Published by archerchick on 09 Jan 2011 at 12:19 am
The Inside Edge by Mark Hicks
The best place to hunt a field may not be along its edge, but at least 20 yards from the edge, farther back in the woods. Here’s Why.
The first truly big buck l ever saw while hunting crossed 20
yards from my treestand more than 3O years ago. lt was a
symmetrical 8-pointer with a wide spread, tall tines, and
heavy mass. Looking back through the years, l believe it would
have easily netted 140.
l had found the buck’s rubs scouting a point of hardwoods that reached
into a pasture in south Ohio. A cluster of several trees, up 6 inches in
diameter, bore scars. A distinct deer trail lead to the point along the
wooded side of the pastures fence. l figured this was the buck’s travel
route and l hung a stand in a tulip poplar within easy bow range of the
trail. l was in that stand every evening during the last few weeks of October.
On weekends, l was there mornings and evenings. l would never spend
that much time in any stand today, but l was just getting into bowhunting
and was greener than a corn sprout. l would have gladly shot the first
whitetail that stepped into bow range. Two does entered the pasture
before dark on three or four evenings, but they never offered a shot.
It was a balmy, overcast morning early November when l saw the 8-pointer.
l heard it grunt, turned my head and then watched the grand animal cross
behind my stand as it altenately sniffed the ground and scent-checked the wind. My
treestand didn’t allow me to shoot in that direction, and l knew nothing then about
calling deer. l could only watch in awe the buck slowly passed out of bow range
and out of sight. l can still see his bone white antlers glowing in the dim woods.
Sat Up Farther Back
I missed my chance at that buck because I made a mistake that plagues many
hunters today. I had set up for a shot along a field edge when I should have
been farther back in the woods along what I call “the inside edge.” Yes, slews
of whitetails are shot every year from treestands situated along field edges.
But, most of these deer are dropped early in the season when bucks are more
interested in food sources than female companionship.
Field edges become less productive as bucks enter the pre-rut and rutting
phases and begin searching for does. Any buck intent on finding a hot doe isn’t
likely to waltz into a field, though it may quickly cross an open field to see whats
shakin’ on the other side. A smart old buck on a mission normally won’t enter
a field until after his nose tells him that an estrus doe is feeding out there.
Instead of walking into the field or around its perimeter, a mature buck typically passes
by 2O yards or more back in the woods. Here, it can stay out of sight
and scent-check for does from a safe vantage point. The route the buck travels
during this reconnaissance is the inside edge, and you’ll often find rubs and scrapes here.
Though you may find rubs and scrapes anywhere along the field’s
edge, these are typically made after dark when bucks feel safe enough to venture
into the open fields. Since a buck must travel downwind
of a field to scent-check it, this is where you should look for the inside edge.
First, determine the predominant wind direction. For example, the predominant
wind in southeast Ohio where l hunt is from the southwest. Therefore,
l look for an inside edge near the northeast corner of a field.
l hunt the northeast corner because this is where a buck travels a diagonal
route as it cuts across the wind. This lets the buck scent-check the field efficiently
with the shortest traveling distance, The buck comes closest to the field at
its northeast corner, which makes this the ideal place to intercept him. Set
your treestand about 2O yards down-wind from the buck’s path. This puts
you at least 40 yards from the field, depending on how far back the buck”s
inside travel edge is situated. A stand back in the woods also offers
better concealment. Most of the leaves have fallen when the rut gets under»
way. When you’re perched in a bare stand along the edge of a field, a buck
is more likely to spot you. A treestand hack in the woods breaks up your outline
and helps you go undetected.
Pay Attention To The Wind & Routes
What do you do when the wind changes direction? Iowan Rick White, a member
of the Hunters Specialties pro staff. stays away from the inside edge rather than
tipping off a buck to his stand location. “I’ll hunt a different stand around that field
where the wind is to my advantage, or l hunt a different area altogether,” White
says. “You get only one chance at a big buck and you don’t want to blow it by
hunting with a bad wind.”
Even when the wind is right. “White takes precautions to avoid spooking
deer on the way to his stand. He takes the shortest, quietest route possible
that keeps him downwind of deer and their bedding areas. If the best approach
is to cross the field, White generally hunts an inside edge in the afternoon
only during the early season. By crossing the field in the morning, he would spook
any deer feeding there. During the peak of the rut, when bucks are pushing does
around, White will gamble on crossing a field for a morning hunt.
When he searches for an inside edge, White looks for buck sign associated
with intersecting trails, bottlenecks, pinch points, or some terrain feature
that funnels deer past a particular tree. “I usually don’t get back in more
than 2O yards or so from the field,” White says. “I want to be close enough
that I can see what’s happening in the field. That way, I might notice another corner
where deer are coming into the field.”
Before bucks get into the pre-rut and rutting phases, they often use inside
edges as evening staging areas before they enter fields after dark to feed.
White took advantage of this tendency during an early October hunt in Iowa.
At 3 p.m. he climbed into an old fence line oak 5O yards from an alfalfa field.
From this vantage, he could see the field and well over 100 yards through
the stand of mature hardwoods.
An hour before dark, does started to filter through the hardwoods, browsing
and feeding on acorns as they headed to the field. About 30 minutes later, White
spotted a dandy 10-point buck casually feeding on acorns l5O yards away. He
rattled lightly with his rattle bag, followed up with a few mature buck grunts
on his Hunter’s Specialties Tru Talker, and the buck came right to him. “He wasn’t
looking for a fight, he was just curious to see what was going on,” White says.
“That’s typical early in the season.” The buck came down the fence that
lead to White’s tree and never tried to circle downwind of him. “Early in the
season, bucks often beeline it straight to the sound,” White says. “They’re more
cautious during the tut and usually in downwind then.”
White smoked the buck with his Mathews compound at 15 yards. It scored
137 4/8. Had White set his stand on the edge of the alfalfa field, he might not
have seen that buck back in the woods. If he had called to the buck from the field
edge, it probably would have been leery of coming near the field before dark.
And, even if the buck did respond to a call from the field edge, it would have
approached from White’s downwind side and may have winded him.
Missouri bowhunter Alex Rutledge, another member of the Hunters Specialties pro staff,
also takes advantage of inside edges downwind from fields. He stresses
that mature trophy bucks are nocturnal and don’t appear in these areas until the
last 30 minutes of daylight. If you’re on a field edge at this critical time, the
bucks will be crossing behind you. “Most bucks travel into a cross-wind well back from
the edge of a field,”
Rutledge says. “If the cover is thick a buck may pass within 5O yards of the field. If it`s
a wide open woods, the buck may scent-check the field from 100 yards
or more away.” Big tracks, clumpy droppings, and rubs tell Rutledge where a buck
is crossing along an inside edge. After he finds what he’s looking for, Rutledge places
treestand downwind from the buck’s trail. When he’s hunting hilly terrain,
Rutledge never sets a stand in the bottom or along the side of a hollow.
“The wind constantly swirls in those draws,” Rutledge says. “lf you set a stand
there, you’re going to get winded. I always set my stand on top of a hill, or
close to the top where the wind direction is more consistent. A lot of bucks
cross over the ends on points, and that’s a great place to catch them.”
A point overlooking a field may not strike you as an inside edge, but that may
very well be the case if you hunt whitetails in hill country. Rutledge has taken bucks
from such places that were crossing 125 yards downwind from a field.
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