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Stand Placement by Jason Smith Whitetail Properties
It doesn't matter how hard you work all year long to prepare for hunting season or that you have the best Bear bow and Trophy Ridge accessories unless you can put yourself in the right spot. Preparation and quality equipment are incredibly important, but the last critical detail is getting that stand in the right spot. I've studied whitetail movement habits for many years and have spoken on the topic several times. Believe it or not, there is a reason for where deer move and how they get from place to place; they do not just wander aimlessly not knowing where they are going.
I love hunting rough terrain because I can more easily predict travel corridors based on the lay of the land. Finding these particular routes is actually very easy with the use of a topo map. For those that have attending my seminars I've heard very positive feedback from hunters that have been able to put themselves in the right spot at the right time and increase their encounters with big bucks by using a topo map to predict travel routes.
In using a topo map I look for "high opportunity locations" which is a spot where many travel routes come together. I'm not talking about trails, you cannot go to these locations and always find a maze of trails coming together, but sometimes you can. Ever been sitting in a tree and see a buck come out of the middle of nowhere, not on a trail and wonder why he wasn't on the trail? Those are the spots I am talking about, they are often used but no one trail becomes defined like it does in some places where deer walk the same path literally over and over and over wearing down vegetation to the dirt. Some travel corridors allow deer to walk on a path 20 yards wide, they don't all step in the same place and no trail develops, but it’s used heavily for a certain period of the year depending on feeding patterns.
I start with an aerial photo with a topo overlay. My favorite is to get a large copy printed at the courthouse and then have it laminated to I can mark it up with dry erase markers but you can just as easily download the same thing online and use a Paint program to mark up a copy of it. Draw in your property boundaries and begin looking for the V shaped or U shaped signatures in the lines. When you see this you are seeing "the path of least resistance" Deer will always use the path of least resistance, remember their entire life revolves around surviving and survival of their species. Deer conserve energy and use it as efficiently as possible. Using the path of least resistance in their travels is a part of their survival and especially more important in times of food shortages.
When you have your topo start drawing lines to connect all of those V's and U's you see, just mark away and soon you'll begin to notice that some locations offer a much higher opportunity along travel routes than others do, and while some spots may have one good trail you really like the other locations will offer you a parade of deer where you had never considered sitting before.
Start to pay attention to what or where these trails connect. Does your high opportunity location lay between bedding and food, or inside a bedding area? Does the location lay just onto the neighbors property or so close to the neighbors property it’s difficult to hunt.
Now all of these lines you find on topo maps create certain features. Two of the most effective terrain features you'll find for slaying a big buck are convergence points and saddles. A convergence point can be seen in the accompanying photos. Convergence points often look like an O or an odd shaped O but generally are circular for the most part, they are often hill tops and present a high opportunity location in rough terrain because many of the secondary terrain features lead to them. The smaller the convergence point, the easier it is to hunt.
The other and potentially the most effective for bowhunters is a saddle or what often looks like an H or an X on a topo map. A saddle offers deer the opportunity to cross a high ridgeline at a low point. Finding these saddles on a topo map is like finding gold! They are most effective when they are the connecting point or lay between two desirable locations. In the Loess Hills where I life they are often between two crop fields so deer will travel back and forth from field to field and must move through this small area. During the rut it usually means a parade of bucks all day long at this spot as they work to travel as much ground as possible checking does.
Finally, what if you are out in the woods ready to set up with no topo data with you? Well if you can't get it on your smart phone using a program like Google maps then use your own eyes. It turns out humans are not much different than deer either; we don't like to expend more energy than we need to. You'll notice when you walk up a hill or down a hilll your eyes will lead you to the path of least resistance, look for pinch points along the rough or look for yourself to be in a spot where you have multiple options of where you can turn without a steep climb and you have found a great spot to hang a stand. Good luck out there this year and I wish you all the best in your big buck quest.
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