How to Find Buck Bedding Areas This Post-Season
Deer season has come and gone and, in just a couple short months, the cold winter will succumb to spring, putting green back on the landscape and hunters back on their couches, where they will sit out the summer months dreaming of fall.
Some hunters will take this time to tune their bows, sight in their rifles, and stock up on that new gear so that, if they’re lucky enough to have a big buck stroll their way during the rut, they’re ready. But the most successful hunters put luck into their own hands. These are the hunters who start their deer scouting early in the post-season, honing in on big buck bedding areas.
Why Find Buck Beds in the Post-Season
All hunters are familiar with the maxim “big bucks are nocturnal bucks.” That’s only partly true. Pressured bucks tend to avoid areas they suspect a hunter to be during the daylight hours. But studies show that more often than not, those deer are still moving during deer hunting hours. They’re just close to their beds. Your work during the post-season will determine whether that buck crosses your path or not.
Consider this scenario. You set up in an oak flat you know deer feed in and have a buck on camera showing up every night an hour after dark. You could sit out there all season long hoping for an early arrival. You could even chalk it up to an un-huntable nocturnal buck. Odds are, you’ll get the same results either way- an empty tag.
Or, you could close the distance on the buck’s bedding area, odds are, he’s moving in shooting light and what you think is nocturnal behavior is just you seeing the deer after his long stroll to your stand.
Those hunters that shoot big monsters year after year know this. Creeping into the buck’s short daylight range, the area within 100 yards of where it beds, drastically improves a hunter’s chances at success. Knowing how to find buck beds allows hunters to hone in on individual deer habits and plan for the season ahead. Knowing where a big buck spends his days allows you to close the distance.
How to Find Buck Beds in Post-Season
The goal of post-season deer scouting is to gather as much information as possible on the deer behavior in your area. Provided that deer patterns change in the late spring and summer, its vital that you do this as close as possible to the end of deer season.
Finding buck beds in this time frame has a couple of benefits. First, it will most accurately predict the buck’s winter behavior for next season. Second, your intrusive presence in the woods is less luckily to impact deer behavior during hunting season if your scouting in April as opposed to August. And third, this time of year grants one of post-season deer scouting’s greatest assets: snow.
Take advantage of snow on the ground and read it like a book. Where are the deer feeding? Where are they moving? What are the common travel lanes? Once you find these areas, back track. Most deer trails can eventually be traced to bedding areas. Don’t fret when the snow melts. Melted snow will reveal even more deer sign and help you put together the bigger picture.
Likewise, take advantage of the sign leftover from the fall. Typically, bucks outside the rut spend most of their time in and around their core bedding area. So, it should be no surprise that a cluster of fresh buck rubs can reveal their most secretive haunts. Make sure to look for these areas before vegetation starts greening up in mid-spring. Once the woods get thick, it will be tougher to identify and find deer sign.
Doe beds are easily identified by the presence of multiple impressions from where the deer have been laying. Bucks, on the other hand, are solitary creatures. And their beds can be discerned by the presence of a sole impression, usually in nasty, thick terrain. They will often have their back to a tree and a clear line of sight to their front.
Knowing Where to Look for Buck Beds
Knowing what to look for is one thing. But more importantly, a savvy post-season deer scouter needs to know where to look. This makes your scouting trips efficient. Knowing where and how to find buck beds can save a lot of miles on your boots if you’re familiar with the areas big bucks like to hang. And despite its reputation as an unsolvable deer hunting science, it’s pretty simple to predict the areas where bucks bed.
The value of your post-season deer scouting will come down to the amount of time you spend in buck bedding habitat. These areas usually fall in a couple categories.
Look for the thick stuff. Bucks bed in areas where they feel safe. These parcels may be lined with thorny multi-flora rose patches, in early-successional habitat where shrubby new-growth conceals their presence, or in the middle of a great big swamp.
Speaking of swamps, look to the areas where marshes meet hardwood. Big bucks love to hang in a stand of thick cattails and they aren’t afraid to trudge through mud. If you can find the interface between marshland and woods, follow it. Look for tracks and look for dry high ground. These areas have the added benefit of receiving way less hunting pressure than more accessible, and drier, areas.
Another aspect to keep in mind is scouting with topographical maps. This is where having a mapping app like HuntStand comes in handy. HuntStand offers an aerial view of your hunting land. From it, you can mark the clues of a bucks bedding area, like rubs, beds, and the paths of deer trails on a topographical map.
Use this kind of digital mapping system to find benches on hillsides and saddles on a ridge. The flat areas among a hill or mountain are the areas you will find a buck bed. Scouting with topographical maps can predict how landscapes work with thermals and wind directions. Bucks bed where they have a good line of sight in front of them, multiple lanes for escape, and a wind direction that carries smells to them.
Lastly, you can unlock secrets of a buck’s bedding location by looking for trails. Hop on them and see where they take you. If you come across a rub, or even better, a shed, you know you’re approaching the sweet spot.
Putting It All Together
Mark all these areas in your HuntStand map. Look at them individually, then look at the bigger picture. From an aerial view you will be able to see how rubs line up and how trails concentrate on a bedding area. This is the key to deer hunting. Use the information you collected from scouting with topographical maps and look at the likely lanes of travel from a buck’s bed to its feeding area. Plan to intercept them in these areas. Every clue you uncovered will help to paint a bigger picture. And, if you can paint that picture clearly and creep within 100-yards of its core, you might get a chance at that nocturnal buck of a lifetime.