Find Your Next Big-Buck Hotspot This Spring With HuntStand

Savvy deer hunters are always on the lookout for promising new properties. Here’s how to use HuntStand to narrow your focus—and find your next honey hole.

by Josh Honeycutt

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Josh

Savvy deer hunters are always on the lookout for promising new properties. Here’s how to use HuntStand to narrow your focus—and find your next honey hole.

Technology has changed the way we scout for whitetails, and in most ways, it’s for the better. At the top of the list is the invention of apps, a group led by the many-featured HuntStand app. Due to this amazing tool, and the many benefits it provides, we can identify potential hotspots for hunting success before we ever see or walk a new tract, whether it be public ground or private. This makes us more efficient, saves a whole lot of time, and helps pinpoint good spots that we might otherwise miss out on.BaseLayers 900The Power Of Multiple Map Layers. Right now is a great time of the year to seek out new hunting areas/properties to add to your personal quiver, research that will increase your odds for success this fall. When considering multiple properties, it helps to be able to analyze them based on their terrain features. This can help determine which ones to spend more time on, what time of the season certain areas might peak, and more.

All things considered, unless given reason to do otherwise, it’s best to give preference to those tracts that show the most potential hotspots or hunt-friendly features (as outlined below). The only reasons I’d opt to spend more time on a property with less hotspots is if I have solid knowledge that an abnormally large deer calls it home, I have a surefire pattern on a specific target buck, or I have some emotional tie to the land.

BuckHotspots17 900However, I fully realize other hunters might have different priorities. If you’re the type of hunter who really enjoys, say, hunting hill-country benches—or maybe it’s deer-funneling ridge hubs—then choosing between a few different properties can be as easy as locating a few more of these very specific, confidence-infusing features that attracts you to one of them. Hey, there’s all kinds of ways to experience fun and productive hunting trips, and the more you can learn almost instantly about a certain property, the more focused and efficient your scouting becomes.

As such, HuntStand is famous for instantly putting detailed property info in the palms of people’s hands. Being able to observe property lines, general info, and even to identify public ground in mere seconds, with merely a thumb, is incredible.BuckHotspots1 900Still, the biggest scouting advantages are found within HuntStand’s many available map layers. When e-scouting, the specific terrain and topography features you search for will fall into various categories. What category a given hotspot belongs to will determine what map layers are best for locating it. Read on to learn what those are.

Aerial-Based Hotspots: Find them using HuntStand’s Hybrid, Satellite, Satellite vivid, and 3D layers.

Topography-Based Hotspots: Find them using HuntStand’s Contour, Terrain, Topo and 3D layers.

Water-Based Hotspots: Find them using HuntStand’s Contour, Outdoors and Topo layers.

Now it’s time to drill down farther. What follows is a detailed list of very specific terrain features I’m always on the lookout for when evaluating a new property:BuckHotspots10 900Leeward Ridges. By definition, a leeward ridge is the downwind side of a ridge line. Deer often bed and travel along these due to the winding advantages they offer. The prevailing wind blows over the top, while rising thermals often carry scent up from below. Here, a deer can smell intruders approaching from at least two different directions, with the additional advantage of occupying high ground while doing so.

   A. What To Look For: Tighter topo lines signify steeper terrain. Once you find the highest elevation, finding the downwind-side ridge is as easy as knowing which way the wind is blowing.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Terrain, Topo, 3D, Contour or Hybrid.

Ridge Endings. More great bedding areas for deer are ridge endings, especially when the wind is blowing down the spine of the ridge, carrying scent to the bedded deer. These spots are also great because they offer escape routes in multiple directions, regardless of where the predator comes from.

   A. What to Look for: A ridge ending is best visualized as the topo line that forms a sharp U shape at a high elevation. Look for those with tighter spacing between lines, rather than those more spaced out (which signify gentler slopes).

   B. Best Detection Layers: Terrain, Topo, 3D, Contour or Hybrid.HuntStand3D 900Outcroppings and Overhangs. Deer like plenty of back cover, and as long as escape routes are present, deer will sometimes bed beneath outcroppings and overhangs. While these are harder to see than most terrain features, sometimes they are visible, especially with HuntStand’s Terrain and 3D (see image above) layers.

   A. What to Look for: Sometimes, if large enough, you can see the rock face.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Terrain, Topo, 3D, Contour or Hybrid.BuckHotspots9 900Benches. One of the best places to intercept traveling deer is along a hillside bench. Generally, benches found along the top half of hillsides are best, but those at lower elevations can work, too.

   A. What to Look for: Benches are best visualized via a topo map (see image above), and will be represented by either fatter lines, or a wider spacing between two topo lines and series of tightly-spaced topo lines on each side of the wider space (or bench). Make sure this is located on a hillside, though, because this illustration can also depict the top of a ridge line, too.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Terrain, Topo, 3D, Contour or Hybrid.BuckHotspots13 900Saddles. There are few better stand locations for the rut than a well-used saddle. These are cuts or gateways in long ridges that allow deer to cross through without spending the extra energy to go up and over. Deer often take the path of least resistance, and these are definitely that.

   A. What to Look for: On a topo map, a saddle will often form a loose figure 8 shape, with two bullseyes (hilltop peaks) on each side. At the saddle, the vertex of two U shapes will meet without touching, but there will be a small space between, effectively forming a saddle.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Terrain, Topo, 3D, Contour or Hybrid.

Ridge Hubs. Timbered hill country sometimes creates areas where multiple ridges taper down into the same general spot. This also means numerous valleys meet at a central location, too. When this happens, it creates a deer-funneling hub. Here, wind directions are unpredictable and swirly. Big bucks like that sort of thing.

   A. What to Look for: Visualize the ridges you’ll be looking for as spokes on a wheel, with each of them extending downward toward the desired “hub” at the lowest elevation in that precise location.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Terrain, Topo, 3D, Contour or Hybrid.BuckHotspots11 900Water Seeps. Big woods and hill country might seem void of water sources, but they aren’t. Seeps (see above) are common in varying topography, and deer find and use these regularly, so they never have to leave cover to drink water out in the open.

   A. What to Look for: These might appear as small ponds, but are easiest to spot when aerial maps are in wintertime mode (no foliage).

   B. Best Detection Layers: Topo, Contour or Outdoors.

Drainage Ditches. Areas that offer little timber still have plenty of places for deer to hide. Throughout much of open country, this comes in the way of drainage ditches. As long as there is some dry ground along the banks, deer can bed down and remain out of sight.

   A. What to Look for: These are easiest to spot as long thin lines of vegetation that are taller than the surrounding fields. Also, use a layer that shows waterways.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Topo, Contour, Outdoors, Satellite, Satellite vivid, or Hybrid. BuckHotspots16 900Waterway Oxbows. Deer bed in places that offer survival advantages. Few places are better at that than oxbows. These areas typically hold dense vegetation fueled by the adjacent waterway, and provide seeing, hearing and winding advantages. When the wind is blowing from land up into an oxbow, you can bet deer will be there.

   A. What to Look for: These are locations where meandering rivers, streams and creeks form a “tight U” shape. Deer like to bed within that shape.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Topo, Contour, Outdoors, Satellite, Satellite vivid, or Hybrid.BuckHotspots15 900Isolated Islands/Pockets. Swamps and marshes are good at creating small islands of dry land. Few predators can wade through water and make it to the dry land without alerting bedded deer to their presence. Because these areas serve as small fortresses, deer flock to them.

   A. What to Look for: Small islands of higher land surrounded by water/marsh/swamp.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Topo, Contour, Outdoors, Satellite, Satellite vivid, or Hybrid.WhereBucks2 900Small Woodlots. Agricultural country is king of open terrain. Large fields—which are usually grain—separate small woodlots. Unless livestock or humans inhabit these, deer usually call them home.

   A. What to Look for: Small islands of cover surrounded by fields.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Satellite, Satellite vivid, Hybrid or 3D.

Large Brush Piles. Believe it or not, deer commonly live in brush piles. As long as they are large enough to conceal deer, and have a couple of escape routes, bucks will bed in these.

   A. What to Look for: Small pockets of thick brush surrounded by fields or timber.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Satellite, Satellite vivid, Hybrid or 3D.Lingo3 900Thick Early-Successional Growth. Also known as thickets, brushy low-level growth is king of deer bedding. Any place that has a high-stem count and a limited range of visibility should harbor deer. Don’t overlook these spots; they can be productive during all phases of hunting season, but especially during the rut when bucks will be cruising through looking for does.

   A. What to Look for: Locate areas that look much different than the bushy treetops of mature timber.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Satellite, Satellite vivid, Hybrid or 3D.

Clear Cuts. An area of mature timber that’s recently been reduced to stumps and brush will attract deer. If only a few months to a year old, the opened canopy will produce regeneration, which supplies both bedding cover and food sources.

   A. What to Look for: You’ll see horizontal logs, limbs and debris.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Satellite, Satellite vivid, Hybrid or 3D.BuckHotspots3 900Inside Field Corners. While deer trails do emerge into open fields from practically anywhere along their borders, a higher percentage of them lead out to inside field corners (when present on a property). Perhaps deer feel more secure here.

   A. What to Look for: The field edge will form an L shape with timber on two sides.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Satellite, Satellite vivid, Hybrid or 3D.

Potential Staging Areas. Every staging area will look different, but all of them serve the same purpose. Here, beginning during the late afternoon/early evening, deer will often feed and meander until darkness blankets the landscape. Usually, you’ll find these areas between bedding areas and major food sources.

   A. What to Look for:These always look different, but are commonly small food plots, small forest openings, thick cover, or other confined food sources close to bedding areas.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Satellite, Satellite vivid, Hybrid or 3D.BuckHotspots12 900Overlooked Roadside Wonders. Never hunted that pocket of deer habitat close to the road, house or other semi-developed area? Perhaps you should. Deer know where people don’t hunt, regardless of what it might look like. If it’s habitat, deer can live there.

   A. What to Look for: Areas deer might inhabit close to civilization. Sometimes a hunch is all you need as you scan through areas in your HuntStand app.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Satellite, Satellite vivid, Hybrid or 3D.6thSense4 900Traditional Edges. Edge habitat offers two of the things a deer needs to thrive—cover and food. That’s why deer tracks, trails, rub lines, scrapes and other deer sign is commonly found in such places.

   A. What to Look for: These locations are recognizable by change in color on aerial maps. The dividing line is the deer-attracting “edge.”

   B. Best Detection Layers: Satellite, Satellite vivid, Hybrid or 3D.

BuckHotspots6 900Thermal Bedding. Cedars, pines, and other conifers (evergreens) don’t lose their foliage in winter. Instead, they break the wind and help hold heat closer to the ground, and these locations (see the dark green mass in HuntStand satellite image above) are often several degrees warmer than in the neighboring hardwoods. Local deer know them intimately.

   A. What to Look for: Using a winter-based app layer, you’ll see the stark differentiation between hardwood timber with no foliage, and the conifers that are still green.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Satellite, Satellite vivid, Hybrid or 3D.

Solar Bedding. Direct sunlight is another surefire way to stay warm. In winter, this is easiest to achieve on south-facing slopes. That’s why you find so many deer—and their sheds—along such areas.

   A. What to Look for: First, locate ridgelines. Then, look to the southern sides of the highest elevations.

   B. Best Detection Layers: Satellite, satellite vivid, hybrid or 3DBuckHotspots4 900Compounding Factors. Have another type of hotspot you’re looking for? Chances are good a HuntStand app layer can help find it. Regardless, no matter the hotspot, any one of these very specific areas is always better when it offers more than its singular (or most common) advantage.

Sometimes, you can find more than one of the hotspots listed above in the exact same location, or at least, two that are very close to one another. I call these “compounding factors,” and you’d do well to remember spots that check multiple boxes. These are the true “honey holes” we’re always searching for.BuckHotspots14 900Personally, I tend to focus on properties that offer the most hotspots. I consider this a numbers game. Generally, more good spots translates to increased huntability. Some tracts simply aren’t easy to hunt, because they typically don’t have many of the hotspots listed above to attract or funnel deer into confined lines of movement. Make no mistake, the lack of such favorable land features diminishes your odds of success, and last I checked, our main goal as hunters is bettering them.

This off-season, scour new properties for spots that increase the odds of encounters with the deer you’re after. Take the time to do so with help from HuntStand, and you’ll likely see very noticeable improvements in your future hunting success.



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