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I tend to get a lot of emails. Although I try to answer them all, admittedly, I don’t do a good job of incorporating them into this column. After all, if someone has a question about something related to the outdoors, there are pretty good odds that others are wondering the very same thing but have never bothered to ask someone that they think might know.
First off, let me be clear that I’m no walking encyclopedia of the outdoor world. What I do have is a fairly good working knowledge of the subject along with a built-in love for it all and a curiosity that makes my ears perk up when someone begins to talk about their own experiences in the outdoors or the lessons that they’ve learned during their hunting career.
So what I plan to do this week is to throw out a couple of the more common questions that I tend to receive and take a stab at answering them.
This first one comes up quite a bit this time of year and it typically reads something like this: “I watch all of those deer hunting shows on TV and they’re always talking about setting up their treestand at ‘pinch points’ and ‘funnels.’ The problem is, I just don’t understand what any of that means. Can you explain it?”
This one is actually pretty easy but before I get into it, it helps to have a good grasp of the nature of deer. You see, they’re actually a lot like people.
Deer are lazy critters. They don’t like to exert too much energy but at the same time, they’re too smart to endanger themselves just for the sake of that laziness. This trait tends to play a major role in how the animals move about the land.
Imagine two large woodlots that are separated by open fields or pastures. The deer, especially the older, mature ones, are not about to strike out across the wide open middle and subject themselves to a possible attack from predators, be they coyotes, hunters or anything else that might attack them. Instead, the deer will move just inside the cover of the trees until they reach the narrowest gap or a point that feels safest to them.
Often, such woodlots will be connected by a small run of trees that has grown up along a fence line or creek bed and the deer will travel along that route to get from point A to point B. This is a natural funnel.
Another example of this behavior is their common use of old road beds and logging roads.
Because these pathways take less effort to pass through than areas of thick vegetation, they become a type of deer highway. That’s another funnel.
Pinch points are exactly what they sound like. These are spots that, in a sense, drive the deer’s trail through a specific location. One of the most common instances of such a spot is seen where deer trails intersect with fence lines.
The next time you come across a deer trail that’s nearing a fence, notice how the path works its way to the exact location where there’s either a low place in the fence, it has been cut completely or the fence just happens to be down. Despite the fact that the deer could easily jump that fence at most any place, this will be the path of least resistance and require less effort for them to get through.
Downed trees often form pinch points throughout the woods. Believe it or not, a deer will walk a hundred yards down a clear alleyway to keep from hopping over a simple log.
Understanding these funnels and pinch points can help you to create such places on your hunting land and raise your odds substantially.
For instance, let’s say you have a small food plot planted somewhere on your hunting grounds and you’d like to bow hunt it. Unlike a rifle, a bowshot requires that deer to be much closer to you and your best bet for getting an old buck within range is to force him there.
This can be done by downing a tree that will fall part way across the open area.
Next, hang your stand on the side of the plot that is left open at the tip of the fallen tree.
You’ve just created a pinch point that the deer will use as they browse their way through and coerced them to travel within your effective range.
One thing to keep in mind before you start cutting trees is that it’s important to know the direction of the prevailing winds at that position and pick your stand location carefully. No pinch point or funnel is going to do you a bit of good if your scent is being blown right toward the deer. In that scenario, they won’t be there to begin with.
Because I’ve written about hunting with my daughter, Maggie, quite a few times, I’ve had numerous folks as this next one.
“What’s the best way to get my son/daughter started hunting?”
Maggie first started going with me when she was six. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the way that I hunt on my own and how I could hunt with her are two entirely different things. This is primarily because children just don’t have the patience or the attention span to spend several hours in the woods being quiet and still. As soon as boredom sets in, you can sure bet that they’re done.
This is where you have to learn to adapt. While in the stand or blind, I would always be sure to point things out to her and teach her everything that I could about the woods and all that can be found in it. We would talk quietly about anything that we encountered be that a bug, a raccoon or a deer and I did my best to make everything that came up a teachable moment.
At home, we worked on other aspects of it like safety and learning to shoot. The best way to get a youngster started with that is to make it enjoyable and not scary.
Never start a child off by putting a gun in their hands that’s too big for them to shoot. With her, I used a .22 rifle because they have no recoil to speak of. Had I started her out with something that she could actually hunt deer with, the report and kick of even a smaller rifle, such as a .243, would have been enough to instill in her one of the toughest hunting habits to break- “the flinch.”
It also helped that a .22 is extremely cheap to shoot as it quickly became obvious that Maggie intended to put anywhere from 50 to 100 of them through a target every time we went out there.
Most importantly, keep everything fun. After all, if they’re not enjoying it, they’re not going to stay interested.
Have questions of your own? Drop me an email and I’ll do my best to cover it in a future piece here.