As we continue to unravel the mystical world of whitetail, we learn more about whitetail travel routes and how the general characteristics of a property parlay in their seasonal routines.
Funnels are whitetail hot spots, especially during the rut. They are simply terrain features or manmade objects that condense a whitetail’s travel route. Here are five tips on where to look for them and how they work from many of the outdoors’ best and brightest.
1. Finger: Finding a finger of woods that jogs into a field is an ideal spot to find a big buck cruising. These are found easily by studying aerial maps. Considering that deer tend to stay concealed, they’ll be able to scent check the field without ever taking a step out of the woods. These key spots are found everywhere, however, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa are known for them specifically.
2. Swamp: If you’ve ever hunted a swamp, you may know what I mean when I say it’s difficult and it can be tricky! Deer would prefer to stay dry and walk along the higher regions of marshy or swampy areas. Try to spot cattails or bogs and then look on the outskirts of those regions. You may find a dry trail that deer will use most of the time compared to trudging through the nasty stuff. I’ve seen deer splash through some knee-high algae-infested waters, but when it boils down to it – deer are going to stay on the high side more times than not.
3. Fence: You’ve probably heard about this strategy before a time or two, but it’s one of my favorite setups. Take a walk along a fence line and if you find a spot where it’s busted or low, you’ve found yourself a fence funnel. Deer travel most according to their ease of access. When they don’t have to do the limbo or high jump, they’d rather breeze through a fence that’s low without any acrobatic moves needed. You can setup on either side of the fence according to wind direction.
4. Saddle: I primarily hunt the bluff regions of western Wisconsin. This offers some immaculate hunting and it’s beneficial for anyone who really wants to tag a monster trolling for doe. Saddles are perfect locations for deer to cross, without having to walk the incline of a steep hillside. When a buck’s got a doe on his mind, the only thing he’s really thinking is how fast can he get from point-A-to-point-B. The more miles put on, the more likely he’s able to find a hot doe. This valley feature is an ideal way for bucks to save energy and make an easy pass across the low side of a bluff.
5. Water: Creeks and streams are beautiful geological evidence that deer certainly do cross from one side to the other by using the lowest or driest part of the streambed. Yes, we all know that deer swim, however, 9 times out of 10 they prefer crossing a creek or stream coming out soggy. If you find a trail that cuts through a bank – you’ve struck gold. When it comes to staying dry, especially in the colder months of November and December, deer will slosh through knee-high water rather than swim.
Sometimes we as hunters have the ability to over think hunting, but that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s a thinking game that involves strategy and technique. Although the strategies we put to work can be extremely technological, we need to stop and ask ourselves, “If I were a deer, what would I do?” You’ll be amazed by the answers you find and the secrets unveiled.
I urge every hunter to check out www.MappingTheOutdoors.com. They offer hunters incredible aerial maps in all sizes that will help you pinpoint areas with a higher probability of deer activity, such as saddles, funnels, and converging hubs. Use a map like this to familiarize yourself with both the area and the terrain you’re hunting. The website will also help you identify hunting stands, as well as other pertinent information such as property boundaries, streams and creeks, ponds, food plots, trails, and structures!
Images courtesy Brandon Wikman and Mapping The Outdoors