In an effort to pin down some additional stand locations for the upcoming season, we spent time in the off season scouting both new parcels and new areas of properties we have hunted in the past. I have for some time wanted to learn more about the deer movement on a small parcel we have permission to hunt that is part of a larger piece of timber and is bordered on the West side by a cattle pasture. The transition that is created where the mature woods changes to earlier succession growth, then meets the edge of the pasture, is a popular travel corridor. This parallel, transition trail is heavily used and is a direct connection between multiple bedding areas to the South (both on and off the huntable property) and evening food sources.
Additionally, the contour of the hill creates a distinct bench higher up the hill, which is about 30 yards wide. The deer use this bench and bed on subtle points overlooking the bottom flat area of timber. They also traverse this bench as it wraps around the point of the hill and connects with what I believe are likely bedding areas on the adjacent parcels. Trails can also be found dropping off these benches heading down into the bottom and then eventually out into the Alfalfa field to the North.
Some of the bedding is only 150 yards off the destination food source, and so access is delicate. To reduce noise, we have cut a route through the thicket so that the vegetation and weeds can visually shield our approach while not costing us unnecessary noise. Often these small details can make a significant difference in success levels. The stand site (indicated by the blue ‘X’) was selected for multiple reasons, the first being accessibility. This is essentially as close to bedding as we can afford to get for an evening hunt without being busted by the deer bedded on the bench. Any closer and we would position ourselves on the open timber side of the transition edge, visually exposing us to the bedded deer utilizing the elevation of the point for secure bedding. Where the stand is located, a shot is available 15 yards above to the South of the hunter’s position, should the deer stay higher along the hillside. This stand location also allows for a fairly clean entrance/exit route through the cattle pasture that will leave both the woods and the Ag fields mostly undisturbed- an important detail.
This transition zone is also where a concentration of deer movement occurs as they use this primary trail on their way to the food sources to the North. When the deer bedded on the point are leaving their daytime cover to move to food, it is highly likely they will utilize the trail dropping off the point of the bench and move within easy bow range of this tree. Furthermore, deer which are bedded to the South and West of the stand on the neighboring parcels are also likely to use this area to enter the alfalfa field. This is a popular trail because it enters the field at its lowest elevation, and any deer who is transitioning through the creek bottom on the way to the alfalfa can take advantage of falling thermals in the evening and scent check the entire field, regardless of the wind direction. This feature naturally draws deer to this area. It also makes the spot harder to hunt as we may find it becomes more susceptible to wind swirls. If that is the case, we may need to save this location for hunts on calmer wind days when falling evening thermals will stabilize our scent stream and carry it East, down the creek bottom and away from the direction of the deer movement.
Falling thermals provide the third justification for this stand location in that they will help facilitate an evening hunt where the hunter will be able to remain undetected by deer approaching from nearly any bedding location. For an evening hunt, setting up on the lower side of the most probable travel route will allow for minimal ground scent and keep airborne scent away from approaching deer.
Though not a complex set-up, this stand will require carefully timed access and likely only a few October hunts. During early November, rutting bucks could certainly move through the location on the parallel transition trail, scent checking the bed-to-feed trails to see if any estrous does have moved through the area, headed back to their daytime bedding locations. However, as the morning thermals begin to rise, I would expect most of the movement to take place on the upper bench trail as the bucks cruised at or above the bedding elevation and allowed the rising thermal drafts to bring up scent from the bottom of the woods. Sitting this low stand in the later in the morning would be ill-advised and for this reason I located a better rut stand along the upper bench to the South of this stand location. The bench serves as a connecting travel corridor between multiple bedding locations and can provide productive all day sits. The rising thermals, coupled with any Westerly wind can serve to keep the hunter undetected.
The trick is to not over hunt this stand in early season, but instead choose timing carefully in conjunction with favorable weather patterns. The temptation when we find a stand with a good bit of sign and above average promise is to hunt it as much as possible. Many times this has the reverse affect and we are left puzzled as to why our opportunities diminish as the season progresses. Saving this spot for high value sits should help to increase its yields and keep it productive for seasons to come.
-Reuben Dourte, firstname.lastname@example.org