Still Hunting Bedding Areas

May 24th, 2010 / Posted by David
Still Hunting Bedding Areas

by Bill Vaznis
It is often considered a sin. Indeed there seems to be a taboo today against poking around a buck’s preferred bedding area. Sure you can scout the fringes and even pussy foot along known exit and entrance trails, but conventional wisdom tells us that if we get too close too often “our” buck will find another secure place to bed. And that means we will have to spend precious time during the hunting season relocating him and then relearning his general habits.

However, entering a buck or a doe’s bedding area can still get you a crack at a racked buck if you play your cards right. You just have to think about it a bit, and then time your entry. You see, it is not IF you should sneak into a deer’s bedroom–but WHEN. Let me explain.

By late summer a buck often has several bedding options open to him. His choice to bed in the planted pine plantation on the side hill on any given day may depend for example on wind direction, food supply or the absence of the neighbor’s barking dog. He may bed there two or three days in a row, and then bed down by the creek to get out of the wind for a couple of days before taking refuge in the uncut corn lot. You put a full court press on him early in the season, and he will definitely abandon any one of these bedding areas until he is sure it is safe for him to return.

However once the rut kicks in, he will abandon each of these sites for progressively longer periods of time, whether he feels safe there or not, to search for estrous does. And when he hooks up with a hot doe he will stay with her for a day or two, feeding where she feeds and bedding where she beds until she is ready to be bred. Then he will strike out in search of another willing female.

You have a window then of seven to 10 days before breeding actually takes place to sneak in and around a buck’s bedding area with relative impunity. And if you have not yet had a shot at him, or can pin-point his pre- rut travel entrance/exit routes through scrape lines and rub lines, then maybe this is the time you put conventional wisdom aside.

I was thrilled the first time I caught a trophy buck bedded down. He was indeed safe, but alert and ready to spring at the first hint of danger. I watched in awe until the buck casually looked over in my direction, did a double take (I was kneeling getting ready to shoot less than 30 yards away), and then disappeared over a nearby knoll snorting loud enough to wake the spirits!

Bucks like to bed down in heavy cover - often you'll find them sleeping right on the border of heavy cover and an escape route. Photo By Bill Vaznis

Since then I have managed to arrow a couple of racked deer in their beds, and in fact every season seem to catch a buck or two bedded down on the edge of the thick stuff. Here are a few tips to consider the next time you get the inkling to sneak into a bedding area.

Pick a day when the weather is in your favor. A blustery morning for example will quickly disperse your airborne scent to the four winds, and help mask any unwanted noise. During or soon after a soaking rain however is my favorite because it reduces to near zero the likelihood I’ll snap any dry twigs.
Know how a buck beds. A single buck for example generally prefers to bed on the highest ridges facing downhill with the wind to his back. Nearby escape cover in the form of uneven terrain or thick brush is almost always present. This scenario allows him to see danger from below, smell danger from behind, and hear any approach through the thick stuff. All it takes is one leap, and he is gone.
Thus, you do not want to approach a suspected bedding area from below or anywhere where visibility is good. As for the wind, sneaking CROSSWIND along the edges of ravines, hollows and thick cover will offer you your best chances of blind-siding a resting buck.

The buck I mentioned above for example was bedded on the edge of a mountain laurel thicket where a quiet approach from behind was nearly impossible. The wind was to his back, and he could see downhill quite a ways. I caught him resting by keeping the wind to one side of my face.

Learn to look for a bedded buck, not one standing behind a blow down! They are much more difficult to see in this position, but one feature always stands out—the rack! A buck will turn his head at the slightest noise, and it is his set of antlers that you will initially see moving around especially if it is white or contrasts sharply with nearby cover.
Although a mature buck usually beds alone, he may have company. If you spot a bedded buck, this other set of eyes my foil any further approach.

Finally, once you see bucks up and about during the middle of the day, invading a doe’s preferred bedding site is a good strategy to consider. However, if you want to catch a love-sick buck in his bed, one that is throwing caution to the wind, try still-hunting those high places down wind of the doe’s bedding area. This is where a resting buck can use his nose AND his eyes in his search for a doe in heat! I once caught seven or eight bucks in such an area already with a hot doe, and arrowed a 180-pound eight pointer right where he lay!

Check out this cool video of a big buck bedded down.

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