Here are 5 areas to scope out when searching for deer.
1. Funnels: Often, ponds or other obstacles such as blowdowns or steep ditches force deer to move around them as they travel from one area to another. Look for these spots on a ridge and set up a stand location to watch for deer moving through.
2. Saddles:More subtle, but equally effective, a saddle in a ridge is also a funnel. Deer, especially bucks, will use it to travel from one side of the ridge to another. These spots are especially good on large, steep ridges that take a lot of effort to move up and over. Just stay away from saddles with steep sides, since deer don’t seem to like feeling trapped in them. Stick to saddles with more gentle angles.
3. Benches: Deer, especially does, use these flat spots on the side of ridges to bed down and loaf during the day. They’re great spots to still-hunt during the rut, as bucks often cruise from bench to bench looking for does coming into heat. Shady benches are often good during mid-day.
4. Food: When scouting, look for the way ridges connect to food sources. Focus attention here during the early and late seasons when deer are feeding heavily. Set up a stand on the ridge leading to the food, but still within the trees, to cut off deer moving into the food during afternoon hunts.
5. Flat spots or “table tops”: These areas are not attractive to many hunters’ eyes, but deer seem to love them. When you find a ridge that has steep sides and a flat top, look for signs of feeding. If you find some, especially droppings, plan on still-hunting through during the rut, as deer are often thick on these ridges, especially if they hold mast crops like acorns for forage.
Originally published in the 2012 Fall issue of Ontario OUT OF DOORS magazine.