Big woods are expansive timbered areas that make for challenging hunting due to the lack of a concentrated food source, like agriculture, and the lack of obvious edge habitat.
White-tailed deer prefer diverse habitats, especially sites where different habitat types come together, which is called an “edge.” Any habitat change can create edges, but an obvious example is where a woods meet a clearing. If you find a powerline, or clearing in the big woods, look for fresh deer sign nearby and start hunting.
Don’t overlook “internal” and other subtle edges, such as the transition from mature hardwoods to recently cut, regrowing hardwoods. Mature forests have more open understories, and if oaks are present, they’re good acorn sources for deer. Regrowing cuts and clearcuts generally grow dense brush and thickets, which provide cover and food for deer. These transition lines often create a natural corridor where deer browse a variety of food from secure cover.
Edges can be any change in habitat, including sites where marshes merge into hillsides, or bottomland cedars transition into upland hardwoods. Pay attention to even the smallest changes in elevation or topography, like where the woods transition from mostly poplars to mostly oaks.
These subtle edges and habitat transitions are the key to hunting big woods. In the above video, Zach Ferenbaugh shares tips on how to approach big woods strategy.