I often hear deer hunters complain about not seeing any deer while hunting. Nothing new there! However they often make the statement, “of all the trees in the woods what are the odds of them walking by my treestand?” If that is a serious question, then I’ve already identified the problem. You don’t just waltz into the woods and pick out any random tree and climb or sit under it. The deer have to have a reason to be there. Food is the obvious reason to hang a stand, as well as trails and travel routes. Trails and travel routes are great places but often used seemingly at random (or on schedules only known to the deer). Hunting trails within a funnel or pinch point can improve your odds drastically.
A funnel or pinch point is exactly that, an area where deer travel is funneled or pinched down and brought into a smaller area. Such areas often hold not one but numerous trails. Funnels and pinch points are created by natural and man-made obstacles, some are obstacles deer CANNOT cross, and others are obstacles that they may only CHOOSE not to cross. Both are effective, but may need to be hunted differently.
I recently heard a hunter from the South, who now hunts the Midwest, say that there aren’t really any funnels to hunt back home. While this individual is a very successful hunter, I would have to strongly disagree with his assessment. Everywhere the whitetail deer is found some type of funnel likely exists; or at the very least an obstacle or geographic feature that will influence their travel. While it’s true that the funnels down our way may not be as obvious as some of those found in the broken farm country of the Midwest, they certainly exist. Many of the features that can influence deer travel are: large fields, bodies of water, roads, railroad tracks, ravines, bluffs and steep terrain, thick vegetation, or even recent clearcuts. The list goes on but I think you get the idea, and it is likely that as you read through those atleast one or two of them exist on the property you hunt!
Some of the better funnels and pinch points I’ve hunted included:
• A beaver dam used to cross a creek or slough.
• A dry wooded area between a slough and field.
• A saddle in a steep ridge.
• An SMZ (streamside management zone) bisecting a thick clearcut.
• An overgrown fence row through a pasture.
• Trails skirting a pond at the upper reaches/ inflow.
• An open creek bottom sandwiched between a highway and a dense pine plantation.
These are just some of the areas that I have personally used to improve my odds of taking a buck. These types of areas are especially good during the rut, particular the pre-rut. This is when bucks will be on their feet the most in an attempt to find estrous does. During this time a buck can often cover several thousand acres and many miles. And will typically use the quickest (and safest) way to get from A to B; and C to D for that matter.
If you know your hunting property, finding funnels and pinch points should be fairly easy. If you don’t know it well, or don’t live near the area you are planning to hunt, then an aerial photograph or a satellite photo will suffice. I often use Google Earth for scouting and finding these areas ahead of time and later go in and scout them on foot. I typically recommend people spend some time scouting after deer season, the woods are still fairly open, and sign such as trails, rubs, and scrapes are still visible. This is also a great time to find those high traffic funnels!
While extremely difficult to do, it is a good idea to sit in these types of locations all day, or as long as you can. Especially when bucks are actively seeking estrous does. Bucks are tough if not impossible to pattern during the rut, but placing yourself along a pinch point or funnel could definitely improve your odds. Using trail cameras on these locations will let you know if bucks are using these areas to travel, and will boost your confidence about sitting on stand for hours on end. Who knows you may find yourself settling the sights on a buck you have never seen before, having traveled from miles away but forced to go by your stand due to some geographic obstacle!
I could go into so much more detail, but I think I’ve given you enough to get started. Being more open minded will be very helpful when identifying funnels and/or pinch points. For example, a mature buck is very sensitive to hunting pressure, and he will often see a food plot as an obstacle to be skirted or avoided. This is not always the case but unless the deer on the property are seldom hunted, consider large open areas as places deer will avoid; atleast until after dark. I would also like to remind everyone to remember to hunt these places during a favorable wind. A wind direction that carries your scent away from the deer and their travel route but toward the obstacle is ideal. Keep these areas in mind while hunting this season. I’m confident that your buck sightings will increase! Good luck and stay safe this season!