This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: It’s mid-July and it’s time to start doing what we call summer scouting.
GRANT: Bottleneck right here.
GRANT: Kind of a natural bottleneck.
GRANT: Put some boots on the ground.
GRANT: Remember the topo lines we looked at?
GRANT: You know, we’re not scouting for where deer will be necessarily during the summer. We want to go ahead and get ready for that opening day of bow season.
GRANT: When I talk about summer scouting, that doesn’t mean looking for fresh sign. Typically, most bucks will shift to a different portion of their home range between now and when that velvet sheds.
GRANT: This is typically due to needing a different resource. For example, bucks are craving protein right now; probably eating in large food plots. They’re certainly not getting that big protein source in the middle of a closed canopy forest.
GRANT: When that velvet sheds, especially during the pre-rut or rut, they might cruise through here, work a scrape on the edge, but pinch points is the name of the game.
GRANT: Even properties I’m familiar with – if I’ve spent a lot of time walking around, I’m seeing a different view than that aerial or satellite view. This satellite image is of The Proving Grounds, so I know the property pretty well. But, again, even me studying the satellite view with the topo lines allows me to learn even more.
GRANT: Once I get up on the satellite view, I’m using onX to get that and I’ve got the topo lines on. This bottleneck right here; this saddle; you can see a big topo line sweeping in here. Pretty flat right here, especially where we’ve got this food plot. A ridgetop right here; a mountain top. And you can see – well, gosh, the easiest way to go around this or get to this side, or this side is right here.
GRANT: I’m going to scout this small opening. It’s not a food plot. In fact, we call it the blackberry patch. There’s a big group of blackberries right in the center on the south side.
GRANT: The magic to this area – well, it’s not the blackberries that are attracting bucks. There’s no fruit left by the time the pre-rut or rut comes. It’s that it’s right in the middle of a pinch point. If this opening was somewhere else, it would just be another opening in the timber.
GRANT: Now, deer like to use scrapes on the edge of openings, but right in this pinch point, this saddle makes it a very active scrape most years here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: I want to go check it and do some scouting in the area and see, maybe, if there’s a better way to hunt it than I have during past years. I’m going to formulate a strategy so I can do the work now, maybe moving the stand or hanging another stand, so I’ll be ready to go when October comes.
GRANT: A second place I’m going to scout today is close to a large bedding area we call the 50-acre glade. That bedding area is here and you can tell it looks different on the satellite image and that’s because this area is covered by closed canopy forest and what you’re seeing in this fall picture – you see the colors of the trees – is native grasses starting to turn brown. You’re not seeing all the forbs underneath them and the occasional big oak tree out there.
GRANT: That’s because years ago we cut out all the cedars; we’ve used prescribed fire and turned that into a savanna, rich with native grasses and forbs providing great cover and food.
GRANT: I’m going to be scouting in this lower portion of a big block of hardwoods. And right here, there’s a drainage pretty steep that goes down to the creek, comes up and then the topo lines get wider here. You can tell it flattens out.
GRANT: Well, right at the head of that, Daniel has had some great hunts.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Doe down. It’s nine o’clock.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Well, that’s the way it goes on these trails. They’re quick hunts. They come flying through. They know where they’re going and they’re just coming through at a good clip when you can see a lot of deer.
GRANT: The magic to this, what we call hidden bottleneck – it’s not like a field crossing in the Midwest or a narrow stand of timber – is that deer could go through here. But it’s much easier for them to cross right at the top of that drainage.
GRANT: The drainage making that subtle bottleneck, white oaks in the area, food plots here, food plots here, bedding and food here, makes that an obvious travel corridor. Let’s get out in the field and see what we find.
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GRANT: I’m at the area we call blackberry patch. There’s a big, gnarly blackberry patch behind me; got a bunch of saplings growing up in it. And we’re right on the edge of that little, old opening, probably an old logging deck.
GRANT: And right here in these red oaks, I’ve got a couple of Summits hung. And I want to show you why I have them hung here and then do a little scouting.
GRANT: So, come in here and it’s right by this old logging road. And then we go down through here and you almost see a little trail. But, anyway, a little pass through here and this kind of a natural bottleneck, right? Between this tall timber and this big, old blackberry patch and saplings.
GRANT: I’m looking around just seeing if anything’s been browsed on. But, again, I’m not worried about seeing fresh deer sign. I want to check it out, make sure my stand is good; if I need to trim a shooting lane. There are some limbs that have grown out right here. Probably need to trim before bow season. Get in here. You can still see the remnants of a scrape and they’ve used this as what I call a traditional scrape. And it’s three feet around. They’ve used it so many years in a row, it’s dished out a little bit.
GRANT: Of course, I had my Code Blue scent wick there and I’ll start it earlier than normal before the pre-rut. I’ll start it about the starting of deer season and I’ll put some more Code Blue. I use Synthetic Buck Scent.
GRANT: Just about the time the velvet is coming off and bucks start sorting out the hierarchy. And they’ll kind of see who is the king of the mountain.
GRANT: Remember the topo lines we looked at? The high points back there kind of stays right on the edge of this ridge. This is really flat right up here. We’re just a few feet in elevation below the road. They’re not walking down the road. We use that almost daily doing work here at The Proving Grounds. Walking 20 yards right off the road. They’re just out of view. Kind of out of sight, out of mind type thing.
GRANT: Coming through here, kind of see a deer trail run through here. It’s tough to pick up on the leaves. But we get up here and this is subtle sign. You learn to read this subtle sign. Here’s an oak right here that’s been browsed on. Deer will browse on oak saplings.
GRANT: I talked about this deer trail. Well, they’ve come through here enough once spring green up that they kept this little vegetative growth dead right here. You can kind of see, if you look closely it has tried to grow, but there was enough traffic in here, they went right through that area and kept it from growing.
GRANT: Some more browse right here; some more browse in here. You’re starting to see a few stumps up here. That’s because last year we came in here, hung a Summit stand down there and made a shooting lane. So, this is too thick – if we look right over in here – to think about trying to get an arrow 20, maybe 30 yards at the most, through there.
GRANT: But here we’ve got cover. We’ve even got a couple yard wide window which is perfect. Deer are very comfortable. I mean, cover, a couple yards, cover. Very comfortable. Easing right through there. Got a shooting lane. Good chance we may put a stand back there this fall.
GRANT: This isn’t that many yards off the road. But I’m not lazy. None of the GrowingDeer Team is. But we can approach, hunt and exit without alerting deer very easy. And we can approach from multiple wind directions.
GRANT: So, if we’ve got a northwest, west, southwest wind, we can come from the east on this internal road. On those rare east wind days, we can come from the west.
GRANT: Now, one more thing I want to talk about. And we talk a lot about thermals. When I’m scouting this area, there’s a really deep ravine over here. We’re kind of circling back around and right here starts a ravine.
GRANT: So, you’re probably wondering, “Why two stands so close? You had some Summits there and some right here. And these stands, you can’t even see the scrape.”
GRANT: Well, in the fall when the leaves are off a little bit, we can certainly see deer moving through there. We may not see ’em clearly. Probably couldn’t shoot it. But we could tell, if we’re watching, a deer moving through there, even working the scrape.
GRANT: But oftentimes, in the morning, nice, cold. late October, early November morning, it’s gonna be cold. The thermals are going to override all but the strongest winds and cold air – in the morning cold air is heavy – and it’s going to sink down the path of least resistance. Just like water, it’s going to go right down this ravine.
GRANT: So, a mature buck – he can cruise in this cover. Remember, they’re just a few yards off the road. He can cruise right here ten yards below that scrape. Scent check it to see if there’s anything there that interests him; keep on going to the next scrape.
GRANT: So, that’s why our stand was right below the head of this ravine.
GRANT: Right off the bat, I’ll share this has been a biological desert for the past few years. The ground was just covered with leaf litter. And you see a fair amount of stuff growing here and a lot of browse as we walked in.
GRANT: That’s because we used prescribed fire to remove that leaf litter this spring before the canopy had formed. And let some sunlight get down just for a while and got a bunch of growth which caused deer to have some more food in this area.
GRANT: We’ve got a stand right here. We’ve got a couple of Summits hung up here. And Daniel has had some great observations here. I’ve hunted here; had does come by. I’ve seen a bunch of deer here and the reason is really simple.
GRANT: I mean, we’re in the middle of a pretty large area of mature hardwoods. Tough to pattern deer in that type of habitat. But right over here starts a pretty deep ravine. Now, I could walk through there. Deer can walk through there. But deer are lazy like I am. Older deer got a potbelly like I do. And they want the path of least resistance.
GRANT: So, we come right up here. And you can see, the ravine was, I don’t know, five-foot-deep right down there. And we get up here, especially right up here, and it’s maybe a foot deep. Big white oak over there. Some big white oaks right back here.
GRANT: I’m 20 yards from the stand and this is right where the deer cross. So, it’s just a great what we call hidden or blind bottleneck in the timber. And that ravine is the secret.
GRANT: Now there’s some food plots that way a few hundred yards. Bedding area over here a couple hundred yards maybe. And then a food plot past that. A lot going on in the area. You might ask, “Why aren’t your stands right there?” Because here we have a pinch point with an easy 20-yard shot.
GRANT: To effectively hunt this stand requires a cooler morning – only mornings, we don’t hunt here in the afternoons – and a north, northwest wind. Cooler or cold. Colder the better because thermals are going to come down the mountain. That’s uphill. It gets pretty steep up there about 100 yards. Remember, cold air is heavy; it sinks and it’s going to rush right down this ravine.
GRANT: So, north and south wind, we can walk into the stand, hunt and exit without alerting most deer. And I say most deer because, again, this ditch is, certainly deer can go through it. And I’ve seen some young bucks – a few while I’ve hunted here – cross that ditch and keep on going.
GRANT: But I’m going to say 90% of the deer any of us have seen out of that stand cross right here. It’s really tough to have a stand that’s 100% just bomb proof – deer can never get behind you – especially when hunting big blocks of timber. But by doing some scouting, you can put the odds in your favor.
GRANT: Another reason this is a bottleneck – there’s an old cattle fence. Now I can cross it. Deer could certainly cross it. It’s probably down in a place or two. But it comes right through here. This is long before Tracy and I purchased the property. This wire is old. But it’s low, low right in here and down right up there. Deer cross right here really easy.
GRANT: So, we’ve got a pinch point coming down the mountain and a pinch point coming up the mountain. Within about 40 yards makes a really nice pinch point for deer to go through.
GRANT: This is a perfect reason to get out, put some boots on the ground, spend some time during the summer where you’re going to be hunting that fall because, obviously, this won’t show up on a map.
GRANT: Now a super-keen observer might be able to pick up the bigger trees right in this line. And that’s because the fence has been here that long.
GRANT: When we look at this, look how deep, almost in the center, this fence is on this tree. Almost in the center. Slightly off center. So, this fence was nailed to this tree when it was a sapling; about that big off center – a sapling, a young tree.
GRANT: And this tree is old. So, that fence has been there a long time. I haven’t disturbed it. Deer have obviously learned to cross right here. And that just means they’re conditioned for years. They’ve learned from the doe to cross right here.
GRANT: These two structures, if you will, the ravine and this fence make a great pinch point. Now you may hunt somewhere you just can’t find a pinch point either by studying the onX map or putting a lot of miles on your boots. And that happens.
GRANT: Sometimes the slopes are just like this. There’s no ravine in ‘em, or flat land, or the timber is all homogenous, whatever it is. But you can create pinch points. I learned this years ago out in Kansas.
GRANT: I was working on a property and there was a big, ole, long, round bale of hay. So, for me to get to where I was going, I had to go around that end of the round bale of hay. Now, I could have crawled over it or done something, but it was just so much easier to go around that round bale of hay. And I looked down and there’s a massive deer trail right there. I mean, massive – at both ends. There was, you know, a bunch of bales of hay some farmer had stacked up there – at both ends.
GRANT: Well, you can create the same thing pretty easy. You could move some round bales of hay where you hunt, maybe get some old ones a farmer is not using, or some type of, like black screening or something. It doesn’t have to be all that tall.
GRANT: Just like the round bale of hay, if deer can’t see the other side, they don’t like jumping over it. I’m sure they would if a pack of dogs or coyotes or something was chasing them. But their normal day to day activity – they’re not jumping where they can’t see the other side.
GRANT: So, boy, if you had some black cloth or something like that going through here and had it five feet tall where deer could not see over it easily, I’m sure some deer would cross it. Maybe you put it up through there a hundred yards or something like that, but wherever it stops, there’s probably going to be a bunch of deer circling around the end.
GRANT: I hope some of this information motivates you to get outside in Creation and enjoy it more while you’re there. But most importantly, I hope you’re motivated to spend time every day being quiet and listening to what the Creator says to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.