Hunting Bedding Areas of Whitetail Deer
After 43 years of whitetail deer hunting I am convinced, outside of topographical advantages during the rut , that bed areas of whitetail deer may be the best strategy to bag a trophy whitetail deer. Unfortunately, when hunting bed areas of whitetail bucks, or just the general deer population requires a whitetail deer hunter to mature in his or her whitetail strategies, and is not for those pursuing whitetail deer that have not mastered “stealth”, or those whitetail deer hunters that have not perfected the art of patience. During this narrative we will discuss strategies when hunting bed areas of whitetail deer that will produce successful results.
Before a whitetail deer hunter begins to try and hunt the bed areas of a whitetail buck, you must understand you are penetrating the very heart and core of where the buck spends the majority of his time. A core area of a whitetail buck is the general area a whitetail buck is traveling. Usually this radius of ground coverage or travel is a 1 mile radius. However within that 1 mile radius of the core area, a whitetail buck will generally sleep or bed in a much smaller area. The core area unlike the bedding area of a whitetail deer is much larger. Thus know before penetrating a bed area that if you disturb the trophy whitetail deer you seek to harvest in a bedding area, you may never see him again. This is the very reason that the Golden Rule of hunting bed areas for whitetail deer is “PROCEED WITH CAUTION” and work your way slowly into the area throughout the course of a series of hunts. Better to start on the bed area perimeter than to march straight into the bed area and relentlessly hunt it. One minor mistake and you can kiss that buck goodbye. Thus it is my intent with this article to assist in develop strategies to approach a whitetail bed area, recognizing a whitetail bed area, knowing when to hunt and when NOT to hunt the bed area, how often to hunt the bed area of whitetail deer, as well as how to recognize on an aerial map where bed areas are in an effort to minimize walking around the woods leaving human scent and alerting the deer.
Any whitetail deer hunter should be aware when approaching any whitetail deer bedding area that extreme caution must be used. Of all the locations a whitetail deer hunter could utilize in an effort to harvest a trophy whitetail buck, a bedding area of whitetail deer potentially poses the highest success. The bedding area of whitetail deer also presents the highest risk of you being detected, and spooking the buck of a lifetime away permanently. While it is always fun to hunt whitetail deer in the bedding area, you must first weigh the consequences. Bedding areas of whitetail deer are easily found in the Midwest. The whitetail deer hunter simply needs to determine where the densest terrain or cover on the tract of land lies. These areas will normally be in thickets, downed treetops from logging efforts, multi color thorn bushes with chest high grass, or just about the nastiest and creepiest terrain on the farm. These areas are normally few and far between, when hunting whitetail deer in the Midwestern United States. During the early months of the archery season for whitetail deer most mature bucks will be bedded up in these locations prior to daybreak. During evening hours mature whitetail bucks often make the mistake of leaving the bed areas a little too early in search of food.
It is hard to explain how precious a bedding area is to the trophy whitetail buck. Especially monster bucks exceeding four years of age. A bedding area of a whitetail deer is the location a particular animal utilizes where he feels safe enough to close his eyes, and remain undetected by predators for up to 12 hours at a time. This is important information. Wherever a trophy whitetail buck decides to select as his bed area will literally be the place he feels the safest. While it is commonplace for trophy whitetail deer to bed in the densest locations, often times a very smart whitetail buck will pick the most obvious and overlooked areas to bed.
After having watched my share of whitetail deer videos I often see whitetail deer hunters who have little or no experience in the sport kill the biggest whitetail bucks. There is a reason for this. Any novice whitetail deer hunter does not possess the skills to read deer sign or employ advanced hunting strategies. As a result the novice whitetail deer hunter will randomly sit in the dumbest locations. These so called dumb locations are places we as veteran hunters would never hunt at. Have you every set your buddy up in an average location while you thought you were going to the best spot, and he killed the biggest deer? This is why. As a result, some of the largest whitetail bucks will select bed areas in the most obvious and overlooked locations. Why? These areas hold no human odor and have not been disturbed so they sometimes are seen as sanctuaries when we think they are simply locations we don’t want to hunt. I recall three years ago while deer hunting in Iowa I rode an all terrain vehicle about halfway down to my tree stand location. In route to my tree stand location, while on the four wheeler I passed a small ˝ of an acre of brush. As I glanced to my right lying 10 yards inside the brush was an absolute giant whitetail. Rather than stop the four wheeler to look at him I drove right by. He simply watched me do this and never moved. This was a location I would never hunt, yet I was driving past him to get to my tree stand everyday. This particular buck had figured out the place to sleep that no one would look for him in. Thus, don’t overlook the locations that are right under your nose. However, as a general rule you will find the biggest bucks sleeping in the densest cover. These are bed areas of the whitetail deer.
How do you find out where a whitetail deer is bedding? The bedding area of the whitetail deer will normally also hold the most rubs, scrapes, excrement, tracks, etc, etc. The reason is because the most time is being spent in the bedding area of whitetail deer. So now we know to look for the densest cover, or the dumbest location with the most deer sign in order to determine where the whitetail bedding area is located on your farm. Sometimes aerial photographs will be a dead giveaway. The darkest deposits of ink in the woods on an aerial photographs will literally be the most dense cover on the farm, unless you are looking at an aerial photograph that is not current.
After you have found the bedding area, the question is how should you hunt it? You’ll probably not like my answer. Bedding areas of whitetail deer are not locations which you can walk out of after a morning hunt, or prior to an afternoon hunt. Why? When you hunt bedding areas in the morning you will spook whitetail deer as you exit. As tough as it may seem if you elect to hunt the bed area of a whitetail buck in the morning you need to stay in your treestand all day a long. If you do anything less you will ruin the bed area, and have to solve the puzzle all over again. Hunting all day long can be very tough. If you cannot pull this off then don’t hunt the bed area in the morning. If you can hunt all day long then be in the bed area at least an hour before light. Rather than preach you a sermon on hunting equipment let me just say this, if you’re going to hunt all day long make sure you pack a lunch, are seated in a comfortable deer stand, and have everything you need to make it through the day.
Four years ago I watched a mature whitetail buck using a thicket as his bedding area. After I watched this buck exit his bed area one evening, and walk to the food source, I snuck in and hung a treestand. The next morning I was on the treestand 2 hours prior to light in cold temperatures. I was on stand so early that I recall playing a handheld video game under my coat in the darkness prior to his arrival. 30 minutes after sunup this 150 inch eight point, paid his dues by intercepting an Easton XX75 aluminum arrow through both lungs. He now hangs over my television. Bedding areas yield highs success rates. Yet also remember they pose the greatest threat to spooking your deer when hunted incorrectly.
I would never try to hunt the bed area of a whitetail buck, or any whitetail deer bedding area on an afternoon hunt. When you walk into the bedding area on an afternoon hunt, they are already lying there. I don’t care how much stealth you possess you will not be able to penetrate the area without detection. The only way to hunt the bed area on an afternoon hunt is to hunt on the perimeter with the correct wind direction. Never hunt the bedding area of whitetail deer if the wind is carrying your scent into it.
Now that we have learned how to determine what the bedding area of the whitetail deer is, and when and when not too hunt it, the question is, how often should you hunt a whitetail deer bedding area? As a general rule I will never hunt a bedding area more than one time every three days. Remember each time you sit a tree stand located in the bedding area of a whitetail deer you are depositing human scent. The bottom line… Too much human scent… equals a spoiled bedding area that whitetail deer will stop utilizing at some point. This is the last thing you want when hunting the bed areas of whitetail deer.
Another question remains regarding how one should set up their tree stand location in the bedding area of a whitetail deer. It is obvious you must enter the bedding area of the whitetail deer to hang your treestand. When you do this, be as quiet as possible. Utilize scent elimination products and touch as little as possible. Remember that whenever your body makes contact with any twig, branch, tree, or a overhanging limb you have left human scent behind. You will probably have to cut shooting lanes, but do so minimally. Since the majority of the whitetail deer’s day is spent in the bedding area they will notice shooting lanes that all are cut too aggressively. After you have hung your treestand in the bedding area leave it alone for at least five days before entering it to hunt. Then as I suggested hunt it no more than once every three days. After a couple of hunts you will know if you are in the bedroom. If you are, the rewards will be unequaled.
So when should the whitetail deer hunter change locations after hunting a specific bedding area of whitetail deer? You will know if you are in the right location based upon the quantity of whitetail deer you view. Just because you don’t see the trophy buck you wish to harvest doesn’t mean you need to move, if you have only hunted the treestand a couple times. Remember the old saying, where there is smoke there is fire. However if you are not seeing trophy animals after three hunts it may be time to move.
As you move within the confines of the bedding area of whitetail deer pretend as if you are been hunted by them. Hunting the bed area of whitetail deer is the one location where most generally you are the hunted, and can be detected the easiest.
In conclusion, if the whitetail deer hunter will adhere to the aforementioned strategies and principals regarding hunting bed areas of whitetail deer, your success rates will soar.