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In my previous article, I discussed how water can act as a natural barrier, but there are many other barriers to deer movement worth discussing. The great thing about barriers is they are fairly easy to identify on a map and deer movement along barriers is very predictable. Remember, deer will skirt the edges of barriers often taking the path of least resistance from point A to point B. This makes barriers highly desirable places to hunt, especially when bucks are cruising during the rut. So let’s take a look at some other barriers!
High Traffic Roads
Although deer-vehicle collisions are an all-too-frequent occurrence, high traffic roadways are actually pretty effective barriers to deer movement. My master’s research involves monitoring deer movements along a high traffic interstate, so I have literally thousands of GPS locations to base my claim upon. If you were to look at a map of those locations, it looks as if somebody built a wall along the highway. An additional benefit of these areas is the noise from the traffic can help cover your approach and you can gain a wind advantage by hunting these locations when the wind is blowing toward the road.
Urban and Suburban Development
Some of the best spots to hunt are where urban development and the woods meet, because there is enough human activity where the urban development can act like a barrier, and you might be able to get away with a less than ideal wind because deer are conditioned to smelling people in those areas regularly. Additionally, it is often unlawful to hunt with firearms in these areas, so with hunters being limited to archery equipment, shot opportunities are limited, and bucks are able to get a few years of age on them before they are harvested. This is primarily why many big bucks that are harvested each year come out of the suburbs.
This might sound obvious, but deer are not going to climb cliff faces, nor are they going to jump off them on a regular basis. Most flat-land hunters do not need to worry about identifying steep terrain, but I grew up hunting in the Adirondacks of New York, and these were key features to look for on a top map because they would essentially funnel deer right to you. When you are hunting deer herds with <15 deer per square mile in mountain country, cliff faces combined with other barriers can help you fill your buck tag every year.
Large Wide Open Fields
At this point you’re probably thinking, “OK, this guy has no idea what he is talking about. I kill deer in large wide open fields all the time!” I do not doubt that you do, but bucks that break very far from cover frequently during daylight hours usually do not live to an age of “Trophy” status unless they are protected. That being said, big bucks are not likely to cross large wide open fields during daylight hours.
On the rare occasion, they might break cover along the edge of a field long enough for you to get a shot off, but a majority of a big buck’s day during the hunting season is spent in the woods (Figure 4). Knowing this, we can look for areas where large wide open fields nearly converge with the exception of a small strip of woods that acts as a bottle-neck, forcing every deer wanting to get from forest patch A to forest patch B through a narrow strip of woods.
These are just some of the more common barriers that can easily be identified from an aerial photo or topo map. When you do your field scouting, you may find other barriers such as an old stone wall or fence that you never saw in the map. These barriers are literally hidden gems, and if I find these features when I’m scouting, I will often follow them until I find a place where the wall or fence are broken, thus providing a breach point and often a good place to locate a stand. In fact, the last buck I harvested was at just such a location. There’s more deer mapping articles to come, so stay tuned! Good luck and happy scouting!