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maros91

How to hunt the big woods?

17 posts in this topic

I was scouting the big woods in NE MN before opener and didn't see any trails at all. I was walking on a snowmobile trail and was waiting for a deer trail to cross that but nothing. There are no transistion areas that I found so I am wondering if the deer just travel on the snowmobile trails. There were a couple tracks on the trail. Do you guys just set your stands on the snowmobile trail or what? I will be hunting up there Sun. and Mon. Any help will greatly be appreciated.

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It has been tough so far this year. I scouted my usual spot. Found a lot of good sign, scrapes, rubs, tracks, browse, even moose tracks and browse. I found a couple of areas that weren't heavily traveled but fairly well traveled. I walked in Sunday morning then my father-in-law walked in. My batteries on my two-way radio went dead so I walked out to the truck to get new ones. Saw huge tracks on top of my tracks and on top of my f-i-l's tracks. A little further up, wolf tracks on top of all of the tracks frown.

It seems like the deer are sticking in the fairly dense cover and possibly doing the majority of their travel durning the hours closest to dark. I haven't heard as much shooting this year.

I put up a stand. Next morning, tracks right under the stand. I sat all day and saw nothing. I am pretty good about keeping quiet. I also wash my clothes with no scent and use a masking drier sheet. I pee in a jug so that smell shouldn't be an issue. I get in early, well before shooting hours, to let things settle down.

I have tried siting over a decent sized clear-cut and in a small clearing with woods around. Nothing. Took a walk through the woods. Jumped one, never got a shot.

I don't know what I am doing wrong. If anything you may have heard a lot of what not to do from my post. laugh.

Good luck, Biff. I hope you are more successful with your hunt than I have been with mine. Maybe then you can give me a few pointers grin

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I have never hunted the Big Woods of NE MN, but I hunt some bigger tracts around the Emily area. The biggest difference between there and the farm country I live in is the endless amounts of the same cover. In farm country we are used to see major trails and entry/exit pts in fields and can follow them back. In the big woods the pieces of cover are huge and in many cases there are acres and acres of the same stuff. I hunt a lot of mature pine forests and it is easy for the deer to travel just about anywhere. Not much underbrush and real thick areas to steer them one way or another. I would suggest using the terrain...maybe topography is a better word. In my experience deer are rarely using the top of a ridge. If you can find a nice ridge, with some thick cover at the bottom I would hunt near that or use that as a starting point and find trails/areas from there. Good luck. Hunting the bigger tracts of woods can be frustrating, but for me it sure beats staring at a hayfield hoping something comes out.

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What you need to find is a clear cut, the trees that they like the most are the ones that are about 10' tall. they will bed and feed in those all day long. Right now our most productive stands are the ones that follow the edge of the swamps. If you look closely, there are edges all throughout the woods. Sure there might be a solid chunk of pines 20 acres in size, but if there is a swamp adjoining that and a clear cut watch out, deer will be all over that. find the edges within the woods and you'll find the deer.

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There was one swamp not to far in that had a deer trail going around it. It was maybe a 5 minute walk fron the road so I decided not to hunt there. I wanted to get in there, a mile at the least. I think for my hunt I will hunt the swamp in the morning than just go off for a walk and see what I can find. Hopefully there is some sign somewhere off the trail. I know the trail goes up a huge ridge to the top then it flattens out up there.

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biff if theres sign a 5 minutes walk away i would just stay close to that deer dont care if there 1 mile in or 10. I would maybe think about staying close when I hunted up there thats where we tried to stay close to those swamps we had a guy sit on each one and fair out ok! good luck

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Biff,

Like hh stated, hunt the sign, especially if you're not seeing much.

Thing is, and I hate to say it because I don't want to make you doubt what you're doing, but there just may not be that many deer where you're planning to hunt.

When we explore for grouse hunting up in the arrow head, we cover alot of ground and some of it just isn't any good.

I've seen many of your posts (they're looking a little better these days) and believe you know what you're doing. Deer leave sign. No deer leave no sign.

Some of the juiciest places I've seen up there are the low brushy areas around clear cuts. And I believe varying topography will help you as stated on the earlier post.

Good luck!

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Everyone has given good input on biffs situation, I especailly like the idea of topo maps, they can be very helpful.. in fact, im now headed out to a new area I have never hunted before... my plan is to go out a little after sunrise (so im out the door in about 10) but looking at the maps I have a darn good idea where I wanna go... it may not pan out, but ya gotta ground truth the terrain...as far as hunting the big woods , I am realitviy new to it, but in my limited expirence, you still gotta find the funnels, pinch points and escape routes (especially this time of year).. they are there they are just harder to find.. also I have found it benifital to hunt wetlands within the woods. it really seems to attract them in my expirnce.... keep in mind, this is advice from a rookie "big woods hunter"---good luck,,Joe N

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You say you didn't find any transition areas. I find that hard to believe. Transition areas can be very subtle. Like a slight dip in the lake bottom can be a transition for fish, a slight change in forest age, tree makeup, or elevation can all be transition areas.

Where we hunt we have lots of transition areas. We walk in over two miles from the nearest road and have our stands in the middle of nowhere. There is a narrow 50' wide draw where that tends to be a bit wet. This draw is along the bottom of a rather sharp 20' incline or ridge. The draw is growing with grasses and mountain ash trees. Along the north side of this draw is the hill I mentioned. Between the hill and the draw itself is found a narrow band of balsam and spruce intermixed with alder. The hill itself is covered in maple, birch, and aspen mixed in with underbrush. On top of the hill there is an area that was clear cut about 25 years ago. This area provides a lot of young forest browse and cover. On the west side of the hill there is an area where water tends to drain and it has cut a gouge in the hillside. It's only about 3' wide and not very deep but it is a transition. The south side of the draw is a rather slow incline with balsam, spruce, and af few mixed harwoods. Scattered throughout the area are pockets of transitions. For example, on top of the hill among the hardwoods you'll find small groups of evergreens no bigger than my home. In the softwoods south of the draw you'll find pockets of hardwoods or deadfalls blown over by the winds.

The point is, there are many transitions here including but limited to the bottom edge of the hill, top edge of the hill, transition from hardwoods to softwoods, transition from softwoods to ash, the transition from old forest to young forest along the old clearcut, transitions created by pockets of hardwoods among soft and vise versa, transitions caused by blowdowns, transitions where tag elder meets forest, etc.

Deer are transition or edge oriented. Their trails are not cattle paths and may not always be easily noticed, especially if you're not accustomed to recognizing them. They can and often will be no wider than a few inches. Our barn cats leave more distinct paths on our lawn than most of the game trails I see in the forest.

One thing I've noticed. Any time I've seen a deer encounter a trail like a snowmobile trail, a shooting lane that we may have cut, or even a naturally occurring line they notice and in most cases they seem to stop and look before crossing. When we cut shooting lanes through the brush we try to take care not to make them any more obvious than absolutely necessary for this reason.

Bob

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Used to hunt the Nemadji until we got our own land. The trails were the same, along the snowmobile trail or roads. Those are not daylight trails. At best, they are Doe trails. You want to be along swamps, on ridges, along clear cuts, funnels, or in the big timber. Pine tree groves may be good, if there is human activity and you are sitting all day. Look for Wolf tracks before you waste your time. Sitting along the trail will be a huge waste, let alone looking like a fool when all the hunters walk by you to go out to their stands.

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Oh, and don't get lost. A big woods can go in one direction for days. wink

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I would spend a day scouting for fresh good sized ground scrapes and GPS if found and sit down wind and pray. That tactic has worked well for my dad in big woods country. He has taken several nice bucks at extremely close range. While exploring for these you might come across that trail the deer are using and often times these scrapes he finds are on these trails, just deeper in the jungle and closer to the bucks bedroom.

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I've never hunted anything but the big woods.

Deer have a fairly set routine. While they do meander the woods, your can set your watch on key time and travel routes. Those spots are the ones that the deer need to pass though on their daily routine. That could be a funnel, swamp edge, open ground they'd like to avoid and so on. When you find one of these spots your next step is to figure out what time(s) they use it. There could be a major trail but if they use it at night thats not going to help you much. If your not seeing deer after two days in the stand your either on a night time route or your in one of those areas they'll meander their way though and you just need to be patient.

I have morning stands, evening stands, and stands I'll use during mid day.

Before I get any further there is a twist. Those trails you found are most likely trails from does and young bucks. Sure you can set up there and hope a buck has found a doe and will follow her. That buck is more likely looking though and hes not going to follow anything unless his nose tells him to. His route will be to check as many doe trails as he can. So depending on the terrain look for his routes that cross or parallel those trails. When you see a ground scrape it'll be close or on that doe trail. He'll come from down wind to check it. That could mean he'll cross the trail or just wind it and not get close to the scrape. Either way you should be setup down wind.

Just when you think you have it all figured out, a 12 point joker is standing on the shoulder of the hwy in broad daylight.

Then there is the situation where you end up in a new place your not that familiar with. I've probably sneaked my way onto more bucks doing that then on stand. Thats the key word here "sneak", as in undetected. The object is to hear and see the deer before they smell, hear, and see you. Its pretty much traveling in those areas Bob mentioned. Its a take one step and stop look and listen deal. If theres thick cover and you can't see though it, you don't make a move or sound till your convinced there isn't a deer in it. Your ears will tell you and if it takes a 5 minutes of standing there then thats what you do. Your not going to cover ground fast that is for sure. The minute you get sloppy is usually the time you'll get busted so be patient.

I shoot a lot of deer this way and I've found some of my better hunting spots doing that too.

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Great information from everybody, even you Roofer grinwink.

When I scouted that day I didn't have to much time. 3 hours there makes it for a short scouting trip but mostly everything I saw was evergreen trees and birch. Sometimes on the side of the hills there would be water runoff that made for a nice tiny little creek/wet area I suppose that would be considered a transition area. When I go Sunday I will hunt the swamp in the morning and then explore from there to find other areas. It's an intensive zone so there must be some deer in there. I will try to take pictures also to show you guys what kind of cover there is.

Once again, all great info and I really appreciate it and I will put it to good use.

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Is that an "intensive" honey-do list, or just "managed". My wife generally puts me on "earn-a-buck".

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To funny. It was the get it done now or your stuff will be on the step honey do list. I should have left, I think she was bluffing. grin

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