I don’t know how many times I have watched deer come out into a field in the evening at the same location every night, only to have them mysteriously change their course the night I moved in to hunt them. There is a couple things wrong with the approach I was taking. First and foremost, I would often wait too long to move in on the deer I observed using the food source. Patterns can change quickly once hunting season arrives and gathering the most recent information and then acting upon it immediately is a must. Secondly, I failed to consider why the deer entered the field in the location that they did and I didn’t note how subtle changes in wind direction could alter this approach. Whether the wind was out of the Northest or the Northwest, the deer still wanted to use the destination crop field, but they would shift their entrance to the field by a couple hundred yards depending on how the wind was blowing that day.
One thing that seemed to almost always remain consistent was that the mature deer entering the field would hang up at the edge of the cover and survey their surroundings. Without fail, the spot they chose to enter the field was where the topography dipped lower, allowing them to take advantage of the falling thermals that were dropping into this low area at the edge of the field. By choosing low spots, the scent advantage is greater and a larger portion of the field (sometimes the whole food source) can be checked from this location. If the wind had a subtle shift, they would move accordingly and enter the food source at the next low spot further down the edge. Hunters need to keep low spots in mind when they are considering a deer’s travel from bedding to food in the evening.
Recently, while scouting a new piece of property, I discovered an example of this type of movement pattern. The bedding area to the North would have deer bedded there on a Southwest/West Southwest wind. It was evident that the deer using this area were moving south along the ridge at about the 2/3 elevation line. Several very steep, deep cuts in side hill coupled with points that jut out serve to funnel the deer activity so they moved across the points and along the top of the cuts so that their travel is less resisted by the terrain. Any deer approaching the Southern food source from the North during a Southwest wind could scent check the whole field before entering it. Along the East edge of the field one of the draws continued from the wooded hillside out into the field, where it created a natural low point in the field. A heavily used path entered the field at this exact point.
The trail along the ridge line continued to the Southwest where it wrapped around the Southeast facing point (bottom left in attached photo) and entered land I do not have access to. I suspect beds would be present on this south facing slope and would expect them to be used on a Northwest wind. The deer bedding on this South facing slope can utilize the entrance to the food source in the same way, scent checking the whole field as they move from West to East and enter the field at the lowest point with the wind and thermals both to their advantage.
The stand selection for this location allows me to access the spot using the creek system so as to minimize noise and ground scent as well as avoid visual detection from deer in either bedding area. Placing the stand on the downhill side of the trail for a later evening hunt allows the falling thermals to take scent away from the travel corridor and down into the steep draw where the deer do not typically travel. Likewise, any West wind (Southwest, West, Northwest) allows this stand to be used without the hunter being detected by deer coming from either direction. A NW or SW wind presents a near perfect situation where the deer will feel that they are traveling with the wind to their advantage, but the hunter’s scent zone is just off of the deer’s path. It is important to note that it may become necessary to move the stand location further north in order to be positioned closer to the deer’s bed. In this scenario, moving Southwest of the current location is not an option because of property boundaries, however, in another situation, adjustments to move the stand closer to bedding may become necessary if the deer you are pursuing is not reaching your initial location before shooting hours end.
Begin to pay close attention to how the deer in your hunting area relate to the food sources they use. While hunting field edges may not be the most productive approach in heavily pressured areas, hunting travel routes that relate to those edges can still be successful.
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