The Funnel Factor

The Funnel Factor

The temperature was in the low 20s with a stiff north wind hitting me in the face. It was cold! Still, I was happy, because the rut was in full swing, and shortly after daylight I began seeing a steady stream of bucks. Unfortunately, none of them ever came within bow range.





Brushy fingers or points funnel deer movement out into fields.

Upon later investigation, I realized that maybe those bucks were not out of range after all. Maybe I was. The bucks had crossed from one block of timber to another, and I had overlooked their obvious funnel.


That day taught me a valuable lesson -- never place your treestand over the first good-looking deer trail. I probably would have arrowed a nice buck if I had just used my "noodle" and identified the real funnel. Since those early days I've learned what types of funnels to hunt at different times to put myself within range of out-of-range bucks.

EARLY SEASON
While whitetails remain in their summer patterns, hitting favorite food sources, they are relatively relaxed. Still, hunting near their "kitchen" may not be the best idea. Deer usually enter fields from several directions, and only one downwind deer can ruin your hunt. For this reason, I back off 100 yards or so from food sources to hunt funnels where deer coming into a field will be less likely to wind me.

Hunting over trails in bottlenecks -- ridgetops, sidehill benches, heavy cover leading out into a field -- is always a good option during early season. In hilly country, my favorite early-season funnels are the heads of steep gullies. Like you and me, deer generally take paths of least resistance, so instead of going up and down the steep banks of gullies, they will contour around the heads, making these ideal places for stands.

Water -- ponds, lakes, creeks, and rivers -- often creates obvious funnels. Deer will travel around pond edges, bends in creeks, and steep riverbanks; and they will cross at shallow fords. These are predictable funnels any time during the season.

As the early season wears on, mature bucks will begin to shy away from heavily used trails and tight funnels, opting for more subtle trails downwind of main travel routes.

These downwind trails will be marked with big tracks and rubs. They're perfect spots for early-season stands.

THE RUT
When bucks start searching for hot does, some early-season stand locations will still produce, but other locations may be better. My best rut stands have proved to be in locations where, during the rest of the season, I scarcely see any deer at all.

Some of my best rut stands are in inconspicuous funnels that bucks use to quickly travel from one doe hangout to another. The bucks mentioned at the beginning of this story were following such a route.

Bucks like this eight-point often funnel themselves at field corners during the rut.

By scent-checking fields for does, bucks often funnel themselves at field corners. One cold, mid-November evening, the wind was right for hunting from a stand in an elm tree at the corner of a cut cornfield. Any bucks scent-checking the field would pass by that elm tree. Before long I noticed a sapling shaking violently 75 yards away. Obviously a buck was doing the damage. I gave a few soft bleats, and moments later the buck walked through the throat of the funnel in search of the doe he had heard. Instead of a doe, the eight-pointer found my broadhead. He ran 50 yards and collapsed within view.

If I can't find a high-odds funnel, I make one. In places with too many trails to predict where deer will walk, I block some of the trails with logs and brush to direct deer by my stand. Easy fence crossings are equally good. With the landowner's permission, I cut the top strand of an old fence, or tie the top strands together, to create an easy crossing spot.

Many times I've seen rutting bucks walk the length of a fence to cross at the easiest spot.

LATE SEASON
If you can withstand the weather, you can still outsmart deer that have been hunted with bows and guns all fall. When the thermometer takes a plunge I hunt funnels that lead to late-season food sources like winter wheat, harvested cornfields, or a food plot planted for deer. Many of the funnels that were good during early season will produce now.

One advantage, of course, can be snow, which makes active trails easy to read. I recently took a big doe that was visiting a cornfield regularly. Along with several other deer, she was traveling a bench on a sidehill that made for easy walking -- and made the deer very predictable.

Whitetails change their patterns throughout the season in response to changing food sources, various stages of the rut, and hunting pressure. If you adapt by finding the funnels, you will have deer in bow range all season.

The author is an admitted whitetail fanatic from Quaker City, Ohio.

Recommended for You

Stabilization can be a crucial factor in that moment of truth while bowhunting. Here are the best new stabilizer options from the 2019 ATA Show! ATA Show

New Bow Stabilizers for 2019

Colton Bailey - January 10, 2019

Stabilization can be a crucial factor in that moment of truth while bowhunting. Here are the...

Dr. Dave Samuel breaks down the facts. Conservation

Is A Miracle Cure for CWD on the Horizon?

Dr. Dave Samuel

Dr. Dave Samuel breaks down the facts.

In the market for a new traditional bow? Here are our top picks from the 2019 ATA Show! ATA Show

New Recurve Bows for 2019

Brian Strickland - January 11, 2019

In the market for a new traditional bow? Here are our top picks from the 2019 ATA Show!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 6: Great Start!

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 6: Great Start!

Guest hunter Christian Berg visits Whitetail Heaven Outfitters in Kentucky and gets his deer-hunting season off to a great start with an amazing velvet buck.

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 12: Deer Slam!

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 12: Deer Slam!

Bowhunter Magazine Editor Curt Wells lives his life-long dream of taking all five species of North American deer.

Elk Bulls Abound in Colorado

Elk Bulls Abound in Colorado

Bowhunter team member Rudy Bachraty gets his chance to take an elk with Cross Mountain Outfitters of Colorado.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Black bear meat is dark and rich, and delicious ground up in this Pâté chaud recipe. Recipes

Vietnamese Black Bear Pâté Chaud (Meat Pie) Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Black bear meat is dark and rich, and delicious ground up in this Pâté chaud recipe.

Follow this advice before embarking on your first hunt! Big Game

Beginner's Guide to Bowhunting Mule Deer

Ron Niziolek

Follow this advice before embarking on your first hunt!

Go farther, hunt deeper, and trek lighter while enjoying all-day comfort. How-To

Tree Saddle Hunting — Demo Climb With Aider

Mike Carney - June 07, 2019

Go farther, hunt deeper, and trek lighter while enjoying all-day comfort.

See More Stories

More Stories

It's often said archers do it Stories

The Journey For A Longbow Super Slam

Nathan L. Andersohn - July 31, 2018

It's often said archers do it "the hard way," but hunting with a longbow is, by far, the...

If your vacation plans take you to the American Midwest, be sure to visit the St. Charles Museum of Bowhunting, a place where the Beanfield Buck still stands guard Stories

Mel Johnson's Buck Still Stands Guard at Pope and Young Club Museum

Lynn Burkhead - June 15, 2018

If your vacation plans take you to the American Midwest, be sure to visit the St. Charles...

Although there was never any question as to whether my two girls would hunt, my first step was Stories

Who Says Girls Can't Bowhunt?

C. J. Winand - December 14, 2017

Although there was never any question as to whether my two girls would hunt, my first step was

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.