If you’re privileged to bowhunt in areas that have a good deal of topographic relief, then suffice it to say that you have some excellent “no-brainer” ambush spots at your disposal. Hang with me a for a moment, and I’ll give you the merits of taking a stand on the high ground.
OK, so let’s compare apples to oranges. Valleys usually contain the lion’s share of deer sign (tracks, trails, rubs, and scrapes), ridges do not. Valleys are easy to access (roads, trails and “flat ground” can be found there), ridges are not. Valleys usually provide many sources of rich food for deer (multi-seasonal agricultural foods and rich browse), ridges do not. So, with all these indicators pointing toward the productivity of hunting in low-lying areas, why not hunt there? Let’s dig a little deeper and see if all these “pro’s” really have much substance to them.
Have the right gear to hunt effectively, and be well-practiced at using it quietly and quickly.
Not Deer Sign
First, are you hunting deer, or deer sign? I know that for many years in my early hunting career, it would have been safe to say that I spent more time hunting deer sign, than the deer themselves. And believe me, my success showed it — I killed little or nothing (but time, ha!). What I’m getting at is this: deer do most of their moving about under the cover of darkness (rutting, eating, etc.). Such being the case, most deer sign is laid down, and/or visited, at night. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be spending my hunting time in an area where most of the deer — especially, the old bucks — are spending most of their day!
Next, when we address the “ease of access” issue in relation to bowhunting endeavors, please allow me to ramble for a moment (WARNING! — please take this with a grain of salt; it’s my simple, not-so-humble opinion, and we all know what that’s worth!).
Prepare stand locations now — they will be good year-after-year.
OK, here I go: If the work involved in hunting ridges bothers you, well, you could:
1) Hire an outfitter to protect you from the big, bad “hill monster”
2) Whine to someone who cares
3) Quit bowhunting, and take up golf.
Case closed — enough said about hunting being “too much work!”
Next, we’ve got the “food” issue to address. Generally speaking, valleys usually provide a better (more dependable, longer term, richer) source of foods for the local deer herd. But once again, when do deer spend most of their time feeding? Right — at night — and once again, we can’t hunt then, can we?
This old ridge-runner, and the buck pictured below, were taken from the same stand, two years apart.
Hunting Valleys Tricky
OK, now that I’ve removed some of the cosmetic appeal that low-lying areas offer at first glance (or thought), let me take a second to interject this: If you’re going to hunt in a valley “hotspot,” be sure to have many of these such spots lined up so that you can hunt them on a rotational basis. It doesn’t take long to rape-and-pillage a good “core” spot whenever you sit over it for an extended period of time. The ever-swirling, never-dependable winds of valley locations will make sure of that!
There are countless snippets of advice to be gleaned as far as bowhunting for whitetail deer is concerned. The well-rounded outdoorsman will spend a lifetime gathering all this savvy and applying it to his time afield.
Of all the important things I’ve learned in a life spent bowhunting, it is that “a diligent bowhunter of the high ground will succeed.”
Saddles in ridges often have big buck sign.
Ridges have certainly “feathered my nest” with sets of big bone over the years. If you put all your eggs in one basket, go with this:
1) Get in a good area — good animals, good habitat
2) Take two weeks off work in mid-November
3) Get in a saddle on a remote ridge, and pack a lunch.
Simply put, an approach to success such as this is as about as easy and effective as it gets. Refine your efforts from this starting point, be smart, work hard and you’ll be amazed at what happens. I am, every year!
Discover a fine selection of archery gear at Sportsman’s Guide.
Eddie Claypool provides tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Over the past 20 years, Eddie has harvested 50-plus Pope & Young animals. Most of these animals were taken on public ground, though some came from private ground that was accessed through hard work & a handshake. He has not been on guided hunts, nor has he hunted on “managed” properties. Elk, Mule Deer, Antelope & Whitetails are his favorite species.