The sun was setting in the western sky when I decided to climb down from my tree stand and call it a season. My fingers gently caressed the crossbow that was in my lap, but my attention was on the large 11-point buck that was lying 20 yards to my left. Only the small, crimson-colored spot behind his shoulder revealed the method of his demise.
To be a successful crossbow hunter, it’s important to understand why deer choose to utilize certain travel patterns. Rarely if ever are they wandering randomly about the landscape unless perhaps they’re a yearling and most likely a button buck. Whitetail bucks in particular have a very clear plan on how to get from point A to point B.
Generally, whitetail bucks will use every inch of topography to their advantage when they’re on the move. They’re also quite aware of where every funnel and tight spot in their home range is located because they too can intercept the most deer there with the hopes of running across the scent of a “hot” doe.
Probably the greatest misunderstanding among deer hunters surrounds the idea of patterning deer. This is rarely possible when dealing with bucks—at least to the point where you can set your watch by their movements. You will be much better served if you concentrate your efforts on patterning buck behaviors and tendencies within your hunting area. These will often remain consistent from season to season.
It will do you little good to chase the “hot” sign around your hunting area once the season begins. Events and food sources change daily. Once the fever pitch of the pre-rut arrives, bucks are in perpetual motion. Trying to decipher their movement patterns is futile. No matter what you’ll always be one step behind them, wasting valuable time moving your stands instead of actually hunting from them.
In my experience, the behavior I witness in one season will happen again in the next. If you observe deer moving at a particular time of the day during a particular time of the season, you can bet that when those same conditions occur the following season, they’ll do it again.
The big 11-point that fell to my arrow at the beginning of this article is a great example of this. After several weeks of meticulously combing the area for the best possible stand sites, I discovered a tight funnel only 30 yards wide with a pond on one side and a fenced cow pasture on the other. A well worn deer trail ran directly through its middle.
I hung a stand and decided that it should be hunted only with a west or southwest wind. I was able to hunt the funnel stand four times during the first part of November. I saw twelve different bucks and twenty-two doe from the stand. I never did kill a deer there, but what I learned was priceless.
On both days that there was a due west wind, I saw a different trophy-caliber buck approach the funnel and then skirt the pond edge to avoid traversing the tight area. Lesser bucks and does had no problem walking through the funnel, but the big boys would have no part of it. I ended up tagging out in a completely different area a few days later, but the following year I hung a stand to cover the pond edge.
The following November found me perched in the stand. It was my fifteenth consecutive day of hunting, but it was the first time that I had the west wind I needed to hunt this stand. I had been in the stand for several hours when the big 11-point appeared on the scene. He cautiously made his way toward the funnel and then abruptly turned toward the pond. It was the last move he ever made.
Patterning mature bucks can be a lesson in futility, but learning where the funnels are located in their home range and how they utilize them will help you expedite the process.Shop the hottest deals in hunting at Sportsman's Guide >