by Will Brantley
Sure, a deer can step into a field from almost anywhere. But topography plays a big role in how deer usually enter, cross, and feed in openings. During the early season–when hunting field edges is most productive–the following features can help you determine where best to set up.
How many times have you glanced across a field and spotted a nice buck standing alert at the edge of the trees? This isn’t by accident. Older deer seldom enter a field without checking things out first. They often do so by scent-checking, but they look with their eyes, too. Vantage points–high places around the field’s edge with quick escape routes–always have a lot of whitetail traffic. Staging areas just off a field-edge vantage point are among the best places to get a shot at a mature buck.
Swags and Saddles
If you don’t see a lot of sign in the high places, walk straight to the low spots and check there. Deer routinely enter fields in a dip, swag, or saddle for the converse reason that they go high–to get out of sight. Low spots are likely places for deer to feed, too, because the plants are often more lush and succulent there. Soybeans in the lowest part of a field, for example, are usually the last to turn yellow in fall because they get the most moisture. Deer prefer green soybeans, so they feed in the low spot.
Some of the best fields for early-season hunting are hourglass shaped. That’s why many deer managers choose this shape when creating their own food plots. Deer that are feeding on one side of the field or plot will routinely cross through the neckdown to reach the other side. The pinch point in the middle is a great place to be waiting in a treestand or ground blind for a close shot. Deer often enter and exit fields near neckdowns as well because these areas provide fast access to cover on both sides.
Like neckdowns, field corners offer the security of cover on two sides, and they form a natural intersection. But some corners are better than others. Look for rubs, scrapes, and trails to reveal the heaviest buck use. Also pay particular attention to corners that are combined with some other type of attractive terrain feature. If a saddle or creek draw funnels deer through the woods toward a particular corner that also rises to a good vantage point, your chances of taking a buck there are that much better.