10 Killer Big Buck Bow Hunting Ambushes
By Ricky Kinder
Why do top notch hunters shoot quality mature deer year after year? Sure they scout, don’t shoot young bucks, maintain their land, pay attention to the wind, plant food plots, are in big buck country, ect. Yes all of those and many more reasons can attribute to better chances of shooting bigger bucks consistently. However do you know the most important reason why people shoot big deer year after year? Because they place their stands in locations where big bucks like to frequent…it really is that simple. They are in the right place at the right time. You will never consistently shoot mature deer if you are not putting your tree stands in the proper locations.
Whitetails are creatures of habit and instinct, they do everything for a purpose and that is actually a good thing for us hunters. If we know what they like to do, what they don’t like to do, and how they navigate their day then we can key in on certain geographical locations on our properties and ambush an unsuspecting bruiser.
Below are the 10 ambush spots that I would want on any given property. While it would be an absolute dream to have all of them on one piece of land, most of the time that just isn’t possible. However having just one of these ambush spots on your property can lead to success if you use it to your advantage.
Funnels, probably the most talked about stand location, are simply when a larger area of land conduces into a smaller area of land. The result is deer are naturally pushed, or funneled into the smaller area of land in order to get to their destination. Funnels make great ambush sites because you know the deer have to travel through them in order to stay in cover while roaming to a food source of bedding area. Funnels also provide the hunter an advantage because they are essentially portioning off the playing field into a smaller area. If you can get deer into a smaller area the greater chance you will have at getting them into shooting range.
When I set my stand I like to have a crosswind because most of the time deer will travel both directions of the funnel in a parallel manner. If the wind is blowing perpendicular to me I will allow the deer to enter both sides without worrying about being busted.
Scrape and Rub Lines
Rubs and scrapes are a no brainer, but they are not necessarily the easiest to hunt. The good thing about rubs and scrapes is you know the bucks are in the area. However when are they using it? A lot of rubs and scrapes are visited at night, but I would still want a stand in an area that has a high concentration of rubs and scrapes. More specifically those areas that if you look to your left and then to your right all you see is a highway of raw trees. It may not be a sure thing but anytime you can find the call sign of a buck it is worth having a stand in the area.
Swamp or marsh land may be the most difficult land to hunt for a few reasons. For one a lot of property simply doesn’t have this type of land on it in Iowa. Secondly if your land does have some swampish properties it is very difficult to hunt, due to the difficulty of the terrain and a lot of times there is very little opportunities to hang a tree stand with the shortage of trees. Nonetheless if you are lucky enough to have a marsh on your property you need to do everything in your power to get a tree stand or blind in the area.
Have you ever heard stories of the “swamp land” bucks and how big they are? These stories usually tend to hold some truth to them, because the bucks that seek out refuge in the swamps don’t want to be bothered and bucks that do that tend to be monsters! If you can’t access the marsh then your best bet is to find out where the buck enters and exits the marsh and set up your ambush there.
Deer by nature are edge animals, meaning they like to hover and move around the outer edges of cover. They do this so they can see approaching danger and as well as to have security close by. Think about it, when you see deer walking they are usually at the edge of a timber line, creek bed, fence line, corn row, buffer strip, etc. That is why it is important to take note of differing habitat on your property. If you have diverse edges filtering through your property, hanging stands along the transitions zones is a great idea.
A ridge plateau to me is simply a high area in the timber that looks like the palm of your hand with fingers protruding from it in the form of ridges. Deer, especially bigger bucks love to stay high on ridgelines in a timber because it offers them visibility as well as bedding areas. If you have an area where several ridgelines meet in the middle you have a dynamite place for a stand. It is similar to a funnel, but different in the fact that the ridgelines are leading deer into essentially a larger gathering or intersection area. Think of the ridge lines as the highways and the ridge plateau as the Mixmaster that handles all of the traffic in the area. If deer want to get to the other side of the timber then chances are they will have to pass through the plateau.
Fence Line Crossing
Bucks tend to be pretty lazy animals, and if given the option will take the path of least resistance. That is why I love to hang stands or place blinds near a fence line that has a few rows of wire missing or possibly an entire section of fence gone. As stated bucks already love to travel fence lines as they are considered a habitat edge, and a lot of the times if a buck knows there is a crossing coming up ahead they will not cross until they reach that spot. Knowing this as a hunter is invaluable information because it essentially tells you where a buck will make his transition to the other side of the fence.
Staging areas are my favorite place to hang tree stands in hopes of tagging a mature deer. A staging area is an area of land just inside the cover line that a buck will use until the cover of darkness. Once it is dark, then they will leave the staging area and begin to feed. Staging areas a lot of times, especially during early season are really your only chance at harvesting a mature buck. That is why it is wise to hang your stand off of the food source 20-30 yards instead of directly on it.
Isolated Food Plot
Food plots are great, but food plots that are tucked back in the timber or in cover are even better. These smaller plots are ideal stopping points for bucks in transition either in the morning before heading back to bed, or in the evening before they hit up the main food source. Isolated plots provide a layer of security and comfort that regular food sources normally don’t. If I had my choice between hunting an isolated food plot versus a larger main food plot, I would pick the isolated one 90% of the time.
Wooded Finger Into Crop Ground
I love hunting picked crop fields! If the combine is in the field that morning, I will be in the stand on the field edge that evening. The sheer volume of corn and soybeans in Iowa is part of what makes Iowa such a great place to whitetail hunt. However, as we know these fields can be enormous and picking a stand location around one of these giant food sources can be a headache, in return making them difficult to hunt. That is why when I hunt a crop field I always look for wooded fingers protruding into the field. I look for these because deer love to use them to enter and exit the field…kind of like the funnels we discussed at the beginning of the article. Using these fingers allow a buck to stay in cover as long as possible.
Oak Tree Flat
Deer love acorns! That is probably not a secret to anyone, but I am still surprised that hunters don’t take advantage of oak tree flats. If I knew an area with oak trees were dropping their mast I would hands down hunt that area over any other spot on my property. Deer are absolutely suckers for acorns here in Iowa and will virtually leave all other food sources to consume them. If your property has oak trees then you need to pay attention to their mast producing cycle and be ready to sit in a tree stand in that area when they start dropping.
Now is the time to start planning where you might want to move your stands or blinds to for the upcoming season. Take a look at your hunting grounds and figure out if you have any of the above locations on your property. If you do, it might be a really good idea to at least hang a stand in any of these places. While there is never a guarantee in whitetail hunting with a bow, these are known locations that deer, especially big bucks like to frequent while moving about. Tagging a mature deer is all about increasing your chances and the best thing you can do is have a stand in a location where big bucks are.