Is the Land You Hunt Set Up Good for Deer Hunting?
I've had a pretty rough start to my deer season this year. A lot has not gone according to plan. But would it be bowhunting if everything went exactly like we hoped it would? I think not.
Deer hunting is a tough endeavor. It's not an easy hobby. Period. I don't care what anyone says, no one will convince me that a game of checkers, chess or anything else is more challenging than hunting and killing a deer — even a small one. And over the years, I've realized the hardest part isn't actually killing the deer. It's finding them.
It doesn't matter if you're looking to buy land, lease land, gain permission from private landowners, or hunting public property, good land is good land and the necessary components of prime deer hunting ground remains the same.
Basic Needs of Whitetails
Whitetails need three basic things in order to survive: food, water and shelter. That's it. As long as a deer has those three things it can live a prosperous life. While it might seem elementary, it's important to remember those three things when trying to find a huntable property. Because it won't hold deer if it doesn't satisfy those three main requirements.
Sniff Out a Hotspot
It can be a daunting task trying to locate potential hunting spots. Land loaded with deer rarely falls out of the sky into your lap. Urbanization, competition from other hunters, and a lack of public land can make it downright frustrating to find a good place to hunt. But it is accomplishable. And there's a certain system I like to use when looking for additional land to hunt.
I begin by looking at aerial maps in the general area I'm wanting to hunt. Zoom out on Google Earth and identify areas with desirable land features. Also, ask locals about potential places to hunt. Even contact ag extensions offices, wildlife biologists and conservation officers to see if they know of any landowners who might provide access, lease ground or outright sell. For public land, contact the state wildlife agency and request a public lands information packet. Then start scouting digitally with aerial and topography maps. Regardless of whether you settle on private or public land, then take the information you've gathered and head afield. If private land is in your crosshairs, approach the landowner and talk to them. If on public land, strap on the hiking boots and begin scouting.
Once you've located land you feel holds whitetails and has the three basic needs of a deer, there are a few more requirements to meet. A piece of property can have a buffet of food, an ocean of water, and thick bedding areas even an ant couldn't crawl through and still not be a huntable property. How so? Several reasons.
Wind is the first reason. It's like that friend you had in the eighth grade that did nothing but stab you in the back between eating lunchroom corndogs and making laughable attempts at hitting on the chicks. You see, wind can seemingly be perfect at times, only to switch or swirl and send deer packing. It's frustrating, I know. But it's reality.
If a property does not lay right, the wind could make it so you rarely can hunt the area. It all depends on the wind directions typical for specific locations and how they match up to what's offered on that property. For example, let's say the property you're looking at is woods and ag fields. The wind almost always blows straight from the food source back into the bedding area. That potentially means (depending on exact locations of bedding areas and trail patterns) most of the time, you won't be able to hunt that spot. So you've poured time and money into it with minimal opportunities to hunt there. Obviously, this is more of an issue when looking at small properties (under 50 acres). But these acreages are reality for most of us blue collar bowhunters.
Furthermore, differences in elevation and terrain features can cause the wind to swirl. Bottoms, draws, hollows and ravines almost always present swirling winds. This makes bowhunting that particular property that much harder.
Topography and terrain also play into whether a property is considered to be huntable or not. Properties with pinch-points, funnels, saddles and other key stand locations increase the likelihood of success. Flat land that is 100 percent timber would be considered less huntable than one with variations in elevation and a mixed ratio of cover and open areas. Also, if it doesn't have at least one location — no less than 2 to 3 acres in size — with thick bedding cover, mature bucks likely won't spend much time there.
Lastly, you must look at everything surrounding the property you're observing to determine if it's truly huntable or not. Try to gauge how much pressure is applied to neighboring properties to get a feel for buck-to-doe ratio, population density, age structure of the herd, and how those deer will behave during the season.
Finding good land isn't easy. But it's worth the time and effort invested when you do. And wrapping that tag around a deer you've worked hard for is icing on the cake.
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