I have found bedding areas to be challenging areas to hunt. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I began to consider the idea of utilizing the knowledge of specific bed locations in stand selection. Understanding bedding areas was a concept that repetitively eluded me and presented, what felt like at the time, insurmountable challenges. I began to chalk up bed hunting as a successful tactic only to be used in unpressured areas, when in actuality, the opposite is true. What I lacked were the skills to efficiently locate beds, differentiate between buck and doe beds and properly read sign to determine how deer were relating to these bedding areas. What’s more, I feared disrupting an area and applying pressure to the deer’s sanctuary and my ultra-conservative approach forfeited any chance I may have had. The result was stand sites which were just outside of the area(s) that could actually yield a chance at a mature buck.
There is a lot that could be written on bed hunting, and most of what I have applied to my personal hunting and scouting efforts is attributable to the tactics proven and popularized by Dan Infalt and his HuntingBeast.com forum. That being said, for the purpose of this blog, I am going to highlight a known doe bedding area on a property I hunt, and describe a set up which I will utilize in what I call the pre-rut stages, specifically the late days of October and the first week of November. These are the days that I have found yield the most buck travel beyond a feed-bed-feed pattern, and is typically when I can expect to see an animal I want to shoot on the land that I hunt. Bed hunting is one of the most productive ways to kill a buck in early October, however, keep in mind that for this article I am discussing doe bedding, whereas early October bed hunting would concentrate on an buck bed.
The typical deer movement for this particular area is usually West to East (in the morning). The deer move from the crop fields to the West and enter the bedding areas which are located in thick cover about 75 yards inside the field edge. This area was once pastured but has since overgrown into a mixture of golden rod, warm season grasses, briars and thorn apple trees. An edge is created by the East side of the bedding area and the slightly more mature woods. The deer, specifically bucks, use this edge to skirt the bedding area on the downwind side of it (as shown). The does will typically bed in the lower half of the red circles (in the thicker brush). Because of how the terrain flows in this particular bedding area a Westerly (WNW, NW, NNW) wind will more consistently have deer bedded in this location.
This January, I located a buck bed above the area where does are typically bedded. This bedding location allows the buck to smell anything behind him with a WNW or NNW wind, while looking down hill at any approaching danger. Behind the bed was a briar bush providing some structure and concealment to the bedded bucks back side.
The black “X” indicates the stand position that I selected last January based on the sign and deer patterns I observed during, and immediately following season. I feel this spot has real potential for an all day sit during the pre-rut/rut for multiple reasons.
1. The stand is positioned for a 20 yard shot to the edge of the bedding area, a properly placed shooting lane allows for shooting 10 yards into the bedding area. The North/South trail that runs along the East edge of the bedding provides a perfect ambush site for a cruising buck scent checking the doe bedding area for an estrous doe in the later morning hours. A buck moving from South to North, given a NW wind, will feel secure moving along the bedding because he is able to scent check what is ahead of him. The stand placement in relation to this trail allows for a 20 yard shot at a position where the wind is almost in the deer’s favor, but not quite. I have also witnessed bucks moving North to South on the trail that originates in the upper right corner of the photo and then following the edge of the bedding area.
2. Doe groups who do not bed in this particular area still move through, typically from West to East at first light, on their way to a bedding area further East. The deer traveling West to East will not be able to smell a hunter in a stand to the North of the trail, even on a NW wind, because the elevation change is such that any scent flows over the deer’s backs and is well down the hill before it could be detected. This travel can be beneficial if one of the does happens to be in estrous. A cruising buck may pick up the trail and follow it right past the stand into a 15 yard shooting lane.
3. The buck bed I located to the North of this doe bedding area was one I honestly did not expect to find. From prior surveillance gathered while sitting in an observation stand to the West of this bedding area, bucks will often move through the brush (left side of the photo) and travel the south edge of the doe bedding. I suspect that they then hook up to the buck bed location and utilize a WNW or NW wind to their advantage when bedding there. The bucks I have observed reached the West edge of the bedding cover at daybreak, and I suspect there have been many more occurrences of bucks who have already crossed the West brush under the cover of darkness. In either case, the faint North/South trail on the East edge of the doe bedding area I believe is used by bucks “J” hooking into this bed in an effort to scent check their bedding are before committing to it for the day. This “J” hook concept is another tactic discussed in detail by Dan Infalt in his DVD Hunting Hill Country Bucks, which I highly recommend. My trail camera to the South of this bedding location has shown multiple bucks traveling, on a regular basis, from the North to food sources to the South. This activity is often just after nightfall, indicating that my stand location needs to be closer to the bedding cover than the camera set.
This stand location presents me with an option for an all day sit in late October/early November. Were I better able to access this area undetected in the afternoon hours, I may have considered this for one early season evening hunt. However, since it is unlikely for me to be able to get into the proper position without spooking does and satellite bucks that will likely be bedded in the area, I will reserve this stand location for a properly timed late October all day hunt and hope I can catch a cruising buck checking the doe bedding areas to the West of my location.