Deer don’t just bounce around the woods randomly. They have very deliberate and predictable routes of movement. You can easily take advantage of this by locating deer funnels or even creating some of your own.
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What Is a Deer Funnel?
A deer funnel is an aspect of the terrain that directs deer movement in a certain direction, usually causing them to pass through one narrow area referred to as a pinch point. As you might imagine, putting your tree stand near a funnel or pinch point is a recipe for success. With more traffic, you’re bound to see more deer, including more mature bucks.
There are two types of deer funnels: natural and man made. You can take advantage of them both to increase your chances of a successful hunt.
Natural Deer Funnels
Natural deer funnels are those caused by natural terrain features. These could be bodies of water or cliffs that force deer to move in a certain direction.
Using natural deer funnels requires you to scout the terrain. It’s also helpful to look it over using satellite imagery on Google Earth or use a drone to get the bird’s eye view.
You have to think like a deer, too, and recognize where they might want to move and therefore which areas they’ll funnel into. Consider that whitetail deer like thick cover, aren’t big fans of swimming, and don’t like walking uphill anymore than you or me.
Man-Made Deer Funnels
A man-made deer funnel involves features you add to the terrain yourself to force deer to move where you want them. These could be dugouts, fences, walls, or even clearings or food plots.
4 Natural Deer Funnels to Take Advantage Of
The Gentle Slope
Whitetail deer don’t like steep terrain whether they’re moving uphill or down, and they’ll avoid it whenever possible. As a result, a buck will go the long way around if it means he can take the gentle slope.
Aside from satellite imagery, looking at a topographical map of your hunting area can help you pinpoint these funnels. Basically, they’re areas where the lines on the map are spaced farther apart.
If you want to get even more detailed, pay attention to where the flatter terrain meets the steep terrain. This is usually the line the buck will follow, especially if it’s steep enough to be cliff-like.
The Tree Bridge
Whitetail deer don’t like open clearings, mature bucks least of all. While they may feed in these areas under the cover of darkness, during daylight, they’ll mostly avoid them. As a result, if two clearings are divided by a thin strip of trees, deer will use this covering as a bridge to the forest on the other side.
The Creek Crossing
In general a body of water, be it a river, stream, pond or swamp, will force deer to move around the edge. However, local deer will most likely discover easy crossing points, especially in shallow streams or swamps. Locate your tree stand on either side of the bank near a shallow crossing, and you’re likely to see a buck or two.
The Rocky Outcrop
Similar to the cliff faces we talked about earlier, deer usually avoid walking right on top of rocky outcrops whether one side is uphill or not. The result is that for this stretch of terrain, they won’t move horizontally but rather along the outcrop. In other words, the rocks will create a V in the terrain, the deer moving to either side of the rocks. The point of that V is a great place to put your stand.
How to Make Your Own Deer Funnel
Clear a Path
Whitetail deer travel corridors usually take the path of least resistance, so you can easily make a funnel by creating that path. What that normally means is tilling up the ground in a large clearing. When the deer enter this clearing, they’ll cross it by taking your path. Set up a tree stand in the tree line just at one end of your path, and you’ll be hunting the pinch point.
Similarly, you can clear away overgrowth, shrubs and saplings—not full-grown trees—within the woods themselves to create a path that deer are more likely to travel. It’s best to do this in a way that connects a food source with bedding areas.
Cut Away the Cover
Since whitetail deer prefer to stay in the tree cover, especially during the daytime, you can create a funnel by narrowing that cover on your property. If you have two fields, clear them as close to one another so that there’s only a strip of cover 30 or 40 yards wide connecting two patches of woods. Deer will use this to pass between the clearings, and you can set up your tree stand on either end.
Plant Some Seeds
To make a deer funnel, you don’t always have to remove plants. Sometimes you can add new ones. This is certainly the longcon, but if you plan on hunting your property for many years, there’s no time like the present. For instance, if you have two patches of woods on your property, connect them by planting a narrow strip of trees.
A faster method is strategically planting feed plots. If you have a natural funnel on your property like a rock outcrop, but the deer just don’t seem to be passing through that area, give them a reason to. Find their bedding area and then plant some of their favorite crops on the other side of the outcrop.
Wall Them Off
Unfortunately, man-made barriers rarely work as well as you expect them to to funnel deer. Deer are always wary of human technology, and they can hop over small fences and walls anyway.
That said, they sometimes work to complement natural funnels. For example, if deer have the option of taking a swamp’s shallow crossing or going all the way around, you can nudge them in the direction of the crossing by putting an obstacle in the other direction like a barb-wire fence or rock wall.