When You Need to Hunt the Neighbor’s Deer
Ok, it sounds pretty bad at first, but sometimes you need to hunt your neighbor’s deer. I’m not talking about trespassing, but I am talking about getting as close as possible to known or suspected bedding areas on neighboring parcels which you may not have permission to hunt.
If your lucky enough to have a neighbor who will let you shed hunt his or her property, you can use this as a valuable reconnaissance mission to determine how the local Whitetails are utilizing the food and cover on adjacent properties. In other situations, like in hill country, you may be able to observe deer bedded across a valley or ravine from an elevated vantage point when there is snow on the ground and the foliage has dropped. Other times, you may be able to (or have to) justify drawing a reasonable conclusion about bedding habits based on a topo map, known travel patterns, food sources and trail camera pictures without ever ground-truthing a neighboring property.
I’ve written before about the ethics of hunting property lines, so I won’t get into that now, but I will take the time to say that I’m not a big proponent of it if it can be avoided. However, some circumstances force your hand and the only way to take advantage of a prime location is to sit on or near the line. In these situations I think it is advisable to face your stand into the parcel you have permission to hunt, especially if you plan to hang a stand and leave it for the season.
In some situations, bedding may occur on the neighbor’s property while your parcel consists of a travel corridor, or even staging area, on the way to food. You may have other options, such as using a chain saw to create bedding opportunities on your own parcel, but still, terrain and vegetation can limit you. This was the situation I found myself in last fall.
In my situation, the deer were bedding to the South of the property line in a overgrown wild apple orchard. The food sources they utilized during the night were on our property, but finding a stand location that could take advantage of several features that funneled the deer while still being close enough to the bedding to capitalize on daylight movement proved difficult. It seemed like the deer were managing to get around me and passing my prior stand locations via different travel routes than those I expected them to take, so I used the post season to determine how they were accessing the food sources on the other side of the CRP to the North.
I knew the deer were bedding along the top edge of the apple thicket along the transition with the hardwood timber, further up the hill to the South. I was able to observe them on numerous occasions from across the valley during late season when there was less vegetation and snow covered the hillside. As I walked Westward along the property line through a dense, near impenetrable mess of briers, I finally came to a place were the steep incline below the bench that contained the old barbed wire boundary fence tapered more gradually, allowing for an easier access to the flat of the creek bottom. At this very location the three strand fence was broken down, allowing for an uninhibited crossing onto our parcel. To the West of this break in the fence, the creek had caused further erosion into the hillside and created an even more dramatic incline that funneled the deer along its edge as to avoid going down over the steepest part of the creek bank. If pressured, a Whitetail could easily navigate this terrain, but left to move at their own pace, it was obvious they preferred to cross into the creek bottom at the fence gap where the terrain was less aggressive. Sitting on the property line was a mature maple with numerous low hanging branches which will provide adequate cover even when it loses its leaves early in the fall. I angled my stand away from the property line and cut a shooting lane to the west of my access trail in order to be able to shoot a deer before it crosses my ground scent.
I’m aware that some people may forego this stand because the access involves crossing a known deer trail, but I believe I can capitalize on this stand location early in the year and then utilize it as a rut funnel stand later in the season. Since there are so many terrain elements that come together to funnel deer past this location, and it is located adjacent to bedding, not hunting this location would, in my opinion, be a missed opportunity. Because of the elevation change between the creek bottom and the bench (which contains the stand tree), I can easily access this location without any bedded deer observing my approach. Likewise, the North facing slope will cool faster in the evenings and the thermals will begin to fall and carry scent down the hill earlier in the evening, allowing for a more adequate amount of time to get into position and quiet without the risk of rising thermals carrying scent up the hill to bedded deer. Falling thermals in combination with a WSW wind will wisk scent away from the direction of deer travel.
It should also be noted that deer certainly have the option of continuing to move East along the South side of the property line, and some do. However, the perennial scrape that is located under an apple tree along the CRP field to the North is an added incentive to draw them into the creek bottom and through the shooting lane on the huntable parcel. Buck activity at this scrape has historically increased during the last week of October, making this stand a great choice for a pre-rut hunt during an October cold front.
Just because bedding happens to be located on the neighbor’s property, doesn’t necessarily mean that the deer that utilize it are unhuntable. Determining how and where the deer are entering the property you hunt is the first step in intercepting them on the way to their evening food source. The next task is determining how you can manipulate the wind, thermals and terrain to your advantage. If the deer you are hunting are bedding within 100 yards of the property line and have a clearly defined direction of travel, high value sits can still be obtained on the farthest outskirts of your parcel boundaries.