Learn to identify and hunt terrain funnels to bowhunt successfully. Photo Credit: John Hafner

How Terrain Funnels Deer Movements

  Jackie Holbrook   FeaturedBowhunting   October 1, 2020

One of bowhunting’s biggest challenges is getting close enough to make ethical shots. Bowhunters use many tacticsto close the gap, like silently stalking their quarry.

Another option is to let animals come to you. Hunters use treestands and ground blinds in hopes an animal walks within shooting range. Being in position gives bowhunters an edge by minimizing sound and movement. But you can’t set up just anywhere and expect animals to wander by. You must place your setups precisely. A giant buck feeding just out of range will cause heartbreaks you’ll never forget.

Skilled bowhunters study and learn to understand deer-movement patterns. To increase shooting opportunities, learn how terrain funnels deer movements. Deer funnels are narrow travel corridors. Think of them as actual funnels, starting wide and progressively narrowing. By identifying funnels, bowhunters can position themselves in deer-movement bottlenecks within bow range.

A landscape’s topography is a huge factor in creating deer funnels. Deer have little extra energy to burn, especially later in the season, so they choose routes of least resistance. Even so, they also prefer routes that keep them safe, which typically means thick cover. These travel corridors guide movement as deer try to move safely and comfortably between feeding and bedding grounds, or quickly to safe cover.

Terrain, vegetation and man-made features can all create funnels. Terrain funnels include coulees, washouts, creek bottoms, hillside benches, rocky outcroppings, ridgetop saddles and riparian zones, those strips of land bordering rivers and streams. Vegetation funnels include agricultural features like field corners, cover changes, and strips of trees and timbered edges along crop fields. Man-made funnels include gates, fences, windbreaks and woodland roads.

Funnels generally have a pinch-point, such as creek crossings, the inside edges of field corners, and an open gate or fallen wire in a tightly strung fence. Deer can walk anywhere along a fence line, and jump over it with relative ease, but they’ll take the easiest route whenever possible. Therefore, if they plan to cross a fence, they’ll walk a ways to cross through an open gate or a gap in the fence. Those are pinch-points.

The best way to find funnels is to use maps and aerial photos to spot potential sites, and then conduct boots-on-the-ground scouting. Mark thin strips of cover along travel routes, saddles between ridge peaks, low spots connecting areas, skinny wooded areas connecting fields, benches along the sides of ridges, and anything else that looks like a brushy or wooded narrow area connecting habitats.

When visiting these potential routes, look for heavily trafficked funnels with animal sign. Good game trails include scat, rubs, tracks, scrapes and trampled vegetation. To further investigate, check the state’s regulations and, if it’s allowed, set up a trail camera to photograph wildlife using the funnel. Identify pinch-points along these funnels. They’re great places to set treestands or ground blinds.

Wind direction is a vital factor when scouting and finding hunting sites along funnels. Deer have an incredible sense of smell, which makes it their primary defense. If they smell you, you’re busted. Pay attention to the deer’s travel direction, and the wind’s direction before each hunt.

In the morning, for example, deer will likely travel from their feeding to bedding areas. If you plan to ambush deer at this time, set up where the wind will blow toward or crosswind to you from the feeding grounds. Hunters often prepare different locations to hunt so they can take advantage of different wind directions or deer-movement patterns.

Setting up along funnels often gives bowhunters many opportunities to watch wildlife. Even if you don’t fill a tag, hunting areas with abundant wildlife helps you learn their habits and hone your skills. With diligent scouting and the wind in your favor, you’ll find consistent success by hunting funnels.

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