The rut is upon us. The madness has begun and I think it’s safe to say that we the hunters are equally as excited as some of the bucks running around out there! As we all know, this is the time of year that hunting is at it’s best, but it still isn’t easy. You still need to make the right calls when it comes to setting up for the rut. So how should you hunt the rut? Well if I had to pick one set-up for this time of year, it would be in a funnel.
What is a funnel?
Most of us know what a funnel is, but let me lay it out there simple for those that don’t. A funnel is any natural or man-made object, change in terrain or obstacle that “funnels” deer through a specific location. Here are a few of the most common “funnels” that you might find…
- Narrow stream crossings
- Fence rows
- Saddles or benches on a ridge
- Fence crossings
- Thin strips of heavy cover that cross relatively open land
The key thing to remember when considering funnels, is that deer always look for the easiest way (assuming it’s also safe) to get from one place to another. So keep your eye out for such a thing. Anywhere that topography, obstacles or cover form a bottleneck is where you want to be. A great way to find funnels is to study a topographic map. Many natural funnels such as contours in the land, water and vegetation bottlenecks can be easily seen from such a map.
Why are funnels the best place to be during the rut?
- During the rut, where the does are, the bucks will follow. We know that does do two things very well, bed and feed. To get between those two areas, does travel through funnels. Therefore bucks will travel through these funnels as well, whether they are following a doe or traveling in between doe hot spots checking for receptive females.
- Deer consistently move through these rather small areas, allowing you to set up in an area providing consistent close range shots. Funnels are perfect for bowhunting! For instance, an awesome location to set up a stand for bowhunting is 15 yards from a bent wire in a fence. Deer will consistently cross at this location, offering you an easy, predictable shot on almost every deer that moves through the area.
- If hunting pressure is high in your area, deer will head straight for heavy cover and will use the thickest nastiest travel corridors they can find to get there. Find the funnels within heavily vegetated travel corridors and you will find your bucks cruising (e.g. a thickly overgrown stream bed connecting two heavily wooded areas).
Where are the best funnels during the rut?
I believe the best funnels to hunt during the rut are those that connect doe bedding areas. Typically during the rut, bucks will cruise to and from doe bedding areas to scent check them for does coming into estrus. This is a particularly good place to be sitting in the middle of the day because you will catch regular early morning and late evening traffic, but with the added bucks cruising to and from bedding areas during the afternoon. Bucks will tend to approach doe bedding areas from the downwind side to get a whiff of the ladies, so position your stand accordingly and plan to see all day action.
My favorite funnel set-up
To illustrate how to set up on a funnel, let me describe one of my favorite hunting locations. This spot is located in a funnel, within a funnel. First this stand is located in a strip of woods that runs through a valley between two housing suburbs. At the bottom of this wooded valley is a stream and an old grown over two track. My stand location is in a sort of “hub” of funnels and for this reason it has provided some stellar deer action year after year. All deer moving through this area must travel down into the valley to avoid running around people’s back yards, but this results in a still too large funnel to effectively hunt, being at least 5 acres wide.
Luckily I found a bench along the valley ridge which connects a main bedding area to the valley floor. Trails leading from this bedding area lead down this bench to the valley and then out towards apple orchards some ways away. I have set up with the stream at my back, and this trail leading from a main bedding area to several other lesser bedding areas and onto a main food source is in front of me. Deer funnel through the valley, but within the valley they funnel down this bench and then along side the stream on out. This results in almost all the deer activity in this valley happening along the two trails that I hunt over in this 40 yard across area. It doesn’t get much better than that.
All year round, hunting funnels will produce. But during the rut you will see the most explosive action and your chances of bagging a buck will sky rocket. Find those natural locations that funnel deer, set up down wind of doe bedding areas and wait it out all day. Your buck is on it’s way.