“It ain’t much to look at, but it’s full of deer!”
Those were my buddy’s words as we pulled onto a new farm he had acquired for deer hunting. And he was right. It was pretty much an overgrown thicket. The only place you could really see any distance was the swamp. It was the kind of thick, swampy mess that’ll keep most hunters out, but draw every deer in town deep inside. The property has become a place he routinely punches his buck tag.
My friend’s property is a classic example that scenic properties aren’t always the most productive ground to hunt. Sure, they’re beautiful locations, and could one day be a fine place to build a home with a view. But if you want to consistently notch a deer tag, your best bet might be to trade the scenic spots for the successful spots this season.
Into the Great Wide Open
I spent countless hours as a young hunter perched on the edge of cotton, corn and bean fields in hopes of seeing deer. It really didn’t matter what crop was in the ground, my goal was to sit where I could see the greatest amount of real estate. Most Saturday mornings came and went without ever seeing a deer.
It was later on in my teen years when someone finally explained that I was likely blowing deer out of the fields on my pre-dawn walk in to the stand for these morning hunts. “Those deer won’t be back until the evening hunt,” they’d say. “You gotta get into the thick stuff if you want to find deer.” I soon realized when I traded my beautiful sunrise sits for the thick and nasty cover, my deer sightings - and success - went up exponentially.
Finding the Gauntlet
Several seasons back, my son and I spent far too many evenings watching a cut corn field before we finally realized we weren’t in the game. Over and over we watched deer pour into the field from the same stretch of woods at last light. More than once, we threatened to move our stand, or at least go and explore why the deer seemed to favor that spot.
When we finally made our move to investigate the area, we found a skinny ridge that led out of the nastiest thicket on the farm. Thick cover on both sides created what we affectionately called The Guantlet. My little boy killed a 10-point buck with his bow on our first sit in the gauntlet an hour before dark. Our stands were hung just 75 yards from the edge of the field we’d been watching in the previous weeks.
Those deer felt comfortable enough to spend the final hour of daylight staging in the Gauntlet before entering the wide open field closer to dark. You can’t see much from this location, but when the deer show up, you can bet they’ll be in bow range.
Photography by Tom Reichner
Bucks and Beavers
Beavers can be some of the most destructive critters in the woods. They’ll make a mess of your property in a hurry. Landowners hate them due to the costly tree damage and flooding they typically cause. But the wise deer hunter knows to pay attention to the areas where beavers hang out. Where you find beavers, you’ll often find deer. Beavers make a mess, but it’s the kind of mess that’ll hold big bucks.
Unless you’re a duck hunter, you may not be drawn to a swamp. In fact, a lot of hunters will avoid swamps and sloughs because of the hassle of hunting such spots. It’ll likely require waders or a boat for access. It’s honestly some of the toughest deer hunting you’ll find anywhere. But that’s exactly why you’ll find deer there. Swamps may not be the most scenic sit of the season, but they make a great place to find success on an unpressured buck.
Sometimes the best place to find a big buck flying under the radar are the areas close to home. A lot of hunters drive far and walk deep to avoid other hunters and find where the big bucks hide. But you’ll also find those deer hanging out in the thicket just beyond the landowner’s house. They’re tucked into that ugly thicket right next to the highway.
A lot of big bucks make their living hiding in the less desirable hangouts that most hunters avoid, or would never think about hunting. No, they aren’t the prettiest spots to hang a stand. And you may even take jabs and jeers from your buddies for hunting such a crazy spot. But if you can handle the potential scorn, you just might find a diamond in the rough.
Some hunters are completely content with sitting in the prettiest place on the farm. They simply enjoy the view, and a buck is just a bonus. There’s nothing wrong with that mindset. In fact, those kind of sits can be a much needed therapeutic break from the chaos of life. But when you find yourself stuck in a rut with deer encounters coming few and far between, consider a few of the locations mentioned above to get back in the game and notch a tag before the season wraps up.