Hunting the Buck Bedding Areas

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You can identify most of these types of buck sanctuaries by examining aerial photographs for areas of dense vegetation, wetlands, and conifer stands. On infrared photographs, water appears black and conifers appear red. Trace the perimeters of the bedding areas on the photos and note potential stand sites for further investigation.

With bedding areas and stand sites identified, start scouting on the ground. My favorite scouting times are winter and early fall. There are many reasons to scout in winter, but the most important in regard to bedding areas is visibility. Bedding areas typically are thick, and foliage during spring and summer conceals important features--subtle topographic changes, funnels, trails, old rubs and scrapes. In winter you can penetrate dense thickets to determine why deer travel the way they do within and around a bedding area. From the outside, bedding areas often look uniform, but they frequently contain wet areas, high ground, openings, and food sources that all serve to influence deer behavior. Further, with winter exploration you can link concentrations of rubs with specific bedding sites to pinpoint a buck's preferred beds. Scouting in winter gives you a sense of the big picture.

Scouting in early fall narrows your focus. Using maximum stealth--stay downwind, wear rubber boots, and avoid unnecessary contact with vegetation--walk the edges of bedding areas. Try to scout on windy or rainy days to help cover your noise and scent. This scouting reveals rubs and scrapes along a buck's preferred entrance and exit routes to the bedding area. Look for these signs in secluded locations where the bedding area borders forest or some other habitat that provides transitional cover to feeding sites. Also, look for places where the thick, brushy habitat of the bedding area extends into adjacent forest and fields. These brushy peninsulas serve as travel corridors for wary bucks reluctant to leave protective cover during daylight.

Not all bedding areas are created equal. Some are relatively easy to hunt while others are best left alone. Unless you have stealthy entrance and exit routes, I suggest you avoid hunting bedding areas less than one acre in size. In larger patches with lots of core area where bucks can remain undisturbed, you are less likely to alarm deer.

Remember, however, that during the early part of the season, undisturbed bucks often bed near the edges of their sanctuaries. Thus, you have to approach in complete silence, regardless of bedding-area size. If possible, place your treestands well before the season so that all you have to do is climb aboard. I commonly use a climbing stand, because it gives me freedom to move as wind and deer movements dictate. Many modern climbers are very quiet as long as you take your time with them.

The shape of a bedding area also dictates how you hunt it. When hunting a long, narrow bedding area such as a brushy fencerow or grassy waterway, hunt the ends, or approach your stand site at a right angle to the bedding area to avoid disturbing bedded deer. If you knowingly bump a buck from his bed, back off for a few days, and then set up on an alternate exit trail.

Timing can be critical. I generally hunt only in afternoons when restless bucks might exit their sanctuaries to feed. I'll hunt mornings only in places where I'm assured of slipping into stands undetected.

The first few weeks of the season, before bucks have been pounded too hard and are routinely exiting their bedding areas before dark, may be the best time of year to hunt. During the rut, late morning is a great time to sit on trails running parallel to bedding areas, as bucks cruise such trails to scent-check the cross trails for estrous does.

Food sources in or near bedding areas can be absolute hotspots, as bucks will often feed near their sanctuaries at almost any time of day. In forested areas, acorn-laden oaks are deer magnets; in farmland, crabapple trees and old apple orchards can be dynamite. One of my favorite stands is located among three old apple trees about 50 yards inside a large dogwood thicket.

If you can find no key features, such as food or obvious funnels to set up on, work your way around the edge of the bedding area and hunt secondary exit trails, especially those containing large rubs.

In summary, to hunt bedding areas effectively: 1) Scout smart by using aerial photos and limiting your intrusions to winter and early fall; 2) Minimize disturbance by selecting large bedding areas with plenty of core area to harbor bucks; 3) Hunt smart by using the weather, especially the wind, to cover your presence; 4) Maximize shot opportunities by setting up on key features such as food and natural funnels; and 5) Rest bedding areas by backing off after knowingly disturbing the area.


Hi, I am in Australia and


I am in Australia and what you guys think the best place of bedding in Australia?

Bucks in Europe

Have you thought of hunting in Europe? This looks fun

niceshot_smitty's picture

i love hunting bed bucks and

i love hunting bed bucks and even bulls..  its just something i was tought at a young age.  Here where i hunt there is a lot of other hunter and it is all public land, so its all far game.  Over the last 15 years of hunting i have learned where the bulls or bucks whould be beded and be there before they would be.  O course i hunt Mule deer and thats deffernet from whitetails. 

Some of my best hunts have been getting in close to a bed mulie and trying to tag out.  it doesn't always work but it fun..  

ManOfTheFall's picture

The only times I will ever

The only times I will ever intrude into bedding area's is winter when the season has ended, and on into early spring. I don't really like doing it then. These are all great tips if you take care and do everything very carefully. The only problem is we are all humans and will probably make many mistakes while trying to do this. If you can do it great. As for me I try and set up no closer than 100 yards from a bedding area. I think one time I was as close as 80 yards and I actually felt like I was in a less productive spot. I'm assuming I probably busted deer out of their beds too many times and I moved my stand back away from that area and eventually had more success again after awhile.

hunter25's picture

That's a pretty good tip and

That's a pretty good tip and I will have to look into it more. I have used google earth a little to get the general overview of an area but have never tried to plan out beeding areas and other details of the animals behavior that might be using the area. In the mountains this could be expanded to include escape routes and other details as well.

Thanks for giving me something else to think about and manage my plans better.

numbnutz's picture

Great tips, I use Google

Great tips, I use Google earth for a lot of my scouting in my normal hunting area. Its over 5 hours away so I dont get to drive over there to much. I have seen site where you can order ariel photos of an area but why pay the money when google earth is free. I have not used the pro version so i dont know what the advantages are. But between my topo maps and google I can get a fair amount of scouting done from my living room. As far as hunting bedding areas just make sure to move slow and quiet as you dont wanna blow the deer or elk out of the country.

groovy mike's picture

good idea, sources?

This sounds like a great idea.  Do you have a source for ariel photographs that work well for you?

I've heard that you can order them by mail for a fee.

I have a friend who uses "Google-Earth" just as you decsribe.  Its free if you already have access and can print them at home.

I don't have the Google Earth application on my computer but you know it just might be worth paying for if I thought I was going to hunt an area that I didn't know well and wanted to check it out ahead of time.

I'll have to file this one away in my mind for future reference.

I wonder if there are satellite views of places like remote canada (where I might be moose or caribou hunting) available?

Has anyone here explored that option?  If so, please let us know.





jaybe's picture

Good Suggestions

This whole idea of hunting bedding areas is a great one, but one that is fairly difficult to do well.

"Well" is the key word.

It's easy to stumble into such an area and blow all the deer out; if a wise buck is bumped in his bed, he may not be back during daylight during the season.

I appreciate the tips here, which emphasize using caution, and stealth in this endeavor.

I have had Google Earth on my computer, and there is a free version which you ought to try first.

There is also a "professional" version available for an annual charge; I don't know what the advantages of that might be - I have thought it might be greater resolution, but I'm not sure.

With the free version, I have been able to spot different types of cover in a given area. Especially if you already know what's there, you can learn what each type looks like so you can recognize it somewhere else.

Pine tree plantings are dark green and are in rows; a patch of aspen is a lighter green and is "fuzzy", cedar swamps are very dark green, etc.

Thanks for this tip; it will be helpful to many hunters.