Gerald Almy: A topography feature that can be great for deer
If you have more than a few years of deer hunting experience under your belt, you know how good brushy hollows can be. They’re major travel corridors in mornings and evenings and favorite escape routes when deer feel pressure. Whitetails also like the seclusion and security feeling they find in these dips in the terrain.
But partly because they’re so popular with both deer and hunters, deep hollows and large draws often aren’t the best spots to find a buck. Sometimes subtler habitat features–less pressured by hunters and less used by other deer–are what these reclusive, loner bucks prefer.
One such favorite is a small fold in the topography. These often furrow off of major ridges, knolls, and plateaus between the larger, more obvious hollows and draws. They’re easy to overlook. And that’s partly why older bucks like them.
I first discovered these neglected hotspots on my way to a larger, more sharply defined hollow. I had worked up one steep draw and found myself tuckered out at the top. After catching my breath, I headed for the next one I knew about, which was a quarter mile away.
I didn’t make it. Not 60 yards from the top of the first hollow a vague intuition made me slow down. Antler tips jutted out from a raspberry patch in a small fold in the terrain 30 yards away. Unfortunately for me, my shot didn’t connect.
But since then, folds have become a feature I always look for in a hunting area. I’ve found enough loner bucks in them to make me a believer. (And I haven’t always missed!)
Search for these somewhat innocuous looking topography features on topos and satellite photos before heading out. Google Earth is a good place to look. But realize many of them are so slight they might not show up on maps or aerial photographs. Boot work is vital for finding the smallest ones.
Start out in good deer territory, and walk out ridge spines, knolls, and the edges of flats. There will often be major trails on the top, but you’re looking for a few light tracks heading down where small furrows finger off the higher terrain. Bucks will usually be near the top, but down slightly, actually in the fold.
The best ones will also have some vegetation for cover such as greenbrier, blackberry, raspberry, grapes, olives, plum, and honeysuckle. Sumac and maple saplings add to the appeal.
Often a single mature buck will bed in this cover. If the fold has a large blowdown or stump, he might be snugged up tight to that structure. Look for rubs, scrapes, and large tracks to confirm the fold is being used.
The buck has seclusion and some “snack food” available from the plants growing in the fold. And he can look down below for approaching danger while using wind currents to monitor scent behind him.
Several tactics can work for hunting folds. One technique is to try to bump the buck towards a friend or two positioned at likely routes he will probably use when he bails out. Cover and wind direction will dictate where these other hunters should set up. Look for escape trails, strips of dense vegetation or low ditches down or crosswind.
Another productive tactic is to pinpoint a fold that likely holds a buck and stake out the travel corridor he probably uses when he leaves that spot in late afternoon. Typically he’ll work down the fold towards major evening feed areas such as food plots or crop fields. If the wind is wrong, though, he may slip up on top of the knoll or ridge and take a different route.
Wait until the breeze is perfect for him to work down from the fold without scenting you and set up. If you can get to the fold quietly before daylight (usually tough) a morning ambush might also be possible.
Finally, if you’re a good stalker or still-hunter, try working across the tops of folds into or crosswind. Ease up cautiously and glass each fold to see if a buck is at home. If not, move to the next one.
As the weather turns bitter during late archery and muzzleloader seasons, folds can also be great spots to hunt, since they offer deer protection from cold winds. After breeding is complete, mature bucks want nothing more than a secluded spot to hole up in, rest, and nurse their battle wounds.
Folds fit the bill perfectly.