September 09, 2015
By Tony J. Peterson
When we think of funnels and pinch-points for hunting whitetails, we immediately conjure up images of swollen-necked bucks cruising during November mornings.
There is no doubt that terrain features can certainly nudge deer one way or another during the rut, and that they can be prime spots to sit. However, many of the best funnels and pinch points can produce throughout the entire season, not just in November.
You just need to be able to identify them and then set up a stand or blind to take advantage of prevailing winds.
The following are five types of funnels and pinch-points that can consistently produce from opening bell to the season's close.
The Hillside Washout
Agriculture dominates the Midwest, which is one of the main reasons why there are so many gagger bucks living there.
This crop production is also responsible for creating killer pinch-points on hillsides.
Since most of the best land (i.e. flat land) has been cleared and plowed under, marginal property like tough-to-farm hillside are more likely to still be wooded and contain cover.
Those same hillsides, which terminate on the top at field edges, are also be prone to washouts. Locate where such washouts touch a field edge, and you'll likely find deer sign
If you have at least one hillside on your property, walk its length. There is probably a depression where rain and spring runoff collects and has scoured the ground away to rock, creating a perpendicular mini-gully straight down the hillside.
If you find it, walk to the top of the hill and take a close look.
Almost without question there will be a deer trail there, or a spot where several trails converge into one.
This is simply because the deer would much rather cross at an easy spot, than descend and ascend the steeper sides of the washout farther down the hill.
This is an ideal location for a treestand that will produce sightings and encounters throughout the entire season.
The Outcropping Option
I once set a stand on a hillside in northeastern Iowa that was within 100 yards of a huge, rocky outcropping.
What I didn't realize was that the exposed chunk of limestone forced deer to move down distinct corridors, much the same way a boulder in a stream forces water to flow around it.
For a few days I watched deer go high or low around the outcropping and realized that it was a no-brainer stand site.
I told a good friend who hunts the same farm about my observations and he went in and hung that stand.
The first sit was during a light rainstorm and he didn't realize it until it was too late, but a 140-inch, eight-pointer walked right beneath him.
It's now one of his go-to stands throughout the entire season, and a place I look forward to sitting every three to four years when I draw a tag.
It doesn't take a Mount Rushmore chunk of stone to get deer to divert their path, just enough to make a new route easier.
This is macro-level funnel finding, and it can payoff huge during the season.
The Wetland Figure-Eight
Deer don't mind getting muddy and mucky as much as we do, but they still prefer easier routes through wetlands.
This goes for swamps as well as cattail sloughs, both of which can be found in prime whitetail habitat throughout the Midwest.
To find the spot whitetails are most likely to cross on any given wetland, take a look at aerial photos.
Keep your eyes peeled for either a figure-eight-looking feature of the wetland, or an actual highland ridge through a swamp.
Either will represent the easiest route from one side to the other.
If you go in to scout it out on foot, you're very likely to find a pounded deer trail.
Better yet is the fact that playing the wind on these swampy crossings is quite doable. If you set up correctly your scent will blow out over a mucky, uninviting mess and not spook incoming deer.
Against The Flow
Creek and river crossings are my favorite stand sites for hunting every month of the season.
This goes for every state I've ever hunted on both public and private land.
Shallow rapids in an otherwise deep river, or just the right run after a deep pool in a creek can entice deer to cross precisely there.
Nothing is easier than finding quality crossings that are cut out of the banks of a creek or river, and very few spots in the whitetail world will produce such consistent action.
Add in the bonus that whitetails need to drink every day, and it gets even better.
If you're hunting next to a truly large river that is too big for the deer to cross on a whim, then look for the next best thing.
Many Midwestern rivers are bordered by bluffs, that terminate right next to the riverbank.
Often, there is no better pinch point than a ridge that extends right near the water's edge. This often divides mini-basins that sit in the river valley well below the bluffs.
Deer love traveling along rivers, and if they don't want to get wet, they'll go through these spots where descending ridges force their movements along the banks.
The Cropland Crimp
If you hunt in ag-heavy areas, you'd be wise to look over your hunting grounds via aerial photos for a spot where two fields are separated by a thin strip of cover.
Bucks, especially mature bucks outside of the rut, will use whatever cover is available to go from point A to B.
This is especially true as fields are harvested and standing crops disappear.
Since the big boys will have fewer options to stay hidden, any strip of cover that hides their travels get used.
Even better than finding the thin strip of field-separating cover, is finding that same sliver of timber or brush that connects two woodlots.
This is the holy grail of farmland funnels simply because it can be ideal for early season, late-season, and that time in-between when the bucks are progressing through all stages of the rut.
Few stand sites can compete with this setup when it comes to season-long deer sightings and close-up shot opportunities.
So, forget the mindset that you should only hunt funnels during the rut.
Any terrain feature that forces the deer to travel a certain way will influence all deer at all times of the season, not just when it's November 7th and the chase is on.
For those stands with the most consistent season-long action, funnels are the key.