October 28, 2010
There May Be No Surer Place For Putting The Squeeze On A Whitetail Than The Funnels That Direct Deer
There are few things we can bank on when it comes to hunting whitetails, however feeding patterns, preferred travel routes and a deer's innate ability to seek the path of least resistance are truly givens.
The author reaped the benefits of a great corner stand a number of years ago when he arrowed this monster-bodied 350-pound, 10-point buck from a corner point.
When hunting new ground, the very first terrain features I try to locate are the various types of corners. Why corners? It's a known fact that whitetails are much easier to hunt in the their preferred travel routes than trying to snuggle in close to their security cover. They bed in specific areas for a reason and in most cases they have a wind advantage on one side and a panoramic view on the other. Corners often become favored crossover points and loitering areas where bucks queue up before entering fields to feed.
Not all corners are created equal and they don't have to make a right angle to be considered. Going back to the days of the early settlers, land was typically sectioned off in squares, and from an aerial view it's easy to see geometric blocks of land of various sizes in most whitetail country.
The look of the land on the ground has changed considerably since those years with the clearing of forests for lumber to build homes and planting crops. In the process, man created boundaries by putting up fences, planting crops, and harvesting timber. Inevitably, some corners were eliminated and others created.
Corners take shape in different forms, but one of the most popular, among the hunters I know, have been outside corners. One example of an outside corner is that of a tree line or fence line that comes to a 90-degree corner, typically surrounded by pastures, crop fields, and in this day and age, CRP fields.
More often than not, deer follow a fence line or tree line to take full advantage of available cover. As trails converge toward a corner, they either follow the fence or cut across diagonally some 20 to 30 yards inside the tree line. A typical setup in such an area might put you 15 yards or so from the timber edge, allowing shots to both the inner trails and field edge too.
In some cases, the outside corner itself might be less effective than the connecting funnels that feed deer into it! Jared Rebling of Lockridge, Iowa experienced this during the past season.
Being in the limelight isn't new for Rebling, who arrowed his first Boone & Crockett two seasons ago. What is more astounding is the fact that he arrowed the second "Booner" from the same tree stand this past season.
To make a long story short, Jared arrived at his hunting area at the break of first light. He applied scent-eliminating spray to his clothing and boots; then, he squirted a few drops of doe-in-heat scent on a drag rag and began slipping along a narrow tree line toward his stand. Arriving, he hung the rag downwind near a scrape some 20 yards away and made a mock scrape where he added a few drops of buck urine.
Jared Rebling of Lockridge, Iowa, arrowed this 20-point nontypical buck on October 21st from a natural funnel linked to an outside
corner. The huge deer officially scores 2217Ãš8 inches and more than qualifies for the Boone & Crockett record books, making it his second in just three years.
Shortly after climbing into the stand, he began rattling and got an alarming snort from down the fence line near the corner. Pulling out his call, he snorted back. Shortly thereafter, Rebling caught a flash of white exiting the tree line and running across the open field. Thinking his morning hunt was over he hung up the bow and began gathering gear to leave. For whatever reason, he happened to look up and spotted a wide and massive buck staring his way from 40 yards. "Caught totally off guard and startled by his appearance, my heart started pounding so hard I thought I was going to die!" Jared said.
As the buck began to close the gap, Rebling slowly reached for his bow, moving only when the buck's head was turned or obscured. At about 30 yards the buck picked up the scent and followed it right to the stand, standing directly beneath, The shot was too risky. The buck then turned and started walking away, giving Rebling a chance to draw his bow and settled the pin and punched the release, sending his arrow into the chest cavity to the fletching. It took a bit of searching but with the help of his father and two friends, they eventually found the trophy lying in a dry creek bed near the river.
Inside corners sometimes offer a slight edge over other corners. Imagine an opening in the shape of the letter "C" laid into the edge of your woodlot and causing a narrowing of the cover on its back side. Such inside corners can be found along timber edges, creeks, fence lines, and brushy draws, identifying where the narrowest point exists. These narrow points are natural funnels where deer trails converge toward one another. Stands placed in these choke points will increase your chances for getting close shots.
There are exceptions to the rule, but as rutting activity begins to ramp up and bucks enter the seek phase, I'll hunt inside corners almost exclusively.
Ridges And Corners
I've written a considerable amount over the years regarding east/west ridges and the significance they should play in every whitetail hunter's strategy. At each end of an east/west running ridge there's a point or corner. Bucks like entering these ridges from either one end or the other, therefore, it might be wise to have a stand on each end.
Although I've taken many deer from inside and outside corners, one of my most memorable was that of a buck shot many years ago from a corner point on an east/west ridge. My stand was
positioned in such a way that I could cover any direction, including the entire swath of a narrow tree line.
The weather had taken a turn for the worst and I contemplated leaving, but decided to stick it out for a few more minutes. Three does had just browsed through the narrow corridor and fed nearby. Minutes later a grunt drew my attention down the draw where I spotted a wide rack buck approaching. As he entered the pinch point, a 125-grain broadhead pierced both lungs, sending the buck racing from the scene.
Based on my personal experience and the success of others, if I were asked which corners offered the best odds for catching a wary buck during all times of the seas
on, I'd venture to say point
corners. The most popular are those that extend into crops fields and are used as entrance and exit routes for feeding.
In addition, because most bucks are reluctant to enter open areas for long periods of time, they usually move from one piece of security cover to another. Points offer the last stretch of cover and the shortest link between point A and B. This alone makes them high percentage stand sites.
Aerial photographs make scouting for corners and funnels easy; however, it still requires planning and footwork to confirm on the ground what you thought looked good on paper.
Over my many years hunting whitetails I've found that most corners are typically high traffic areas for both bucks and does alike. Many are favored loitering areas or queuing locations where deer enter and exit fields to feed. Others are crossover points where bucks take advantage of the shortest distance between two points. They make great stand sites throughout the season, but are exceptional during the pre-rut when bucks are laying down scrapes and searching for the first receptive does.
If you've developed a forte for rattling and haven't tried corners, then you could be missing out on some of the hottest action of the season. During the pre-rut when bucks are making scrapes and competing with rivals for does, I've had good success in single corners, but two adjacent corners are even better.
Inside corners where choke points exist make excellent rattling locations simply because of the funneling effect they have on deer. Furthermore, since many of these inside corners lie between bedding areas, you're apt to bring more than one buck running when rattling the bones.
As the intensity of the rut increases, bucks usually abandon housekeeping on scrapes for a brief period and spend nearly all their time and energy chasing does. Don't be fooled by the lack of scrape activity, because it could be the best time of the season. For example, if a corner lies between two equally used doe bedding areas, then it's a pretty safe bet that the majority of bucks in the immediate vicinity will eventually pass through the corner getting from one bedding area to another.
Those who hunt the rut exclusively already know that anything can happen when you least expect it and daytime activity is not limited to any specific hour. I've walked in and out from stands at all times of the day and been met by a big buck chasing does more often than I care to remember. Setup stands in the travel routes and corners between bedding areas and you're likely to see bucks traveling throughout the day.
If you've had trouble hunting corners in bottom ground below ridges near creeks or coulee's, then you're not alone. Heavy moist air, dropping thermals, and swirling wind currents make it difficult for everyone. However, you might consider these stand sites during the mid-day hours when the warmth of the sun and rising thermals carry your scent upwards.
As the rut begins to slow down, don't abandon your stand sites. Bucks from outlying areas will roam further from their core area in search of does that haven't been bred. When they do, they'll be seeking the same security cover that local bucks do!
Wind currents can be tricky and often fickle, but simple powder wind detectors can take the guesswork out of stand placement and approach routes.
Like any other stand site, approach and scent control are critical when hunting corners. On morning hunts when the wind is blowing into the woods you might consider approaching from the backside of the timber, opposite the feeding area. On evening hunts, if the wind is blowing into the field, your approach should be from the field side, but arrive well before the deer.
Regardless of whether you're hunting bottom ground, ridge tops, or corners, I'd venture to say scent control plays a major role in every hunter 's success. Although total scent elimination is nearly impossible, there are ways to even the odds. For example, I've been wearing scent-eliminating clothing since they first hit the market and the results have been outstanding.
Deer travel from feed to bedding or vise versa on the average of three times per day. In the morning they're leaving a food source and heading to bed. During mid-day, they get up and browse for food, but stay relatively hidden. As the sun begins to wane on the horizon, they rise from their beds and move toward the outer fringes where they loiter before entering open crop fields.
Knowing this, it only makes sense to play the wind accordingly and hunt stands in the morning when the wind carries your scent away from feeding areas. The opposite goes for evening stands when deer are approaching a feeding area from woodlots and draws. Hunt these when the wind carries your scent into the field.
On a cool, mid-November morning years ago, I sat perched in the corner of a woodlot where I'd seen bucks crossing all week to another woodlot across the way. In fact, just moments before I had spotted a good buck across the way lingering in the shadows. I had a hunch he would seek the security of a narrow strip of timber between us upon his exit.
It took longer than expected, but the buck slowly moseyed down the gnarly tree line to the corner and into an open shooting lane. Only seconds later, a 125-grain broadhead sealed the deal and my season ended with a hefty 10 pointer weighing 350 pounds.
This may have been many years ago, but since those days I've relied heavily on finding terrain features that funnel deer to specific points. As they say even a blind squirrel has been known to find a few nuts from time to time. I've come to the conclusion that few natural or manmade funnels compare to the action that corners have to offer. Granted, not all produce the same, but find the right one and you'll understand why many successful bowhunters seek out such hotspots.