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JoeTC

Bowhunting Deep Woods

20 posts in this topic

There's a ton of articles on bowhunting farmland deer and smaller wooded areas but not many are targeted towards deep woods such as in Northern Minnesota. So I wanted to start a thread that talks about hunting deep woods deer. Clear cuts, cedar swamps and large tracs of woods where the deer have no access to agricultural food sources. So lets hear what you have to say as far as tips, tactics and hunting strategies for these types of areas.

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I know there will be a lot of opinions and strategies, but I focus strictly on funnels. I like to change locations often and these seem the easy to pinpoint for me. The downside, I haven't seen a lot of nice bucks, well even bucks for that matter, but activity of does and fawns seems to always keep me interested. It is always nice if you can find a good acorn dropping oak or other big woods food source. Good luck.

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I myself have never hunted the deep woods you are talking about. But if I were I would find were a swamp meets the hardwoods. They always seem to skirt around these areas. I have a buddy that hunts the deep woods near Waskish and he hunts the power lines. He seems to have good luck every year. Maybe try and find a ridge where they seem to have a run leading from one place to another. Try and find a funnel area cutting between swamps. Just a thought.

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Boy, I concur with this thread. I am baffled by the woods in the Northeast here. Just watching the deer--they eat, they travel, they sleep, they chase one another in all of these indeterminate areas or you don't see them at all. I can see edges and ridges and funnels but the woods are awfully big and the deer seem to drift through it all without much concentration. They wander at will! I've seen more deer in our yard in Duluth this Fall than I've seen in the woods. And then suddenly a deer comes under my stand, I shoot it, I tag it, and "was that really so hard?" but darn if I can replicate it with any day to day consistency.

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Its all about edges and funnels.

You need to find areas where different types of cover intersect. Pines to hardwoods, woods to swamp, 50yr old growth to 10yr old growth etc. It doesn't really matter what types as long as there is some change. Rarely is a woods the exact same age and completely the same.

Then focus on funnels whether made by thes edge changes, topography or extra thick cover. Swamps, lakes, ridges, points etc.

Of course MN is pretty flat so even ridges are typically out too, but you have to find ways to make your area "feel" smaller. If there are natural ways that segment your property then use that to your advantage and scout each one. Then you can identify the bedding cover from the feeding areas. Since there is less concentrated sources of food they do wander more, but I've found they still frequent the same areas.

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I have tried to pinpoint food sources in deep woods but it is extremely hard and baffling but if you find a clear cut thats not too old and even if it is 10-15 years old they will still use that for cover. younger cuts generate a lot of food and cover, deer are lazy if they can get by with bedding in their food source they will, I walked through one this past weekend, and bumped a ton of deer and there were beds all over. I know where I am hunting next week! grin.gifwink.gif

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I cannot concur more than that about funnels!! Finding anything that narrows a travel path, and you should see animals regularly. For the past few years, I have been hunting a ridge that runs between two potholes. There are low and high spots on the ridge and I set up right before the funnel starts (or ends depending on deer movement). I am smack dab in the middle of big mature oaks, with a 20 year-old slashing to one side and a pine ridge to another. Lots of variety, and it can be quite thick in the funnel itself. The deer usually follow the easiest route through the thickest stuff when they have seen a bit of pressure.

The other main type of funnel that I like is one that leads down to a thick cedar or tamarack swamp. When things start heating up, the deer will quickly go to these type of places and stay there...the challenge is getting in there quietly and as scent free as possible. I put my brother-in-law in a place such as that about 7 years ago... He's gotten deer out of there every single year. In fact, he has out-shot my father and I combined around 10 to 4...and yet to this day, he will not pay me a guide fee!! :-)

No doubt the deep stuff is challenging and can be very very intimidating. Lots of scouting helps, and you definitely want to know the lay of the land to eliminate areas that will be less effective.

Good luck

Steve

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Funnels and edges in the big woods? You've been reading too many magazine articles! I think the best place to hunt in the big woods is near a new slashing, like one done last winter, where the new growth is only 2-5 feet tall. Big woods deer are really attracted to this new growth. Then it's a matter of finding where the deer are entering the slash and trying to set up down wind of that, or follow their back trail to get closer to the bedding area.

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Quote:

Funnels and edges in the big woods? You've been reading too many magazine articles! I think the best place to hunt in the big woods is near a new slashing, like one done last winter, where the new growth is only 2-5 feet tall. Big woods deer are really attracted to this new growth. Then it's a matter of finding where the deer are entering the slash and trying to set up down wind of that, or follow their back trail to get closer to the bedding area.


100% true ,you got it. we have been using this tactic for years. new growth is like a corn field, where else can you find trees in the middle in the field,[if they leave seed trees]. when the cover gets thick enough a lot of deer don,t leave and bed in the cut over. if you can get in the middle area the wind will make no difference the deer feed 360 around you most of the time.

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Clear cuts always seem to be a good spot but dont over look water. Hunt along creeks and lakes that deer will funnel around find a pinch point. Maybe a ridge that gets close to the water. Also look for transition woods they always seem to walk along those areas. It's been hard for me to hunt the acorns as they seem to drop in August and are mostly gone come the middle of september. Scout in the winter find rub lines and follow them, again find a pinch point where trails are intersecting and set up a stand. Greg Miller writes alot about the deep woods and has some good info as he is from northern Wisconsin and grew up hunting the woods. Other than that most the articles/books are wrote about broken farm land and that is not very helpful to anybody hunting the woods. Patience, persistence, and maybe a little luck are my best tips though.

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wow SAMW PROBLEM! This is my second yr bowhunting the big woods of northern mn. To this date Im very frusterated. Woodlots and corn fields back home are EASY COMPARED TO THIS!!! or at least the deer are more concentrated there.Some things I noticed....

Deer and pressure dont mix. How many times have you seen a deer on a logging road and it takes off? Deer in the big woods arent used to seeing vehicles and people in remote areas. And they seem to know the difference between loggers, and ppl who are out to kill them...

Creek crossings seem to draw deer. Follow a small creek inot the woods aways to where it intersects with vegitation change or terrian change. Find an area within this area where the water is shallow and fast(riffles) and it seems to be a magnet deer crossing....

Even my "best" spots dont see activity everyday. Back home I can expect to see 3-10 plus deer a night. Im lucky to see 3 deer in a week.. I do my best to be scent free, watch the wind and sneak in but sometimes a guy wonders what a deer looks like....

Just some observations of my 2 bow seasons in Ely, MN.

Any other Ideas or tips??

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I hear you guys knocken

Another thing is landscape is all way changing you find a good spot and have success a couple years and they log it off.Our the trees get too mature.Your always scouting new location.I know you are to play the wind but sometimes i think you can flip a coin which way there going to come in on you.Our it swirl around.

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Funnels and edges in the big woods? You've been reading too many magazine articles!


I don't read hunting articles...too general and not location specific enough to be worthy. Save your comments unless you know me personally and can tell if I am blowing smoke or telling the truth...

I put in my time scouting and after hunting the same area for some 20 odd years, knowing the lay of the land is more important than any article one can read...take your comments elsewhere please if you choose to try and degrade someones opinion about a strategy that works for them.

Also, we all must remember different tracts of land make up different strategies for hunting. The area I am in has potholes, low swampy areas, higher oak ridges, and pine groves...lots of variety in among the maples, aspen and birch. I have also hunted flatland just south of warroad where everything looks the same for miles and if you get lost without a compass you could walk for miles and not get out...the same principles hold true up there...find a tract of land that has a little extra cover leading from one area to another...if there is a population of deer there, it will be used. Doesn't matter if it is an alder thicket among an oak grove, or a tamarack swamp with a series of higher spots through the middle... Safe travel, water and food will get you plenty of deer over the course of many years.

Even in bigger woods, there will be changes in elevation (no matter how minute) and areas of thicker cover. If you find an area like that in an otherwise plain landscape that is quite uniform, deer will use those areas for travel...especially if they lead from one area to another.

Call me out all you want on what works for my area if you think you know that much about EVERY POSSIBLE SITUATION IN THE DEEP WOODS..but you don't know where I hunt, nor do I know where you do...don't really care where you hunt either... I'm CERTAINLY NOT going to call you out on your thoughts on hunting strategy. Guess I hold a little higher regard for the various opinions shared here and try to apply those strategies if at times mine is not as productive.

Steve

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Kinda had the same thought VMS. I am by no means anywhere close to an expert hunter, but what I have mentioned has worked for me. Best of luck with your hunting. No matter what or how we hunt, isn't it great just getting out....

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You bet it is!! With MEA weekend (that nice thursday and friday off for teacher conventions) coming, and the nice snap of cooler weather, my blood is starting to pump a bit more to get out there... It's just been too warm yet for me to want to be in the woods.. Those crisp mornings with a little frost, quiet before daylight, and the woods wake up under little light is something EVERYONE should experience...bow in hand or not. It is truly one of the most amazing experiences this world of ours has given us. Just like the early morning duck-hunt when the birds set their wings and you cant see them!!

Enjoy your hunts!!!

Steve

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It's funny I noticed this thread tonight. I found out last week that some of the folks I own land with are running a bulldozer through the middle of our main hunting area to "clear trails" this Saturday (3 weeks before rifle season). As I won't be able to convince them otherwise, and won't bother trying, I'm going to hunt either big woods this weekend or way out in a huge tamarack swamp that was partially logged last year. I was working up my aerial photos for areas I will hunt this weekend (where I've never physically been) and this is one of them--the red square around the 40 I can hunt. I'm posting it just because I think it looks funny. If the wind is right I'll hunt it (if I can find it).

county40areasquare2hr5.jpg

It looks like there might be a small ridge in there somewhere, and I've heard there are oak trees. Look for the crows if I don't come out by mid week.

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Thats all I've every hunted was the big woods. Some day I'd like to hit the farm land and hunt.

Living up here I started out hunting bucks only, there were no doe permits. You go about hunting the two differently.

Get yourself a USGS Topo map of the area you plan to hunt.

Study it, look for those pinch points, travel routes, fringes, and safe areas. Now go scout it, combining grouse hunting and scouting missions. Got a GPS? Record your track or at least add waypoints to those areas you find. Depending on the makeup for forest you go from there. I'd eliminate all mature hardwoods containing maple and oak right off the bat. Those will be on high ground, hills with very little under growth and not a place a buck will spend much time in daylight. Where that high ground meets low will have what your looking for.

Balsams, Ash, Aspen, Alder, and Ceder. From there it might go into a Cedar swamp or Spruce bog, something a buck would escape to. Maybe theres a small island or peninsula containing that mix of balsam, Alder and Ash & Birch in that swamp, perfect safe zone. Chances are you won't get in there without being detected so hunt the fringes or trails into that safe zone.

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I'll second a lot of what surface tension said. The advantage of the big woods over small woods/croplands is that there is a lot of public land to roam. If you have your own property, that's one thing, but I take advantage of the millions of acres of public forest to find the areas where I can best take advantage of the terrain to plan an ambush. In my opinion, terrain rather than actual deer sign is an important factor in the big woods. Deer are naturally going to travel certain areas. Step 1: get a topo map. Look for ridges, creeks, small islands and natural funnels. An arial photo is also a great help. As surface tension said, go grouse hunting and walk the area (I did this exact thing last weekend by Grand Marais). One area I picked that I liked was low and swampy but there was a ridge (meaning maybe 3 feet higher than the surrounding terrain) that a deer could bed on and stay dry. I hunted this area last year during rifle season. I saw deer every day and visibility was only 30 yards. Every deer was well within bow range. Clearcuts are good too and you can find them quick on arial photos. My biggest thing: hunt the terrain. If all else fails, look for the tall lone pine tree! Good luck!

shedhunter

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Quote:

Funnels and edges in the big woods? You've been reading too many magazine articles! I think the best place to hunt in the big woods is near a new slashing, like one done last winter, where the new growth is only 2-5 feet tall. Big woods deer are really attracted to this new growth. Then it's a matter of finding where the deer are entering the slash and trying to set up down wind of that, or follow their back trail to get closer to the bedding area.


What do you think a newly clear cut area is?!? Its an edge! And they enter the woods at some sort of natural funnel. No magazine articles here, just years of experience.

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Like others have stated, Edges are key for hunting big woods deer.. And Funnels leading into or out of an edge is even better..

Like some others, I have grown up and still live on hunting mature bucks in big woods settings.. And the only way I have consistantly taken deer is to hunt edges... Each track of land is different and you need to put in sometime to find out how, where, and when the deer are using a certain tract of land. As in the big woods, things can certainly be a seasonal deal with these deer, and they can and will sometimes move to find more suitable habitat.

During the pre-rut and heat of the rut, some of my best stand sites have been funnel areas leading out of thick cover into mature oak stands... Does are moving in and out of feeding and bedding areas and the bucks are cruising (zig zagging) these edges to cut a hot track... Also, I use roadways to my advantage... Being on the road a lot during the nighttime, I get to see when the does are using these edges to come out and feed on the ditches... At times a lot of deer are using this feed and it is pretty easy to pattern where the prime areas are by seeing where the deer are funneling out of. After seeing this transition start to happen, I will set-up an 1/8 to 1/4 mile off the roadway and hunt afternoons and evenings.. Intercepting the does and following bucks to the feeding grounds of the does. Has taken my two biggest bucks to date.

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