A weekend scouting weekend in North Dakota last summer helped me and my pal Tyler Notch from Alexandria identify good pinch points between the litter along the Red River. The morning of November 3 was about the perfect time to hunt them during the pre-rut.
A hunt in mid-October on an adjacent property showed me that deer were using this turnip field as a food source. The challenge now was to enter my tree undetected.
Walking through this open field would certainly frighten the deer in the early morning darkness. The only other option was to take a 90 degree angle across an agricultural site and walk along the bank for about 500 meters.
Anyone who knows the Red River and its clay soil knows that it does not offer the strongest foundation. I slid my way along the wet, muddy and often almost vertical bank out of sight of this field about an hour before daylight.
I walked into the tree that morning, sweaty, but confident that I hadn’t scared a single deer. At around 8:30 a.m., a 10 point pointer arrived behind a doe and kicked me 15 yards.
Years ago, I would never have thought of going through this kind of problem. I grew up as a shotgun hunter in southwest Minnesota, where we took the easier route to the stand and waited for the deer to pass, mostly pushed by other hunters. It often worked during gun season.
Not so much for archery where we rely on more capitalization on the natural movement of a deer. I think about pit access all the time now, but that’s only because I’ve been able to see how much of an impact it has on things.
This map shows access to a tree overlooking a creek crossing where the author shot a dollar on the opening weekend of the Minnesota archery season in September 2020. (Graphic from map d ‘onX Hunt)
The Minnesota dollar I pulled in 2020 came after slipping into a tree overlooking a creek crossing in September. It required walking to the end of a standing cornfield and then walking up that stream, out of sight of the high points of the ridges around me that a male turned out to be lying on.
I really took Scouting seriously 10 years ago. But it wasn’t enough just to spot and understand things like the white tail litter behavior. I knew there were mature males in some areas. Scuffs, chafing, and sometimes game camera shots told me.
Really committing to gaining access to an area without scaring off those deer, which in some cases means a lot more work, was the turning point in consistently getting opportunities. It is now the focal point of my electronic and field tracking.
Find a place that looks good. Can I enter without being detected? If the answer is no, go your way.
I was e-Scouting on a property in Missouri in early July when I found a place that seemed to fit right in. It is almost 3,000 acres of public land located in a country of rugged hills.
Despite a lot of hunting pressure, I I almost had a chance here at the biggest dollar I never saw one last November, and my pal, Jacob Busiahn from Duluth, had two full days of close encounters on good deer. We know we want to go back in November, and one place in particular really turned me on.
This map of public land in Missouri is an example of what the author looks for when electronically searching for unknown properties. In this case, the southernmost waypoint marked on the map appears to be the ideal location for the stand. Several points emerging from the north-facing ridge are expected to contain deer, most likely in southerly winds. The second key is to be able to access the area from west to east by walking in the dark for a morning hunt across the bottom of a stream and up the ravine when the thermals bring the scent to that bottom. Finding areas where you can enter a tree without being detected should be a top priority when thinking about potential sites to search for an archer. (Card from onX Hunt)
The location of the tree is at the top of a steep ravine which should restrict some of the deer movement along this elevated platform. There are several north-facing points that descend into the bottom of a stream, which should be an ideal bedding off points with a southerly wind.
I noticed while hunting this property a year ago that the thermals were controlling the winds. Temperatures were in the 50’s and 60’s most days. As the sun warmed the ridges, thermals drove the airflow into these ravines.
This creates a perfect scenario for the deer. They can sit and walk those ridge lines north and see and smell below them with this thermal pull and also have southerly winds blowing over their backs. Bucks are expected to sail a ridge line like this in early November.
Access is not only far from the nearest parking lot, but there is also a road I can get dropped off on before moving west to east across the bottom of the stream in the darkness of the little one. morning when thermals are expected to drop to this bottom due to the cooler air.
It can be intimidating to search for a huge property, especially an unfamiliar country for an out-of-state hunt. My suggestion is to mark any areas of interest where deer might frequent.
Maybe it’s a jagged ridge system like this in the hills with a lot of points. Perhaps these are areas of several habitat features that come together on level ground.
From there, ask which places have the best chance of entering undetected. When these two come together, you have an area that can increase your chances on a short trip.