How To Find The Best Spot For Bowhunting.
Finding a hunting hotspot is all about taking a large area and shrinking it to a small, workable size. Whether you’re bowhunting a 1-acre suburban lot or a 1,000-acre public hardwoods, your goal is to find a spot that puts you within bow range of your quarry.
Bowhunting’s challenge is getting close and remaining undetected. With a little knowledge about deer habitat and behavior, you can narrow your search for a great hunting spot. Deer have natural tendencies and preferences for specific habitats, and these tendencies are dictated by food and security.
Deer are prey animals and, therefore, naturally paranoid. As Bruce Ranta, a deer and moose biologist in Ontario, Canada, often says, “Deer are either scared or they’re dead.” Deer usually stay hidden in thick brush, but they seldom find enough food in the thickets to stay there 24-7. That’s where habitat edges come into play. An edge is where two habitat types meet. An obvious example is where a field meets the woods or where a thicket meets mature hardwoods with an open understory. Edges typically provide deer food, which lets them feed within a leap or two of safe cover.
Oaks, especially white oaks, provide a white-tailed deer’s favorite autumn food: acorns. They’re packed with fats and proteins deer need to make it through the winter. Deer prefer white-oak acorns because they have fewer tannins than red-oak acorns, making them taste better. Most sites with oak stands attract deer.
When deer travel to or from feeding areas, such as crop fields and oak flats, they take routes that keep them hidden and follow paths of least resistance. They won’t climb steep hills if they can find a dip or low spot between hills that’s less demanding. Such sites are called “saddles” because they form a low point in the ridge or hill, and funnel deer through a specific spot. A funnel is any place that concentrates deer movements into a small area. Saddles are great starting points for bowhunters, because the terrain often brings deer within bow range.
Another example of a funnel is a strip of woods flanked on both sides by fields, and connecting two larger woodlots. This type of funnel acts like a bridge. It lets deer avoid an open area while traveling, which makes them feel more secure.
The bottomlands flanking rivers, streams and creeks also funnel deer movements, especially in agricultural areas with large fields and other openings. The trees, underbrush and topography along these bottomlands make deer less visible to predators. Look for narrow strips of cover along these corridors, which concentrate deer movements into areas that bring them within bow range.
Many deer hotspots are closer than you think. Deer are highly adaptable creatures, and can live in densely populated areas in sparse natural habitats. If deer are attacking you or a friend’s flowers, shrubs and landscaping, you might have great opportunities to harvest home-grown meat.
In other words, the more you look around, the more great bowhunting spots you’ll find waiting for you. Whether you’re bowhunting farms, suburbs or public lands, the key is scouting the animals you hunt and finding places where you can get within bow range.
If you need help finding places to hunt, visit a nearby archery shop. The store’s staff or owners can offer tips for finding great places to start bowhunting.