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Darrin Bradley Published #3
 

TOPOGRAPHY
BY: DARRIN BRADLEY

I became acquainted with an individual who had lost his leg in a hunting accident. As a result of the mishap, Steve equipped himself with a prosthetic limb below the knee of the right leg. Despite the tragic accident, Steve heroically continued to hunt whitetails. The partial loss of a leg coupled with a blood disease, deterred him from doing extensive scouting or traveling long distances to stand locations. Steve found himself handicapped in the whitetail world. One afternoon between hunts, I asked him how he had continued to successfully hunt whitetail deer after the tragic event. Steve responded by stating, “Deer hunting is a strenuous sport. It is frustrating for me to walk long distances. The loss of my leg has reduced by ability to scout by about 75%and I am forced to utilize aerial photographs and topographical maps to scout for deer. I have a topographical advantage by using maps and photos. I then travel to the location and hunt. The discoveries I make by using aerial photos deliver hot setups 95% of the time. I very rarely walk into one of these locations and find below average deer sign. I look for a piece of topography that connects all of the environmental factors. Factors like water, bed areas, food sources, and travel routes during the rut.” I was never the same after our long talk that afternoon in the truck. I began asking Steve plenty of question in regard to topography and his answers continue to pay off for me.
There are seven major topographical advantages I focus on. They are spider webs, funnels, corners, shelves, ridge ramp corners, logging roads, and low spots. I have harvested all of my trophy bucks from a stand location positioned in a topographical advantage. It is my opinion, topography is the quickest shortcut to harvesting mature whitetail bucks. Over the last several years, I have kept records on the results of all my hunts. The following tables refer to successful hunts (hunts where deer were seen from a stand), and unsuccessful hunts (where no deer were seen from the stand).

Spider Webs: Whitetails often travel dense fence rows and ditches in route to food, water and bedding areas. It has been my experience the denser the fence row or ditch, the more heavily traveled it will become. A spider web is a location where two or more dense ditches or fence rows intersect. The more ditches and fence rows that intersect, the more likely you are to intercept deer travel while hunting these areas. The key to locating a successful spider web lies in its density, length and quantity of intersecting travel routes. The arms, ditches and fence rows of the spider web need to connect to timber, bedding areas, water or food sources. To be consistent, sufficient cover must rest in the arms of the spider web. Whitetails receive a sense of security when traveling along dense arms, as they can remain hidden from predators more effectively. When hunting from stand locations positioned in spider webs, I have obtained the following results:
Number of hunts from spider webs 14
Successful hunts 13 Unsuccessful hunts 1
Success Percentage 92.8%

Funnels: I am partial to funnels. During the 1998 season, I harvested three mature bucks in funnel setups. A funnel is a natural or man made piece of topography that pushes deer into a travel route which has been decreased in size from the surrounding terrain. Various types of funnels exist. The traditional forest funnel is a piece of timber that dramatically decreases in width resembling a bottleneck or hourglass shape. A terrain funnel occurs when a piece of terrain is present that makes deer travel difficult. For example, a 90 degree ridge or a big body of water forces whitetails into a funnel area. A field funnel occurs when the width of a field dramatically decreases in width and then increases again. When hunting from stand locations positioned in funnels, I have obtained the following results:
Number of hunts from funnels 45
Successful hunts 38
Unsuccessful hunts 7
Success Percentage 84.4%

Corners: Field edges are tough to hunt. My theory is whitetail usually enter fields from the corners. Upon entrance from a corner, animals can view the entire field quickly at one time rather than looking in all directions for danger. When hunting from stand locations positioned in the corner of fields, I have obtained the following results:
Number of hunts from corners 46
Successful hunts 40
Unsuccessful hunts 6
Success Percentage 86.9%

Shelves: When hunting ridges, one must look for two types of topographical advantages. Shelves occur along sides of ridges. Although I have minimal experience hunting shelves, some hunters insist mature animals frequently move along shelves to avoid the dangers presented by high and low elevation travel. When hunting shelves, I have obtained the following results:
Number of hunts from shelves 8
Successful hunts 6
Unsuccessful hunts 2
Success Percentage 75%

Ridge Ramp Corners: The second type of topographical advantage worthy of attention on ridges, occur on ridge bends and corners. In the bends and corners of ridges, erosion usually decreases the angle of elevation thus creating a ramp. These ramps make deer travel less difficult, thereby enhancing whitetail travel up and down steep ridges. I have obtained the following results from ridge ramps:
Number of hunts from ridge ramps 40
Successful hunts 32
Unsuccessful hunts 8
Success Percentage 80%

Logging Roads: My experience with whitetails has convinced me they are lazy animals by nature. They often take the least restrictive route of travel, especially when hunting pressure allows it. In an effort to make travel easier, whitetails often utilize old logging roads. Logging roads are also an excellent place to locate active scrapes. Logging roads can pay off during the rut. Remaining undetected, when traveling to and from stand locations is crucial, when in pursuit of mature whitetails. One can use these logging roads as a quiet entrance and exit in the timber. When hunting from stand locations positioned on logging roads I have obtained the following results:
Number of hunts from logging road setups 25
Successful hunts 23
Unsuccessful hunts 2
Success Percentage 92%

Low Spots: Low spots are created when the terrain on a given tract of ground abruptly decreases in elevation. Whitetails feed and travel in low spots to remain unseen by predators. On one farm, I hunt a 100 acre agricultural field. In the eastern section of this field, a small portion decreases in elevation by about five feet. Deer always seem to feed in this low spot to avoid detection. Deer travel waterways and gullies because the elevation of each feature is a means by which they can remain below the surface of the surrounding terrain. Low spot hunting can be phenomenal. I have little experience with this particular type of topographical advantage, but my hunting partner has utilized the low spot advantage for years. He has convinced me that low spots are supreme topographical advantages by harvesting many trophies from them. I have obtained the following results from hunting low spots:
Number of hunts from low spots 12
Successful hunts 9
Unsuccessful hunts 3
Success Percentage 75%

Trophy whitetail harvests are contingent upon your ability to predict the animal’s movement across terrain. Stop scratching your head and wondering how others are continually harvesting monster bucks. Obtain aerial photographs and maps of the ground you hunt. Locate the topographical advantages and dedicate some time to these locations. By doing your homework, you may find yourself feeling a little less handicapped in the whitetail world.

Darrin Bradley

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