of boundaries. We humans love our fences. However they are not always depicted on maps or photo especially those within timber.  Careful examination of photos is the best chance at locating one of these “Buck Factories”.

To continue with the above an inside corner that has intersecting fence lines will often create a crossing point for deer. You can help this along by creating one by cinching the top and bottom wire together (see the tips section of my book to find out how). This crossing point further pinpoints where a hunter could hang a stand. You will often find several trails leading to the crossing point. This is obviously a good sign, a single trail may need further investigation.

A heavily beaten trail on a fence line.

Often the trails converge well before the fence line and this converging trail may be a good stand site as well. Careful investigation with the use of trail cams will give you the info you need to decide. But for the most part I would stay on the fence crossing because it give you the opportunity to harvest a field edge buck. This is a buck traveling along the edge of the woodlot basically walking the perimeter of the field and the wind may be a little easier to play with only one trail to watch. 

Fence lines in general are often very productive as I mentioned earlier, deer encounter a fence at some point in their travels and will then often follow along the fence until they come to an easy place to cross (again deer are lazy) When I hunt out west or in big timber fence lines will often produce great stand locations at these crossing points. If you add other structural features in conjunction with fence line like: benches, saddles, river bottoms and/or funnels, they become even more productive.

A fence that separates bedding from feeding areas will often have heavy traffic at low points and breaks in the fence. In arid regions, water holes sometimes have fences around them low points or breaks here are definite stand locations. Let me clarify something when I say stand I don’t only mean tree-stand, I mean blind or posting spot. A stand to me is a place where I post and wait for animals to come to me.             

Funnels: Another really productive stand site is a funnel. Now there are many different landscape features that can be considered a funnel. I will touch on the three most common.

Woodlot funnel: See next image.  This is a strip of cover 10 yard wide to 100 yards wide that connects to large wood lots. Deer crossing from one lot to the next get “funneled” into this narrow strip giving us an interception point.

 

This is a traditional funnel.

Landscape Funnel:  This is where a wash or topography creates a physical funnel that deer will use because it easier walking to the top of a hill or up to a desired point. Hilltop fields or pastures often have this characteristic leading up from a creek bottom or lowland wood lot below.

You can see the heavy beaten trail in this wash, prime example of a landscape funnel.

A field Funnel: This is better described as a peninsula of trees jutting out into a field that deer would feed in see image below.  Deer will often enter fields through these funnels so they can investigate from cover a long as possible. Also to minimize the time spent out in the open they will used these peninsulas to cross the field because it is the shortest point between cover.

 

Deer will use these to enter fields usually a staging area.

Investigation of these areas will more often than not produce favorable sign. And a good stand site. 

Saddles: Saddles also play into the lazy deer theory; these are low points in ridgelines that offer the easiest place for a deer to cross from one side of a ridge or mountain to another. In really hilly terrain these are very good interception points there are often several trails that converge into one trail to cross over the saddle. See the image below for an example of a saddle. Wind plays an important role here because the wind will often be multi directional meaning it may be blowing from north to south but will often create a swirling effect and carry your scent back the way the wind was coming from. This is evident in many hill top set ups.

I for one don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the wind, and people call me foolish for this but it’s not my main priority because I take painstaking detail into my scent eliminating regiment. Plus I often set my stand in a spot that if the wind changes I still have opportunities to harvest a buck. I am not by any means saying don’t play the wind if I didn’t think the wind was important I would not have included a section on it in my book. But what I am saying is the wind is unpredictable so be detailed in staying scent free and chose your set ups that if the wind changes you’re not S.O.L. 

 

You can see where the two ridges from a saddle there will be multiple trails here.

Saddles can also be and often are formed by intersecting ridgelines. A ridge line will almost always have a trail at the very top of the ridge and when you have two ridges coming together at a low point or “saddle” you will often have higher traffic in those areas because you have 4 main trails converging possibly more if there are benches transecting the ridges. 

 Benches: A Bench is a relatively flat spot on the side of a mountain or ridge that runs parallel to the ridge itself, creating and easy walking path for our lazy deer and often a bedding area if the ridge over looks more open terrain. I personally do not like hunting benches themselves but I do like to locate them and follow their trails back to cover or to feeding areas. As I mentioned earlier the bench trails may also lead up to the converging ridgeline trail and saddle trail.

 Edges: These are the big woods hot spots, there are many different types of edges by definition they are where one type of terrain meets another. Example wooded area meets a swamp or a burn meets timber and lastly clear cuts.

Before man started altering the whitetails landscape, Mother Nature created edges and breaks with fire, wind and water. It is these breaks where the best food sources for wild deer. Deer did not have what has now become a “natural” food source for them, our agriculture. Well in areas void of agriculture and excessive human involvement, it is these same areas that deer rely on for food and cover.

Living in the western United States for my whole adult life, it was an adjustment to learn how to locate deer in timber and areas otherwise void of agriculture. Coming from the east where we hunted mostly farm land and hunted areas that had 30-40 deer per sq. mile to moving to the west where we have 10 deer or less per sq. mile. Needless to say it was a whole new world.

I learned to glass and stalk for deer instead of intercept deer. Through my experiences during my glassing and stalking days, I realized that I would almost always find deer on the edges of 2-3 year old burns, logging clear cuts, riparian areas, in areas where ponderosa pine transitioned to oak scrub or juniper stands. Which got me to investigate those areas more closely. I began looking for ways that I could intercept these seemingly “patternless” deer. I would sit and watch deer for weeks leading up to hunting season to get an informed idea where I could set up a blind or stand.

Now not all of us have weeks to spend watching deer movements, thank god for the invention of trail cameras. Needless to say, when hunting the big woods, edges or breaks can be just as good as hunting a food plot, if you choose the right one.

Burns and clear-cuts about 2 years old till about 5 years depending on rainfall and winds are usually very good places to begin looking for sign. Riparian areas will almost always have game sign because of the constant new growth and water. Swamp edges especially when there is a large break in the tree canopy always produce recluse bucks.

Mapping your area correctly will help you get on big bucks, like this one the author took

The one drawback to edge hunting or clear cut hunting is the limited availability of locating information. Since you cannot locate breaks on a topo and unless google has done a fly over of the area you want to hunt in the last year or two you may not have the info you need. You can sometimes find out from BLM or forest service agencies if there has been any logging in the last few years in your hunting area or you can fire chase. Keep tallies on small forest fires, mark their location and keep watch them grow up into the vegetation type you need to attract game…

Now that you are armed with the info you need to build your game plan, hit the field and scout these areas there is no substitute for boots on the ground. Try to stack as many terrain features you can in your favor, hang some cameras, choose a tree and send us  a pic of your buck…….. 

For more go to:  John Stallone

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