By Mark Kenyon
Today I’m going to make you a better deer hunter by sharing a few basic principles of bass fishing. Yes, bass fishing can help you kill more deer.
Any half decent bass fishermen knows the importance of “structure” and “cover” – and if you want to have consistent success hunting deer, you’re going to need to understand these concepts as well.
If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a very brief definition of structure and cover from a bass fishing perspective, and then I promise we’ll bring things back around to deer. So, in the context of bass fishing, structure and cover are features of the lake or river bottom that fish relate to, spend time around, and use to survive, hunt, and escape to.
That said, first lets discuss structure. Structure accounts for any feature of the actual ground at the bottom of the lake/river. This could be a deep ditch running through the middle of a lake, a point of higher ground that extends into the middle of the pond, a steep drop-off 30 feet out from shore. Any change in depth or topography on the bottom of the body of water is considered structure.
Cover is anything in the water or on the bottom of the body of water, such as weeds, grass, submerged logs, old boat wreckage, rocks, etc.
Bass, and really all fish, use both structure and cover every day, all day as they travel, hunt and try their best to survive in the wet wilds of their underwater world. If you’re trying to locate fish on any given day, your best bet is typically to look for cover or structure. And typically, the best situation is where cover and structure are found in the same place, or where different types meet . For example, a thin point extending from shore out into 18 feet of water, littered with old stumps. Or maybe an isolated hump in the middle of the lake that comes up 15 feet higher than the rest of the lake bottom, with numerous old boulders strewn across it. Or maybe where a long stretch of lily pads meets up with another type of underwater grass. Cover, structure, or both together. Find these spots and you’ll find the bass.
And guess what? The same thing goes for deer.
While cover and structure are a little different in a non-water setting, they essentially work the same. Cover for a deer is any kind of vegetation that provides security and limits visibility. Structure is any change in terrain or topography. And just like fish, deer use these features every day. And as a hunter, so can you.
Just like fish, deer relate to structure and cover in their environments because cover and structure impact how deer can move across an environment and allow them to maintain a certain level of security.
Just like fish, deer almost always prefer to be back in cover or very near to it. Thick early successional forests, a hinge-cut bedding area, an old cattail marsh. The thicker and nastier the cover, the happier a deer typically will be.
Just like fish, deer relate to changes in structure. Deer love bedding out on the ends of points. Deer prefer to cross ridge-lines at saddles. Deer will often cross a field in a low spot. Without fail, changes in terrain funnel deer movement.
Just like fish, deer are more likely to utilize cover when it’s found near these changes in structure, or vice versa. If you’ve got 50 acres of thick cedars, it might be hard to identify how deer will use it. But, if there’s a ridgeline running through the middle, you know they’ll relate to it. On the other hand, if you’ve got an open hillside with a pronounced bench on one side, it might go relatively unused. Throw some cover on that bench in the form of cedars, and all of a sudden you’ll have deer crossing along that bench quite a bit.
Just like fish, deer are more likely to use an area where two forms of cover meet. Deer are edge creatures and they love these changes in terrain. Where a cattail marsh meets the timber, you can bet you’ll have deer activity. Where an old stand of pines meets a younger hardwood forest, you can bet there will be some deer movement. Where a large field of native grasses butts up to a patch of cedars, you’re going to see whitetails.
So if you’re looking for deer on your property, think like a bass fishermen.
Look for the cover, look for the structure, and look for the places where they all come together. It’s a simple concept, but a foundational one. Wrap your head around these basic rules, and then find out how they apply to your neck of the woods. Cover, structure, edges and where they all meet. It’s simple, but so important.
Nail these concepts, and next October after tagging your buck, maybe you’ll have a little extra time to hit the farm pond for some big ole lunker bass.