Getting within bow range of a game animal often means understanding where the animal wants to go and the route it’s likely to use to get there, and setting up for a shot somewhere along the way. Identifying terrain features like funnels and pinch points can help you create an ambush in just the right place to get a clean shot at a critter that’s passing through.
Funnels and pinch points are natural travel corridors for wildlife. Kristy Titus, a bowhunter of 21 years and host of the digital TV series “Pursue the Wild” and the podcast “Wild & Uncut,” said most game animals regularly use them because they’re convenient and often provide a sense of security. Funnels guide creatures along a particular path, and they work like an actual funnel. A wide block of woods that narrows to a strip between fields is a good example. Pinch points are subtler, but they too bottleneck wildlife movement into specific areas. Examples include creek and fence crossings, the head of a washout or coulee, ridgetop saddles, or strips of high, dry ground alongside swamp or lake shorelines.
Still, it’s not enough to just locate one of these terrain features and set up nearby. Instead, bowhunters must first identify landscapes that provide food, water and shelter and ensure that animals are in the area. Then, scout to determine the routes animals travel between each basic need. Finally, try to identify a funnel or pinch point along a travel route that makes for a good ambush point.
“Use virtual mapping to find areas with food, water and cover,” Titus said. “Animals are always searching for one of those things. When you identify them, you can dive deeper into the maps to determine how animals use the terrain.”
Topographical maps show two-dimensional elevation characteristics and terrain features via contour lines, which help you to identify hills, ridges and valleys, but they’re not great for showing the area’s habitat or available vegetation. Aerial maps and vegetation maps can help with that. Titus prefers virtual mapping because it gives you a 3D look at both terrain features and vegetation, putting everything you need to know in one place. While analyzing maps, you can identify potential funnels and pinch points to hunt. Read these two Bowhunting 360 articles, “Navigation: How to Read a Map” and “Learn to Scout with Google Earth and Google Maps,” for tips on identifying these terrain features.
Once you’ve scouted the area digitally, scout on foot to confirm your findings. When field scouting, search the area for fresh sign such as tracks, droppings and well-used trails. Especially be on the lookout for sign in the funnels and pinch points you identified on the map.
In a “Pursue the Wild” episode called “Rocks & Rattlesnakes – Archery Mule Deer Hunt,” Titus scouts for deer traveling to their bedding area. She realizes they’re bedding in an unlikely spot with only a few travel corridors throughout the steep rock-face bluffs. She sets up on one of those points to ambush her quarry. This 10-minute episode showcases a prime example of the effectiveness of bowhunting a pinch point.
“Some places don’t have funnels and pinch points so you might have to figure out other terrain features that you can use to your advantage (like edges and sanctuaries),” Titus said. “But if there is an opportunity to hunt a place like that, focus on it because you can set up and increase your odds of success.”
Lastly, if you set up on a funnel or pinch point and see deer just out of bow range, Titus said to wait until nightfall and move your stand a bit closer, to get a better chance the following day. Using the terrain to your advantage and adjusting your setup and strategy on the go might be all it takes to get within bow range this season.