Before reading on, make sure you have seen Deer Hunting in Northern Michigan Part 1.
As previously mentioned, Northern Michigan is not a land of sprawling corn fields and perfect fence row funnels that make patterning deer’s movement relatively predictable. So how do you go about locating and hunting deer in such a locale?
Well first off, when there are major food sources such as the previously mentioned corn fields, they will attract a huge number of deer. But for the majority of deer in Northern Michigan, this is not an option. The typical deer beds and feeds within the hardwoods and cedar swamps of the north, punctuated by occasional openings of tall grass and ferns. This type of terrain creates deer behavior that is notoriously more difficult to pattern. Many deer do not have a single main food source, instead they browse the forest floor for the occasional green morsel or acorn. This makes patterning deer on the way to or from feeding areas quite difficult. But unfortunately bedding areas are not much easier to hunt. Most of the bedding areas I have found in this region are in the deepest, nastiest, wettest parts of the land I’m hunting. In fact most of these areas are nearly impenetrable by a human, which in turn makes this a great bedding area for the deer! All this being said, there are a few tricks I have learned when trying to hunt over a swamp buck.
First and foremost, if you have an obvious food source on your land, hunt it! A corn field, food plot or orchard will obviously be a magnet for deer. Due to the relative lack of these types of food sources, deer from far and wide will be attracted to such areas. You’re lucky if you have this type of land! For all the rest of us, there is still hope.
The number one tactic I have learned for areas lacking major food sources is to hunt edges. Setting up on the convergence of two or more different types of terrain is the most consistent way I have found to locate and hunt over deer in this type of situation. In my hunting area, the most common example of these edges are between relatively more open hardwoods and the deep swamp. Deer move along these edges because they offer quick access back to the safety of their thick swamp bedding areas. The general area surrounding these types of edges have been a consistent spot to find scrapes and rubs for me and I frequently find major trail junctions near this kind of convergence as well. The ultimate spot I have found is on a peninsula that juts into a nasty thick swamp. The peninsula is carved out on one side by a stream and trails lead out of the swamp, down the peninsula and into one of the few fields on our property. This stand location covers an edge, that leads from a bedding area to a feeding area and is also a natural funnel. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Another tactic I have found useful over the years is to hunt inside the bedding areas or swamps in this case. When the deer up here get pressured, they immediately retreat back into the swamps. Not very many hunters are willing to slop through boot high muck and climb over downed trees, while cattails rip their face. But for the few hunters that do, it can be very rewarding. Finding areas within this type of thick cover where multiple runways converge has been the most successful tactic within the swamps. The visibility factor will probably lead to you not seeing many deer, but there is a good chance that one of the few deer you see, will be a buck. Big bucks go where humans don’t and up north that is the swamps. In this type of hunting situation be ready for deer to show up quickly and right on top of you, always be ready for a shot.
It also must be noted that hunting near bedding areas is a risky endeavor. If hunted too often or with inadequate carefulness, deer will be spooked even further into the depths of the swamp to once again escape the advances of humans. If you are coming in to hunt such a spot in the morning, make sure you arrive atleast an hour before daylight, so that you are not pushing deer in front of you. You want to arrive and be set up well before deer start returning to their beds.
Although finding and patterning deer in Northern Michigan is not easy, it can be done and it is one of the more rewarding accomplishments a hunter can work towards. Swamp bucks are notoriously shifty, but with some hard work and careful preparation you too can bag a Northern Michigan brute.
For more on setting up blinds, calling and other tactics for Northern Michigan, stay tuned for the next post on deer hunting Northern Michigan.
Anyone else have tips on patterning deer up north? I’d love to have a new trick to add to my arsenal, so lets hear em!