Whitetail Properties Land Specialist Ben Harshyne reflects on a good decision to hunt a terrain funnel that he discovered using maps. Photo by Jared Mills.
The primary needs for a whitetail: food, water, shelter, and communication - often come together in places that are commonly referred to as funnels. Funnels are also known as transition areas, travel corridors, bottlenecks, and pinch points.
By using maps and applying real-world experience through scouting, you can pinpoint these funnels by identifying the following terrain.
Edge Habitat is a change in land composition. On the map, circle areas where you can see both obvious and subtle differences in vegetation type, color, or density. A great example of this is along a brushy farmland fenceline.
Use maps to identify areas of edge habitat; where hard or soft lines are created by a change in vegetation. Photo by Austin Thomas.
Other hot areas of edge habitat include field corners, timber clear-cuts, CRP buffer strips, ditches, creek bottoms, swamp islands, thickets, cropland waterways, and secluded farm ponds. Time in the stand hunting edge habitat will produce frequent encounters of deer movement because browse can be prevalent, escapes routes are available, and scent is more saturated. You will often find scrape lines along a hard edge. Make sure to look for overhanging tree branches or timber corners that make a point.
A mature buck works the hard edge of a CRP field and timbered fenceline as he searches for a doe in estrus. Photo by Austin Thomas.
On the map, study how the topography lines get close together (steeper) and further apart (flatter) in certain areas. Soon you will be able to visualize the lay of the land and anticipate good areas to either scout or hunt.
A quality map like this one from HUNTERRA makes it easy to understand topography, and is essential for identifying terrain features that deer prefer to use.
A few prime examples include marsh hills, flats that lead to creeks, ditch heads that straddle crop field saddles, hardwood ridge points, hillside benches, pasture spurs, and wooded draws. When you find topography changes, note ideal wind and access. Whether its private or public land, this exercise will position you in some of the best funnels for whitetail movement. Harshyne is on stand at a confluence of where the edge of a young thicket meets the mouth of a deep draw. The buck above was taken from this stand. Photo by Austin Thomas.
You’ll find “holy grails” at the confluence of both edge and change in topography. One November afternoon, the map put me at the mouth of a north/south draw that led into an east/west creek bottom. Within 15 minutes from hanging my stand, a magnum nine-point skirted the edge of the young pin-oak thicket. Confidence-fueled luck allowed me to hit the 12-ring at 7 steps, and he faded 70 yards later. The heavyweight tipped the scale at 248 lbs. He’s a daily reminder of the benefits of the textbook funnel.