Deer Hunting Stand Location: Using Satellite Maps to Locate Natural Funnels
By: Bryce Weaver, Ohio Outdoor Journal Field Writer
It’s the beginning of September, and if you are anything like me, you are relieved that you get to scratch that hunting itch you have had all summer by getting out and pursuing squirrel, dove, and early season geese. For me, this is just a temporary fix, because it reminds me deer season is less than one month away,and the anticipation is keeping me awake at night. Most archery hunters have an established spot set up from year to year and have had their trail cameras and tree stands in place for months now. But, there are also some hunters out there who are scratching their heads right about now thinking “Hmmm. Where should I set up this year?” For those of you saying “Hey that sounds like me,” you might just come away from this article with a light bulb lit up above your head.
Most deer hunters realize that in order for a property to sustain a healthy herd it must offer the essentials such as food, water, and a bedding area where the deer feel safe. Once you have located these areas, find the routes that you can intercept the deer while they are traveling from one area to another. This is the step where a lot of hunters, including myself, tend to over-think as we are trying to strategize a plan. Think about your everyday life and how you go about your travels. You probably take the same road to work every day along with the occasional scenic route. When you are hungry, you probably go to a few different restaurants or grocery stores that you like, but home is always home. When you are driving, you have to choose a route to get to your destination, and of course you are going to take the easiest.It’s just common sense, and deer are the same way. They may not eat or drink at the same exact place every day, but they are going to take the easiest path that gets them safely to where they need to go until they feel that it is no longer safe. In my opinion, there is no better place to start off the season than a major deer trail that is confined to a funnel and then branches off into several secondary trails.
There are several reasons why funnels are worth keying in on. First, hunting a funnel allows you to stay away from bedding areas and keep your scent out of the place where the deer feel safe. Also, funnels are effective all season long depending on the changes of food availability after harvest. Later in the season, traveling bucks may be unfamiliar with your area but are definitely going to follow that natural funnel because it’s the easiest way for them to cover ground. During the rut, it gets even better because the cruising bucks just want to travel fast and search for hot does. This is also a time when these natural funnels will become littered with scrapes.
Google Earth is a very helpful tool for locating natural funnels. It allows you to view a satellite image of any plot of land. Using this tool benefits you tremendously because instead of tromping all through the woods spreading scent everywhere and spooking game, you can easily see the lay of the land, pick a spot you want to scout, and go straight to it. Two things that I look for are narrow ridge tops with steep banks heading to and from food sources or bedding areas and fingers or sections of woods that connect to a neighboring property in a narrow spot. There are many different types of funnels, but these are generally easy to find.
Another big factor that you need to take into consideration when choosing a stand location is wind direction. If you hunt when the wind is wrong, you are just letting every deer heading your way know that there is danger ahead. In most parts of Ohio, the wind is usually coming from the North-West, so you want to try to create a set-up that will work best with that wind while still keeping an eye out for alternate stand locations for a different wind.
The picture in the satellite image above is an area that I am hunting this season. This area has a lot of agricultural fields with various sized wood lots scattered across rolling hills. In the picture, you will see the woods connect to the neighboring property line in two spots that are separated by a pasture and small field. The connecting points initially got my attention because for the most part deer traveling to and from the neighboring property are going to want to stay concealed by using the wooded connection points. That is the type of funnel I tend to look for. The South funnel is much better than the North one because I will have to approach from the south on the path illustrated. Another reason I knew the south funnel would be better was the way the predominant wind will be always blowing my scent away from where I expect the deer to come from.
What I couldn’t see on the satellite image was a long narrow ridge top with steep banks going down to a creek from the neighboring woods and headed right towards the bedding area and corn field. I could plainly see where the deer had beat down a path on the ridge, and after they jumped the fence onto my side they went a little ways and started to spread out heading in a few different directions. I went back and set up a stand, cut shooting lanes, and put up a trail camera right where the main path splits up into several. What I really like about this spot is that it is adjacent to a crop field, so hopefully I will have plenty of daylight and cut the late evening feeders off on their way to and from the corn. During the rut this funnel should in theory be hot as well. When bucks are cruising, they will likely use the south funnel being that the wind out of the north-west will push scent to them while traveling the funnel.
Using Google Earth is a great way to locate natural funnels and choose stand locations. Overall, the funnel set-up is really good to get a feel for the deer activity and also create many opportunities throughout the season.
Make it a goal this season to involve someone in your hunting. It takes patience, but it is very rewarding to share the same love and passion for the outdoors with someone who otherwise may not have gotten the experience if it wasn’t for you. Bryce Weaver