5 Proven Ways To More Ridge-Running Whitetails

Mature whitetails travel their territory with finely honed senses. The HuntStand Hunting app helps predict when and where it will happen.

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

Mature whitetails travel their territory with finely honed senses. The HuntStand Hunting app helps predict when and where it will happen.

// presented by Moultrie //

What’s so difficult about bowhunting whitetails in steep, hilly country full of ridges, ravines, benches and draws? Plenty, but if a top-end buck is your goal, the top-three bugaboos are clear: The wind, nasty side breezes, and swirling downdrafts. Redundant you say? Absolutely.

Overcoming the wind and its many, deer-alerting variations is Job One in hill country. A big part of that puzzle revolves around understanding how the terrain affects the movement of the wind, and its resulting affect on deer movement.  The good news? Both are predictable, and your best defense begins with the HuntStand app.

Sheltered Means Trouble. When fishermen encounter dangerously rough waters on inland lakes, one time-honored response is to look for sheltered bays and the lee sides of wind-breaking islands. Bowhunters facing similar conditions need to do the exact opposite. Setting your stand in hill-country areas protected from direct wind blasts (pretty much any low spots including deep ravines and dry creekbeds) invites unpredictable, swirling, game-alerting winds: Trouble with a capital “T.” Beware of plentiful, low-hanging sign in these protected areas that is ready and raring to skew your better judgment; just don’t do it.P024-256-256-256-17f006A Few Good Answers. So what’s the answer to the puzzle? The best might be hunting near ridgetops (the top third is best) where wind currents are unbroken and consistent.  To find these ridgetops/high points quickly and easily in your chosen hunting tract, use the handy “Terrain” layer in your HuntStand  app.

Another (though more risky) option is hanging in wide draws where swirling winds are reduced. Wherever you are, and we’ll assume it’s a prime spot for several good reasons, be prepared to bail when your HuntStand app forecasts even a slight change in wind direction. The reason? You may get only one killer opportunity at a mature buck—and rarely, will that opportunity come at a site where you previously heard one snort its disapproval at your presence.RidgeRunner6 900Don’t Forget Ditches. Steep-slope country breeds plenty of big bucks, but also lots of runoff and erosion, which typically creates some nasty, (i.e. downright impenetrable), erosion ditches. Many of these not only look horrific to bowhunters, but to deer as well. And that signals a prime stand location. Because of all the nastiness, you’ll likely find traveling deer funneling around the top or bottom ditch edges. If you’ve been paying attention you know the unpredictable bottom edge is a definite stand site no-no. That means your go-to stand site sits very near the ditchtop edge, covering the best crossing trail you can find—especially if the ditch doesn’t reach all the way to the ridgetop. If these two locales are indeed separate, whenever possible, hedge your bets by setting up where you can shoot both the preferred ditchtop crossing, as well as the ridgetop. Both are solid funnel areas. Hunt your ditch stand only if HuntStand shows the wind will be blowing toward it from the ridgetop—your scent will blow harmlessly over the heads of approaching deer.  Remember to be patient; if the ditch is nasty enough, you’ve found one of the best rut funnels in all of hill country.1837:102517:41F:CAMERA1 :2Ridgetop Crossings. Many ridgetops will feature lots of the same type of terrain—just one example is a long stretch of relatively open hardwoods. Other ridges may be similar, but may also include a narrow strip or two of thick cover that crosses over the ridge, connecting the two sides. These are the ridges that beg for a ridgetop ambush. These narrow strips of “crossover” cover—maybe an ancient overgrown, brushy fenceline—are near-ideal travel corridors, connecting traveling bucks interested in remaining concealed while scent-checking both sides of the ridge for hot does. As evidence of their popularity, you’ll almost assuredly find beaten deer trails on each side of the narrow strip cover. The key to a killer stand site here is a little less obvious. In a nutshell, it’s time once again to hedge your bets; start by following the ridge-crossing cover over to the prevailing, down-wind side of the ridge, until you meet the first prominent side-hill trail. Then pick a tree that allows you to cover all three trails: the two on either side of the ridge crossing, and the side hill trail.Ridgerunner2 900Bet On Benches. HuntStand allows your scouting of potential hunt areas and stand sites to begin from home, where you’ll likely make regular use of the Satellite and Terrain layers in your HuntStand app. On larger ridges or steep hillsides you’ll sometimes see wide, flat areas or benches along the sideslopes. Whitetails love to travel and bed on these benches and you’ll often see beaten trails funneling through them. If a good-looking bench is high enough to allow prevailing winds to blow consistently true, you might have found a killer ambush site. Only on-site, boots-on-the-ground scouting, or help from one or three well-placed game cameras, can determine if deer are using a particular bench regularly. But during the rut, local bucks might still cruise certain benches if they help connect areas of high doe concentrations. Here’s where you can hedge your bets, again with help from HuntStand, by studying the concentrations of sign you’ve logged into your app. If a good-looking bench is situated, say, more or less between heavy concentrations of sign that you’ve previously marked, come the rut it likely will not matter if the bench in question holds a bunch of sign. Rutty traveling bucks, or the one good mature specimen you might be seeking, might still use it regularly during those magical few weeks.

Are you ready for the ridge country whitetail challenge? If finding one or more of these hill-country hot spots doesn’t get your heart pumping for the rut, it might be time to find yourself a new obsession. And if it all comes together, don’t forget to let us know, with your entry into our 2018 Big Buck ALERT contest. We’d love to help you celebrate some hard-won hill-country success.



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