View Full Version : Deep woods hunting

July 17, 2006, 04:55 PM
Hey, maybe some of y'all can help...

All the deer hunting advice I read about in magazines and most places online talks about finding corn or alfalfa fields, or brush lines and fences, as ways to jump-start your scouting and thus, your hunt.

However, what are good tactics for deep woods, pine woods, far away from fields, orchards, and fences? :confused: I hunt national forest land where you cannot leave permanent stands, cannot bait (even scents must be non-food), cannot plant food plots, or do most of the things the hunting industry pushes these days.

This is a beautiful forest, and I know there are deer there, but they're hard to find. Oh, the undergrowth is pretty thick in most places, too, so long range shots are not gonna happen - I have to get CLOSE.

Any thoughts will be appreciated. Success stories, too, as an inspiration to keep punching. :)

Thanks, everyone. Let me be the first to wish everyone a good hunt this Fall.:D :D :D

July 17, 2006, 05:02 PM
hunt water and corridors. I assume you are talking SamHoustonNF?

July 17, 2006, 05:09 PM
Thanks. I've got a topo I'll use to try to find some corridors. The hills are not very steep, but there are a few saddles I've spotted.

July 17, 2006, 05:15 PM
In places like that, I would think (but am not 100% sure - others can probably tell you better) they are feeding on mostly browse, twigs, bushes, acorns and grass as they roam. A good bet might be to find a BIG, SECLUDED, WHITE OAK TREE that you know will produce this year (I think each only produces acorns every other year?) and plop yer butt down near that.

Have you been able to find any trails at all? Look at the top of ridges for a main trail, and 20 - 50 yards off to either side for the BIG BOY's trail. How about secluded water sources? Always a good spot when it's warm weather...and the soft mud will help you see any tracks.

Any natural funnels, too? Maybe deep canyons or any places where the crossing with cover is very narrow in between open fields; there really are no open fields at all? Even small ones? If so, deer will roam a lot on the edge, or feed right on the edge...the big boys will wait till dark usually to come out to the open, so you can set up stand about 25-50 yards from the open field.

Do you have a topo map of the area? Or tried using Google Earth? Can help you scout from your PC...will help you find any open fields a lot morte quickly than walking around.

Also, any rubs on the trees at all? That can help you pattern the bucks, too.

A ground blind might be the way to go if no tree stands are allowed, and there might actually be non-damaging stands available...not sure tho.

That's all I can think of for now; others probably have much better info than I...

July 17, 2006, 05:41 PM
In western Wa the forests are thick and dark also. I scout first and find where the deer trails are from the forest roads. find fresh tracks and sign. know their water source. Then hike in slowly and quietly following their trails if I can. If not I hike the ridge. Stop and wait often to listen and look. I would have walked past deer I didnt know were there if I didnt stop. Had a few startle me standing there motionless staring at me from around a bush. Even after a few minutes in the same spot and nothing has moved I see a shape that I thought was a stump the first time I looked and then I realize its a deer looking at me. Whoa they are sneeky. And I like to find clearings. I often see deer where they cross fire roads and clearings. They like to eat in logged clear cuts with new ground cover. Sometimes theyre in the thick woods just rumaging for food.

July 17, 2006, 07:06 PM
Yep, that big white oak tree is a good bet early season - the deer love that "sweet mast" that drops early - the white oak acorns are sweeter than most. Also, if they're present, wild persimmon tree patches. So reseach the net as to what white oak branches/leaves/trunk/acorns look like, and scout for same.

Beyond that, any water is good, particularly if you can find beaches on a stream or pond that show tracks of the deer coming to drink - be there at dusk & dawn. My opinion is that deer go get a drink at dusk, after they first get up from being bed down, and they they also get a drink as one of the last things they do in the morning before they bed down - it helps with digestion.

Also, obviously, any trails you can find are good, and any place with lots of tracks or droppings can't be all bad, if you can find them.

And most importantly, in the fall, if you're going after bucks, and not just meat (does), finding rubs or scrapes & hunting them, particularly scrapes. Does pee in scrapes, and bucks will check them 2 or 3 times in a 24-hour period to see if the does are in heat. Smart big bucks will probably only visit the scrapes at night, but smaller bucks will visit them in the day too. If you get lucky, a bigger one might in the frenzy of the rut visit a scrape at dawn or dusk. If you do find a scrape, for goodness sake, don't step in it or touch it, or touch the branches above it, because the bucks can smell your scent and not come back - don't get any closer to it than you have to. Just mark it on your GPS then then hunt it next time you're out during season (or right then if it is season). Rublines will also tell you where bucks are rubbing their antlers. They may use the same route through a rubline for several days straight, but then suddenly change, so you can't rely upon a buck always following a given rubline. But scrapes are a sure deal, IF the buck visits them during daylight hours. But they WILL visit them (unless they smell you). So I'd suggest reading up on rubs & scrape signs - these, like tracks are also easier to spot than other sign like droppings, which I find difficult to spot.

Natural funnels too, if you can find them, but granted, there aren't many natural funnels in highly wooded areas. One type of funnel that has worked for me is a large creek that runs straight for quite a ways, then suddenly turns at approx. 90 degrees. If you get on the 'outside' of the turn, so to speak - the 270 degree side, if you will, sometimes the deer will come to a head and be too lazy to swim across the creek, and so follow it for awhile, until they get to the bend, and then branch out in whatever general direction they want to go. But just being at the bend is a funnel, if that makes any sense. But OTOH, sometimes they just swim across instead, so it's no sure thing. Along the same lines, if there is a creek that is difficult to cross for a couple hundred yards on both sides, due to underbrush, steep banks, etc., and then a spot where it is relatively easy to cross, definitely man that creek crossing, because deer, being lazy like humans, will usually use the easier route across the creek. And if it's muddy and not rocky, the tracks there will confirm as much.

But generally speaking, if you're going for bucks, rubs & scrapes are your best best. If you're going for just any deer, AND if it's a place where water is relatively scarce, then water sources are usually your best bests. Not true if water is everywhere, though.

Another technique during early rut (pre-rut), is rattling to draw in a curious buck. It's never worked for me, but apparently it does work for some people if you do it right. Are you allowed to use doe in heat scent? Some people swear by this, though it's never really worked for me. Pour a little doe in heat urine/scent on a tree near you, and if their brains are clouded by thoughts of the fairer sex, they may just come in to the scent. Some people use buck grunt and/or doe bleat calls too - I personally think that calls are more likely to scare off the deer than draw them in, given that I probably do not sound very realistic.

It is definitely much harder to hunt in an all-wooded area such as you describe, so good luck!

July 18, 2006, 09:56 AM
what region are you hunting? Additionally, utility right of ways provide a good opening/ break in the treescape

July 18, 2006, 09:59 AM
I was just about to add....if all else fails, find the longest 'straight shot' through the trees that you can, whether natural or manmade rights of way like power line clearings - the longer it is, the better, provided your weapon can cover it. Roadways are great too, provided that it is legal to hunt roads where you are. In many places, it is illegal to hunt a 'roadway'; BUT, are backwoods roads on private leases really roadways, legally? I dunno, but probably not. As long as you know who is on your lease, and where they are, it's fine. On public land, however, you do not want to hunt a road - it's probably illegal and definitely unsafe.

john in jax
July 18, 2006, 01:12 PM
I can't imagine woods thicker than the tree farms (public lands) we have down here in NE FL. But those thick woods have trails and the thick underbrush that can create the natural funnels FirstFreedom mentioned above.

Pushing your way through the thick stuff isn't any fun, but I am often surprised by what I find on the other side of what appears to be an impenetrable mass of brush and vines. Besides tracks, rubs and scrapes look for droppings.

Down here, on the tree farms, the deer love to come out at dark to feed on the tender shoots coming up in the clear cut (freshly harvested) areas. It is often easy to hunt the edges of these clear cuts, hopefully setting up where you can watch a few of the paths they use to enter/exit the feeding grounds.

Try and pick a spot where you are NOT sitting right on the trail, and ideally a spot where you don't have to walk down the same path the deer are using.

Jack O'Conner
July 20, 2006, 08:38 AM
I was stationed in Michigan with USAF many years ago. Flat country but heavily wooded with bogs and cedar swamps. I followed deer trails during the Winter and figured out where they fed and where they liked to bed. I made a couple ground blinds about a month before the season. These blinds were about 50 yards from the main trail; I cut out branches and brush for clear shooting.

Opening morning of deer season, I dragged a short dead tree across their main trail and waited in my blind. Sure enough, once the shots started I heard deer moving through the forest. Two does and a buck stopped their flight at the short tree in their path and stared at it. My Marlin barked once and the buck toppled over.

Good hunting to you.

Wild Bill Bucks
July 20, 2006, 01:36 PM
I used to do a lot of hunting on the public parks in Oklahoma, and would always try to get as far away from everyone else as possible. My suggestion would be to find out (in your area) what the last food source is to dry up, and try to find locations where that particular food is growing now. That way when bow season starts, you will have a good place to go look for fresh sign. By the time powder season gets here, the acorns will start to fall, and your strategy will have to change.

Looking for signs of deer right now probably won't do much good since all their patterns will change before season. When I am stalking, I always look to the ground for FRESH sign, simply because deer are creatures of habit, so if you catch fresh tracks at a low water crossing or simular area, it is a good bet the deer will come back through that area before the day is over, and might be a good location to set up a quick ground stand.

Hunting deer that live close to "The Human Factor" tend to be a little more tolerant of scent and noise. Deer that grow up in areas like Honobia, or Three Rivers, in Oklahoma, don't see or smell humans very often, and they are generally a lot harder to hunt from the stalk, so a good ground blind strategy pays off a lot better most of the time.

July 20, 2006, 02:15 PM
Yeah, my (very limited) experience is that when the acorns fall, food is EVERYWHERE, so any conventional wisdom that relates to a food source (i.e. "between bedding and feeding areas", "between water and feeding areas"), is completely useless at that point. Have to look for funnels, trails, sign. On the quick ground blind setup, WBB, I don't doubt you at all, but I'll add that when you make said blinds, for them to work, they need to be pretty inconspicious in my belief, because deer will notice anything different from before, and be gone before you ever see them. The smaller the better; the more shadowed the better, the more disguised by limbs/twigs, the better, etc.

I used to do a lot of hunting on the public parks in Oklahoma

Remind me not to take my family on a picnic to the public parks in your city & county. :eek: (I guess you meant public lands. ;) )

Wild Bill Bucks
July 20, 2006, 03:46 PM
Just a meer slip of the finger FF.:D

Your right, ground blinds must be well hidden and inconspicuous. My mother in law made me a light weight blanket from camoflauge material that I bought. It can be rolled up and carried over shoulder, and works very well in a "sitting on the ground" situation. Covers your feet and lower body very well and blends into the surroundings with out disturbing anything. Works best when your backed up to a tree. Can also be worn around shoulders for complete concealment.

July 23, 2006, 08:30 PM
ArcherandShooter where do you hunt? I think you just described the gamelands I hunt :D Anyway best tip is to start scouting ASAP. Look for deer paths, spots where many paths join (funnels?) and places where you can sit about 30 - 40 yards off those paths. Also walk deeper in and look for pine forests and find areas where they're likely to bed down. In rifle season hunt the pines as those offer your longer shots. The cool thing about the pine areas is that you often find mountain laurel along the edges of them and you can sit off that.

July 24, 2006, 07:51 AM

I hunt the Sam Houston National Forest north of Houston. And it is not really ALL pine trees, just 95%. I see the off oak-like tree in there, but for some reason I have NEVER seen an acorn on one. :(

I have a good topo of the forest, and springmom and I have been able to spot a few likely places from that, but actual deer sightings are pretty rare up there. Part of the problem is that the understory is so thick in so much of the forest that your sight-lines tend to be about 25 yards long. The National Wild Turkey Federation is cooperating with the forest service in clearing "meadows" for better turkey hunting, so we're scouting for trails and staging areas, perhaps with scrapes, just off the edges of those back in the thick stuff. With the heavy hunting pressure in SHNF, I don't expect to see deer actually out in the open, but maybe we can find where they hang out waiting for dark.

One other tactic I'm going to apply this year is to find where trails cross on the ground, then see if I can't get far enough above that spot to have a little greater visibility.

July 24, 2006, 02:12 PM
Wait, aren't you allowed to hunt over bait in Texas? If so, I would buy a NICE, BIG, GIANT pile of corn & place it right next to where several trails meet and it a day!

July 24, 2006, 02:45 PM
We are, but only of private land, for the most part. In the National Forest, you can't even set out bait for hogs.

July 25, 2006, 10:33 AM
I'd key in on those areas cleared by NWTF. They will create excellent feeding areas for deer and turkeys. Also look for ravines etc. They tend to be natural corridors for deer to travel. You may pick up a wild hog too. I'll point out that deer will go to the open areas to feed, especially in a forrest where browsing areas are sparse.

July 27, 2006, 12:09 PM
Yep, food sources and natural funnels. Just to add one thing, I have always felt that live deer sighting is the best sign that deer are using an area.

Scout early, especially those funnels. They will not change pattern too much in funnels. If you find a natural funnel going from food to water or bedding you have found a good spot to hunt.
Saddles and draws usually have funnels you can find. Creek crossings where high banks start to flatten are good spots and usually provide a good shot.
Rubs will be last years but provide evidence of deer patern.
Most of all, scout early and find deer. Glass spots and have fun.

Anthony Terry
July 27, 2006, 01:00 PM
i didnt read all of this, though ill prolly do that in a minute...
but hows the hunting pressure there? lots of pressure?
if there is, youll need to break away from that. get in during the ole rut. this will be your best hunt. i know nothing about texas so i cant help you much there. but anywhere you hunt, you have to have low pressure, food sources of any kind, water, look for deer bedding areas, get between the bedding and feeding areas near the trails. find some rubs and scrapes and the buck will be there sometime or another.

July 27, 2006, 02:29 PM
Desertfox, since you have a lot of experience, I'm curious how is it that you should rely heavily enough on food sources to recommend that so wholeheartedly. I ask because in oak forests where I hunt, food is literally EVERYWHERE, and thus patterning based on "between food and X" is completely useless. Are you in pine, oak, or some other non-oak deciduous dominated area over there in the ouchitas? What are your food sources - private cropland or something else? Thanks.

Just to add one thing, I have always felt that live deer sighting is the best sign that deer are using an area.

Well, yeah, that's pretty much axiomatic, but I've always felt that if I jump a deer in a spot, that I can rest assured that he won't be back there for at least a few days...so did you mean "sightings where the deer didn't notice you", or "sightings" period, even if you jumped the deer or he saw you?You think that if you jump a deer, he still might come back through there the next day or even the same day?

Anthony Terry
July 27, 2006, 04:57 PM
get a few cuddyback cams and find some trails. deer will move thru the easiest routs of passage they can find. across narrow ridges, thru logging roads, thru natural funnels, etc. these are the places you should look for trails.

July 28, 2006, 08:18 PM
Here are a couple tricks that work for me in the Alabama woods. Something to look for when the deer are making scrapes is a beach tree. They have yellowish tan leaves and stand out like a sore thumb. Sometimes every beach tree I check while scouting will have good sign. I guess deer use them because the way the branches hang low for easy access, and not much undergrowth can be found under thier limbs. This fall archery season most of my hunting here in Alabama will be over acorns. I have learned that when the acorns are on the ground the deer are too. Also if you have some good spots on a property line you can try and find a place where the fence is broken, and the deer will likely cross there. I even cut the top strand of barb wire sometimes. Deer are lazy, and any way to cross a fence a little easier they will take. Other than these few tricks the only thing else I can say is look for some well established trails. You can find a good game trail on our property all year round, and the deer travel them pretty regualarly.

Good luck

July 31, 2006, 09:23 PM
To answer your questions directed to me, I must say that I scout year round when possible. "Sightings" are in May as well as September. In a new area, I usually scout for areas of interest and then find an observation point.
My observation points are easily accessible without disturbing the whole area. They are high points or good high trees I can put a stand in. Early morning in the summer, before it is too hot, I may climb up and glass during sun up until I must leave for work etc.
After I watch deer movement, I scout to see where they were going and where they were coming from.
Food sources are not everywhere here. Lucky you. Food, in general around here, Oklahoma and Texas consists of winter wheat, acorns, pecans, honeysuckle, cotton, numerous grass sprouts, fresh growth on suculents and a very wide variety of planted crops. Farther south the food sources change but up here around the red river that is pretty much it.
Any fresh cut area will be targeted by whitetails for the new growth in the grass. (powerlines, right of ways or fence rows)
Water is obvious and bedding areas can be found if you check for signs. Cool areas with nice cover and if you find alot of scat in clumps, it means the deer were laying and chewing there cud. (Laying = bedding)
If you make a map of your hunting area and log each sighting or finding, you will come up with a few really great stand locations or great still hunting trails. Success can be easier if you spend the scouting time. Walking into the woods on opening day for the first time has a lower success rate in my opinion.
The idea is to spend as much time scouting year round. If you have this luxary then you have an advantage. That deer track you see may be on a nocturnal trail. If you observe the deer, you know where they came from and where they were going and when. You know if they were indivigual or groups. You know if they were bucks, does or yearlings.
That little tid bit was all I was trying to add. Scout if you can early.
As far as ground blinds, I have been in a few discussions with a game warden friend of mine who taught me that there is a 20-120 rule to ground blind hunting.
If a deer can see your ground blind from 120+ yards they can eliminate it mentally as danger because they observe everything around it and see no danger. Closer than that, he says they will be spooked if they happen upon it until 20 or closer yards. Inside twenty yards your ground blind is large enough to blend in and not be silouetted. He further said they are looking past 20 yards for trouble and if they round a bend on a trail and you are not covering the trail ahead they are watching down it. At 20 yards the deer shouldn't have much time to decipher before your choice of projectiles passes thru him. That is just a little food for thought on ground blinds.
Thank you for asking. Happy hunting.

Anthony Terry
July 31, 2006, 10:17 PM
#1 rule. Be there for the rut!:D Thats when the big boy will show his face in shooting hours, if even then he does. Logging roads are great for deer travel routes. Areas where timber change also. Like where a thin hardwoods changes into a brushy area. If you'll follow trails along these types of areas, you;ll eventually find their beds, food sources, and they need water. Put this together and establish their travel route. Then, hang your stand where the wind wont blow your cover. Scentlok or not, a whitetail will smell you if the wind blows any scent from you his way. Always pick places for stands where the wind won't get you. Typical deep woods food will be acorns, laurels in late season, acorns, hedge apples, acorns. IMO, if acorns are there, deer are too, as the guy said above. I find deep woods hunting better than any here. The food sources are concentrated more. A good size oak grove will usually be overrun with deer. DO NOT disturb their "world" though. or they'll move on, at least the old wise bucks. I believe that even spitting on the ground one time is enough to push a big buck out. touching a tree near a trail with dirty hands, it does'nt take much. When you find a good spot, hang a stand and leave, dont trample it to much.