Gerald Almy: Here are 12 funnel sweet spots
Rifle shots from deer hunters have been fewer than normal in the areas I hunt this year. Hopefully this cool weather will increase movement and make for better hunting as the modern firearms season winds to a close in most counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here’s a look at one type of habitat that might produce a buck or doe during these final few days of rifle hunting or in later bow and muzzleloader seasons.
Even novice hunters grasp the importance of locating funnels that channel deer movement. But there are two ways you can make a “funnel hunt” even more successful.
One is locating a spot where two funnels merge, effectively doubling your odds for success.
The other trick that leads to a more productive hunt is finding the funnel within a funnel — the exact location where a buck’s already narrowed movement is constricted even tighter. Find that spot and your odds for encountering a buck increase dramatically.
Here are 12 examples of these types of funnel sweet spots:
• Broken fence wire. A fence overgrown with briars and honeysuckle might channel deer movement parallel along its length. But a low spot where a strand of wire is broken focuses it even more tightly where the animals can easily cross to the other side.
• Narrowing strip of brush. A 40-yard wide swath of brush connecting two crop fields is clearly a good funnel. But the spot where that strip of cover narrows down to 15 yards is the pay-dirt location.
• Ditch in brushy corridor. A strip of brush between wood lots or doe bedding areas is a hot funnel. But the best spot of all is a low area or ditch within that cover strip where a buck with a tall rack can stay lower and out of sight as he travels.
• Creek intersections. A creek funnels deer along its course. An even better spot is the intersection where two streams merge.
• Spur ridge junctures. The same situation applies for ridges. When two or three side spurs sweep up from a valley and meet at a single main ridge, buck movement from two or three different areas channels up to that single location.
• Saddles. Here two funnels running entirely different directions merge, doubling your odds for success. Some deer will be traveling along the ridge (funnel one). Others will be moving up from a side hollow (funnel two) to cross through the low point of the saddle.
• Benches. The whole top of a mountain ridge is a long funnel. But to double your odds, find a spot where you can also watch a parallel bench just below it. Big bucks particularly like these lower areas where there’s often more food and brushy cover and their antlers aren’t sky-lighted, making them feel safer.
• Power line. Deer travel the edges of power lines, mostly staying back in adjacent cover. But when the terrain makes a dip in a swale, some bucks will also cross the opening there.
Here you have the linear route with bucks moving along the power line edge and the crossing route where some of them will move to the other side — the perfect double funnel sweet spot.
• River crossing. Bucks might travel along a 50-yard swath of brush bordering a river. It’s a natural funnel. But if they want to get to the other side, they’ll cross at a shallow riffle. Hang your stand there for a more focused funnel point than the edge of the river alone.
• Thicket blocking a transition corridor. Deer often travel leisurely along 50-75 yard wide transition corridors from bedding to feeding sites, nibbling blackberry, honeysuckle and greenbrier as they go. They’ll be spread out across the corridor — until they encounter a thicket too dense to penetrate. At that point they’ll slip around the thicket using the outside edge of the transition corridor to get past the congested cover. That’s your narrower sweet spot.
• Field corner. Bucks love field corners, and they often move toward them from two directions, doubling your chances.
Some of them will be traveling along the edge of the field looking for does and staying in the woods for cover. Others will be moving from bedding cover further back in the woods to the field to feed. These deer will naturally travel towards the field corner, where they feel safest entering the open area.
• Logging Trail. In this setup a funnel that all deer use breaks off into a big buck funnel. Whitetails of all sexes and ages follow abandoned logging trails for easy walking as they approach evening feed fields.
But big bucks are wary of entering by the obvious road opening. They’ll cut off the trail and go through thick cover, perhaps down a ditch or across a creek to enter the field in a more secluded spot. Find this cut-off point 50-75 yards back from the field edge where there are large tracks, rubs and a lightly outlined path. That’s your focus point where the big boys break off from the main herd.
Any funnel with fresh sign is worth checking out. But narrowing your search down even further to find each funnel’s sweet spot offers the best chance of all for tagging a nice buck or a fat doe.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.