8 Ways To Find Killer Deer Hunting Funnels

Aerial land views. Prevailing winds. Steep ridges and hill-country benches. Insight into all of these funnel-finding clues can be found in your HuntStand app.

by Bob Humphrey


Aerial land views. Prevailing winds. Steep ridges and hill-country benches. Insight into all of these funnel-finding clues can be found in your HuntStand app. FunnelsOne 900

I’m probably dating myself by merely mentioning his name, but years ago I approached legendary bowhunter Myles Keller at a sportsman’s expo in Maine. At the time I was still a relative greenhorn and he was considered one of the most-accomplished whitetail bowhunters in the nation. Keller was giving a seminar on hunting big bucks, but being from the upper midwest, much of the information he shared was not directly applicable to us northern New Englanders.

I asked how he would go about scouting the big woods in a state like Maine. He scratched his head and thought for a moment. “Hmmm,” he began. “This has got to be just about the most difficult place in the country to be a deer hunter.” Then, after another pause he continued, “The best you can do is look for funnels, however subtle. Try to find places where terrain or habitat would make deer want to go one way rather than another.” I have since adopted that as a basic tenet of my scouting routine.

Dissect The Habitat. There are different types of funnels so let’s start with the low-hanging fruit first—habitat. This is where folks like Myles Keller and anyone else who hunts the more-open habitat of the midwest or west has a decided advantage. Deer tend to avoid open areas during daylight hours, preferring to stick to thick cover.

FunnelsFour 900You can find funnels by walking around but they show up much better from an aerial view. Open your HuntStand app and its ScoutMap feature and look for places where a dark green ribbon of trees runs through a patchwork of light green (fields and pastures) or tan (agricultural areas). A great example is the image above. This will narrow down your search considerably. If you can combine this type of terrain with other features, like water, scouting potential stand sites gets even easier; and these types of travel routes often coincide with river or stream corridors.

FunnelsSix 900Now we’re going to add one more variable: wind. Drop a pin on your ScoutMap somewhere you think might be a prospective ambush spot, and look at the ScentCone and prevailing wind direction. Those corridors aren’t straight. They twist and turn like a snake. Find a place along that corridor where the deer will have to compromise—where they won’t be able to use the wind to their advantage—and you’ve got a killer funnel.

FunnelsFive 900Those of us who hunt the big woods can still use the same philosophy. We just have to hunt a little harder to find our hunting spots. We don’t have agriculture but we do have logging, which creates openings that deer will travel less in, but may also bed in. A great example of a typical logging operation is shown in the image above. Depending on the shape of a cut-over area there will be at least four corners, and deer will tend to travel around the outside corners. Find the one where prevailing winds offer the greatest advantage and you have your funnel.

Aerial Views Show The Way. Bowhunters, especially, are taking some really nice bucks from fairly developed/more-urban areas. In these areas you face a whole different set of challenges, the biggest being access. But before you go knocking on doors do your homework. Go back to your ScoutMap and look for areas where narrow ribbons of green wind through blacktop and back yards. With a couple clicks of the mouse you can switch to the Land Use imagery—and the picture becomes even clearer. Here again, anywhere along that route might work, but the ScentCone feature will help you highlight the better spots.

FunnelsTwo 900How Topography Can Tell The Tale. With fewer open areas and relatively homogenous forest habitat where I live, I’ve come to rely more on topographical features to find funnels. In the old days I never went afield, whether scouting or hunting, without a U.S.G.S. topo map in my pocket. Today I have the same information—contour intervals—on the HuntStand app in my smartphone. Those subtle white lines superimposed on the maps and photos can be extremely useful in finding funnels. I’ve been using topographical features to find funnels for longer than I care to remember. I took the buck pictured above in a spot where a relatively shallow slope created a very subtle bench, just enough to nudge deer into a narrower corridor.

Deer wage a constant battle for survival so any way they can conserve energy is beneficial. That’s why when undisturbed, they tend to follow the path of least resistance. I won’t belabor you with how to read topo lines as most folks (should) already know. Suffice to say the closer together the lines, the steeper the terrain.

Mountainous terrain provides ample opportunity for exploiting funnels, as steep ridges funnel deer movement into narrow areas such as finger ridges. Rather than travel down one sideslope then up the other to cross a deep draw, deer will more often travel along the sideslope until they reach the head (the “V”) of the draw, which makes for a prime funnel. The same is true for ridge points. Deer will often travel around the point of a ridge rather than climbing up and over.  Obviously, the steeper the terrain, the more effective the funnel. Saddles or low areas between peaks are also great spots to place a stand because they provide an easier route for deer.

FunnelsThree 900On bigger ridges or mountains 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 sideslope trails funneling through them. And again, the more info you can add, like changes in habitat or human features like roads, human habitation, agricultural fields or cut-overs, the more you can refine your funnel finding. Remember: even the juiciest looking funnels may not pay off, so don’t be afraid to supplement your scouting efforts with Trail Camera logs and ScoutMarx (see image above) to see which potential funnels are actually getting the most use.

Every situation is unique but the above examples should at least get you thinking about how you might apply this information to your own neck of the woods. Deer spend the majority of their day in bed and only move around during a very narrow funnel of daylight hours. If you want to be more successful you need to find the geographical funnels they use during that critical window.



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