By Brandon Wikman
The art of using terrain to your advantage has been skilled for centuries; in fact, the Native Americans were known best for using landscape forms to kill buffalo in the vast plains and western regions of the United States. Native Americans were masters at corralling Buffalo to a cliff or ledge – to then run them off to ensure survival for the long winter months ahead.
Nowadays, we find ourselves walking into the local grocery to pick up our next meal. However, as hunters, we still use the ancient history lessons to put game down… but in a much modern way with the use of funnels.
Funnels are whitetail hot spots, especially during the rut. They are simply terrain features or manmade objects that simply condense a whitetail’s travel route. Here are 5 lessons on where to look and how they work from many of the outdoors best and brightest:
1.Fingers: Finding a woods that has a jut or a finger of woods that outcrops into a field are ideal spots to find a big buck cruising. These are found easily by studying aerial maps. Considering deer like to stay concealed, they’ll be able to scent check that cornfield or CRP field without ever taking a step out of the woods. These are found everywhere, but Illinois and Iowa are known for them specifically.
2. Wetlanda: If you’ve ever hunted a swamp, you may know what I mean when I say it’s difficult and can be really tricky! The fact is, that deer would prefer to stay dry and walk along the higher regions of marshy or swampy areas. Try to spot cattails or bogs and then look on the outskirts of those regions. You may find a dry trail that deer will use most of the time compared to trudging through the nasty stuff. Now, I’ve personally seen deer splash through some knee high algae infested water, but when it boils down to it deer are going to stay on the high side.
3. Fence lines: You’ve probably heard about this strategy before, but it’s one of my favorite setups. Take a walk along a fence line and if you find a spot where it’s busted or low, you’ve found yourself a fence funnel. Deer travel most according to the ease of access. When they don’t have to do the limbo or high jump, they would rather breeze through a fence that’s low without any acrobatic moves needed. You can setup on either side of the fence according to wind direction and where you think they’ll be coming from.
4. Saddles: I primarily hunt the bluff regions of western Wisconsin. This offers some immaculate hunting and it’s beneficial for anyone who really wants to tag a monster trolling for doe. As you look across the horizon of bluff’s there are something in between each bluff that we call, ‘saddles.’ These saddles are perfect locations for deer to cross, without having to walk the incline of a steep hillside. When a buck’s got a doe on his mind, the only thing he’s really thinking is how fast can he get from point-A-to-point B. The more miles put on, the more likely he’s able to find a hot doe. This valley feature is an ideal way for bucks to save energy and make an easy pass across the low side of a bluff.
5. Water: Creeks and streams are beautiful geological evidence that deer hop from one side to the other by using the lowest or driest part of the streambed to cross. Granted that deer swim, they prefer crossing a creek or stream without getting soggy. This is why you see deer trails that slices through the bank is carved through the soil! It’s a major highway. When it comes to staying dry, especially in the colder months of November and December, deer will slosh through knee-high water. Not only are they conserving body heat, but making their life easier and more pleasant.