Advice on Big Woods hunting

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bh bowhunter
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Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby bh bowhunter » Mon Dec 25, 2017 5:23 am

I hunt The Black Hills of SD and have spent many summers scouting areas away from atv trails and heavy hunting pressure. I think I have finally found a couple good spots! The first place I call the Elk Wallow and I placed a couple cams in this bottom to see if it could be a good future elk hunting spot for when I finally draw my archery elk tag! Well not only are there a few nice bulls that wallow here in Sept. but I started getting some good bucks coming thru!

A major scrape has opened up here the last 3 yrs and I have been getting several bucks using it! Three of the bucks are mature but only come by the scrape once every week or two and a lot of the activity is daytime! Last summer I built a ground blind 15 yds away from the scrape and hung a stand over trails that come down to the wallow where water is present.

I only hunted there with a west or NW wind and tried to sit all day unless the wind shifted. Only saw 2 bucks the whole time I hunted there. Twice when I checked the cam I missed one of the shooters by 1 day! Frustrating to say the least! I also scouted the ridges around and setup 2 other stands during the season. Still trying to figure out how best to hunt this place. I know of 2 scrapes the bucks are using, a few doe bedding areas, trails, and water sources. This is hill country with thick stands of pine, spruce and aspen. No major food sources, and few areas to glass for deer movement from.

Next season I plan on doing more hunting from the ground hoping to learn more about the area and maybe find these mature buck beds. Is this a good plan or is there anything I should look for to setup on to up my odds for a shot opportunity? The three mature bucks in this area are like ghosts, I have never laid eyes on them even tho my trailcams show daytime movement!


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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby bh bowhunter » Mon Dec 25, 2017 5:43 am

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDgsG7BfuEw

This is one of the mature bucks I'm after. I have a video of him from 2015 coming to water. He is a mainframe 5 with a kicker on both G-2. I believe the buck is 6yrs old. This is the second season that I really started putting a lot of time hunting this area! I hunt 3 other areas to avoid over hunting, but maybe I need to concentrate on this one spot for next season. I have 3 good entry routes I use for access. One is an old logging rd and the others are beatin down cow trails.
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby checkerfred » Mon Dec 25, 2017 5:59 am

Big woods are hard to hunt....our problem is there's so much food and water. Some of the hills I hunt has private mixed in but what I view as the true big woods (remote, no private) is tough hunting. Seems you can walk miles and miles scouting and you just hit little pockets of deer sign here and there. I think ground hunting is a great idea in this instance. You can hunt, move around, go further in, and not have the weight and restriction of carrying a stand. Then once you hit a spot where you're seeing deer, maybe setup a stand there. Bow hunting is harder from the ground, but I use a crossbow in these instances.

For things to look for to increase your shot opportunities....it depends on what your area is like. Transition lines are always good. Creek crossings are another place to check and hunt. If it's super steep like bluffs, that really forces movement as there will only be a few places they can go up and down...bedding is also extremely defined due to the extreme drop offs. Check out benches...multiple ridges converging into one hub....add several of these things together and you prob got a killer spot
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby bh bowhunter » Mon Dec 25, 2017 6:30 am

Thanks for the reply! Big woods is definitely a challenge! One stand was setup on a transition of thicker woods and where logging had stopped many years ago. Back in mid October I scouted many beds in the thick jack pines up the ridge to the south. I found several heavy trails that crossed the logging rd and came thru a more open area leading to more jack pine fingers just to the west of the elk wallow.

I moved a treestand in there and hunted it late October. Another scrape opened up along one of the trails so I left a trailcam. Had three opportunities at younger bucks chasin does from that stand. also had mature bucks work the scrape. The second stand I setup for a south wind where last season I found many beds in the snow. And the third I setup on the spine of a ridge top where I found a few big beds next to blow downs. This buck came to the scrape the 2nd day of the season. I was in the stand the day before!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIEH4EeO9zw
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby PK_ » Mon Dec 25, 2017 6:47 am

Are the bucks hitting the scrape on any wind or just W, NW?

I think you are doing well.

Do you have any photos/videos of those bulls? :L:
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby bh bowhunter » Mon Dec 25, 2017 7:21 am

I mostly hunted the home made blind located 15 yrds from the scrape. Saw only 2 bucks out of about 10 sits at the blind during the season. Both were young bucks. The first buck came down from the steep ridge to the west at 3pm and no wind. The 2nd buck came cruising at noon on a very wind day. He by passed the scrape and never winded me.

I constantly check wind currents during my sits and found that a NW wind is most favorable for the blind. Its possible that any deer coming down to the scrape could be smelling me, but I still have 3 other directions they can come from. Here is one of the bulls that came to wallow.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlxVEl3ItAc&feature=youtu.be
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby PK_ » Mon Dec 25, 2017 7:32 am

Holy smokes that bull is awesome! :shock:

What I meant was check the wind direction for the dates the shooters were at the scrape and see if there is a consistent wind when they are using that area. Then setup your spot for that wind direction and only hunt it on that wind direction. Hope that makes sense.
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby bh bowhunter » Mon Dec 25, 2017 8:07 am

Ya that totally makes senses! Sometimes a buck will scent check from downwind. A buddy of mine suggested I keep track of the wind all season long and see if there is a pattern. Although what I am finding out is that this hill country does some crazy things with wind! So far I only have a couple pieces to the puzzle.
I plan on doing a ton of scouting this spring. Maybe there is a better ambush spot around that I,m missing. I know for sure that there are 3 or 4 shooter bucks in this area that seem to stay around even during the rut.

One of my other areas I hunt has a couple mature bucks as well, but they disappeared about mid October after they made the first shift from the summer range! I have a lot of scouting to do, have only started hunting these new areas the last 2 yrs. Here is a video of a potential shooter from last summer.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF9cIstzhDc&feature=youtu.be
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby Dewey » Mon Dec 25, 2017 8:10 am

Don’t have any advice but just wanted to add.....great bucks and bull. 8-)

I hunted mule deer over by Custer and saw some decent bucks but driving thru the Black Hills we saw some incredible whitetail. Made us question our decision to hunt mule deer instead. I would love to get back there sometime and hunt them. Really like the ruggedness of the Black Hills and looks like some awesome deer habitat.
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby creepingdeth » Mon Dec 25, 2017 8:14 am

Nice vids
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby checkerfred » Mon Dec 25, 2017 8:22 am

Sounds like you’re on them good. I’d just keep at it and keep adjusting. PK’s idea of checking for wind patterns is a good one. Our hills are tough with wind too. They’ll say NW but it blows way differently. What I’ve started doing esp if going in blind is picking the spot for the forecasted wind, say a leeward side funnel, then hunting it. If it blows different and I don’t see anything I give it another sit with a diff wind. If I see something I’ll log the spot and wind even if it blows diff. I think it helps to see patterns in wind. This next year I plan to give a spot more sits...I’m bad about giving up on a spot too soon and spreading myself thin.
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby bh bowhunter » Mon Dec 25, 2017 9:56 am

So just wondering if anyone else has some experience with large public hill type country without ag fields. I'm beginning to think these bucks have huge home ranges due to scarce food and low deer numbers. I expected to see the shooters show up to this scrape at least once or twice a week back in October, but that didn't happen.
They can browse and bed anywhere in this country! super big challenge, have much to learn! Gonna spread some of my trailcams out to see if I can figure out how far thet do travel.
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby brancher147 » Mon Dec 25, 2017 11:05 am

I hunt a lot of big woods no ag fields. And yes, these bucks have large home ranges, a couple thousand acres at least most likely, and they move around constantly. I have been hunting some of the same bucks in 2 different spots 3 miles apart this year. My only suggestion is maybe don't rely so much on a trail cam and look for good fresh sign or fresh beds then find the best terrain funnels to hunt with the wind to your advantage. I have never had any luck specifically hunting a scrape in the big woods based on trail camera pics, especially in a bottom area-which it looks like yours might be.

And yes, hunting on the ground to learn the terrain/habitat and being more mobile to learn how the deer use the area is a very good idea.

All in all, I think you are doing better than most, just gotta fine tune it. Which is an endless battle, and once you think you got it figured out, something changes....Aren't the big woods great! Good luck.
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby PK_ » Mon Dec 25, 2017 11:55 am

Yes those bigwoods/mountain bucks cover a lot of ground once breeding is on their mind.

And yes the wind can be really tough to pattern in the hills.

But what I meant was if you have an inventory of pictures on your trail camera, go to a website like wunderground.com and look up the prevailing winds for the area on the exact dates that those bucks showed up on camera. If there is a correlation (say they only show up on a NW wind for example), now you can go back to that spot and scout on a day when the wind is the same and see how it flows through that spot and pick your tree/blind accordingly...
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Re: Advice on Big Woods hunting

Postby Twenty Up » Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:10 pm

PK_ wrote:Yes those bigwoods/mountain bucks cover a lot of ground once breeding is on their mind.

And yes the wind can be really tough to pattern in the hills.

But what I meant was if you have an inventory of pictures on your trail camera, go to a website like wunderground.com and look up the prevailing winds for the area on the exact dates that those bucks showed up on camera. If there is a correlation (say they only show up on a NW wind for example), now you can go back to that spot and scout on a day when the wind is the same and see how it flows through that spot and pick your tree/blind accordingly...


This^

Pay attention to thermals & wind swirls as well. Wind seems to swirl worse in the early season when the leaves are still on the trees. Milkweed could help answer some questions there
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