Whitetail Map Study: Terrain Features to Cyber-Scout
(Lynn Burkhead photo)
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Wise old bucks are crafty creatures, to say the least. Creatures that will often bed in the thickest and nastiest cover around, terrain that is often not very hospitable to hunters looking to place a stand.
Still, those same big-rack bucks must get up and move around from time to time to find food, water, secure cover and, later on in the year, love.
If a hunter can find such preferred spots now - things like travel corridors, prime feeding and watering areas or even secure bedding cover - the odds go way up for that same hunter to slip in quietly later this fall and down the biggest buck of their lifetime.
With nearly four decades of deer hunting expertise behind him, Indiana-based deer hunter, outdoor writer and photographer Brad Herndon has pulled this trick off countless times en route to a wall full of Midwestern trophy whitetails.
Along the way, he’s earned a virtual PhD in the use of topographic maps and aerial photos to unlock a property’s big buck travel secrets before ever stepping foot onto it.
So much so that he literally wrote a book on the idea, a classic deer hunting volume entitled Mapping Trophy Bucks.
Printed last in 2003 but still readily available today at various bookstores and online, the book is a very good read on the subject of big buck hunting, even more than a decade after it was printed.
To that idea, here is a crash course on the terrain features that Herndon says to look for (Source: “Mapping Trophy Bucks” by Brad Herndon; Krause Publications; Iola, Wis.; 2003)
- Funnels: Herndon defines a funnel as a variety of terrain features that will help to choke down deer movement into a more concise area.
- Inside corners: The author identifies such a spot as the “L” shaped corner of a field or pasture and an adjoining block of timber that deer will often cut through on their travels.
- Saddles: Basically, Herndon defines a saddle as a low spot in a ridgeline. Because it is low and typically narrow, he indicates that it is the easiest travel route for deer moving from one side of a hill to the other and is thus heavily used.
- Points: Points are found at the end of a ridge where it drops down to a valley, field or pasture below. Herndon notes that such points are often used as bedding areas.
- Breaklines: These are lines of delineation between two types of different and adjoining cover such as clear-cuts and open woods. Herndon indicates that such lines will routinely produce deer movement as they basically parallel a breakline.
- Benches: Defined as flat areas of various widths in a hilly region, benches make the journey easier for whitetails on the move according to Herndon.
- Converging hubs: Terrain features that influence deer movement and converge in a hub-like fashion, much like the spokes on a bicycle wheel do. Herndon says that these are great places to see deer activity all throughout the deer hunting season.
While deer seasons are still a few months away in most of the nation, the information contained in Herndon's decade-old classic will often help a hunter gain a leg up on the wise, wary old quarry that a hunter intends to pursue later on this year.
With a little extra effort now in the month of June, enough information may be gleaned to help said deer hunter see something totally different later on this year on the leaf-covered ground near their stand.
And that's the gleaming antlers of a big trophy buck, the kind that currently slinks undetected through the shadows of hunting properties across the Midwest and beyond.