deer hunting big woods | Keefer Brothers

Deer Hunting Big Woods and Topography

Deer Hunting Big Woods | Features and Topography

When you think of white-tailed deer and deer hunting, different areas may come to mind.  For some, the thought of deer hunting automatically sparks the visions of the wide open grasslands of Kansas or South Dakota.  For others, it may be the timber breaks between annual grain field and the wooded ridges of the Midwestern states.  Then there are those who automatically imagine themselves surrounded by thousands of acres of forest and woodlands, with oak trees dropping acorns by the thousands.  Each deer hunter has their own thoughts on the perfect landscape for a hunt. Each scenario comes with its own set of challenges that hunters must learn to overcome if they want to maximize their chances of bringing the PSE to full draw.  Deer hunting big woods and large tracts of forest definitely has its challenges and difficulties, but can be done!

There are certainly areas that are a little easier to hunt especially when it comes to scouting and patterning whitetail deer. The fact that white-tailed deer are “edge species” starts the discussion into which habitats and landscapes may be easier to hunt.  What does this really mean?  Well, it means that deer like to utilize transition areas between habitats.  For example, a woody draw that runs along a crop field would be considered an edge.  If the landowner had recently performed some habitat work such as edge feathering to improve the shrubby cover along the draw, it would be referred to as a soft edge, whereas if it transitions directly from a forest to crop field it is referred to as a hard edge.  While soft edges are often better for wildlife like whitetail deer, deer will still utilize these areas for travel and escape cover.

In areas like the Midwest where there are a plethora of edges between crops fields, CRP fields, and woodlots or creek bottoms, it is a little easier to scout and pattern whitetail deer. If this is the case, how do you apply this process when you are hunting big blocks of timber?  Well, believe it or not, the same process of locating edges and travel routes can be applied in this scenario…if you know what to look for!

deer hunting big woods | Keefer BrothersEdges in the Woods

There is no question that deer hunting big woods and in big blocks of timber is another beast entirely than what some may refer to in the Midwest.  It can be difficult to even know where to start.  Luckily, with a few tips and a little modern technology you can set yourself up to put a Rage behind the shoulder of a giant timber buck this fall!


It all starts with topography.  Having a good set of topo maps is a very important part of putting together a game plan for hunting a big timber set.  Though it may not seem like it at first glance, even in a situation where the entire landscape is forested, there are still edges that are created and will be utilized by deer.  These edges are usually in association with large landscape features and can an excellent place to put your Reconyx Cameras to work.

If you take a good close look at your topo maps, you can begin to identify these edges within the forests.  These areas are usually associated with saddles or oak flats as well as bottomland drainages such as  creek bottoms.  Often, deer will utilize these areas for travel and as places to feed and bed.  For example, creek drainages and saddles are often critical travel areas for deer.  They also provide excellent pinch points for the hunter to take advantage of to ambush a patterned buck.

Other Edges

When you think large tracts of timber, many might think of large tracts of state or federal forestry. In these areas, swatches of timber that have been logged and are regenerating with shrubby sprouts can be excellent forage location as well as providing excellent thermal bedding cover for deer. These areas differ from the surrounding forest that may have little to no undergrowth depending on deer density, and age of the forest. South to southwest facing slopes are also often prime bedding locations in the winter months as they receive more direct sunlight than the north facing slopes. South facing landings, or recently logged areas create great edges with the opposite slopes and surrounding timber. Of course, oak flats are always fantastic areas to intercept a whitetail buck during the early morning or late evening hours, again especially close to these recognizable edges.

The most important take home point to keep in mind when it comes to deer hunting big woods and timber is that although it may all look the same, large tracts of timber are often more complex than one might think.  You need to be able to train your eye and learn how to utilize both your topo maps and the other tools at your disposal to be able to identify and pattern a big timber whitetail. In Rival Wild, the Keefer Brothers have trained their eye to identify these key features in tracts of timber. Not only do they film the hunt, but provide very valuable aerial maps describing the locations of Reconyx Cameras and Millennium tree stands.

Description: Deer Hunting Property Breakdown, Rival Wild-Season 3, Ep. 8 – Timber Town.
“On this episode of Rival Wild, the Keefer Brothers find themselves hunting a large tract of timber known as “timber town”. Large tracts of timber can be difficult to hunt without the play of elevation and topography. Luckily 3 ridges funnel deer straight into the set located in timber town.”


Check all your Boxes

You have done your homework and have identified areas of transition within the timber you are hunting; now it is time to get in there and put the PSE to work.  Before you dive in, here are two important things to keep in mind.  With topography comes unpredictable wind.  The weather man may say that you are going to have a steady northwest wind, but crazy things can happen in the timber.  If you’re hunting in an area with a lot of topography the wind can do crazy things and can ruin your hunt if you are not careful.  Having a product like Scentlok in combination with Dead Down Wind Scent products can greatly decrease the chances of the wind ruining your hunt, so keep the wind in mind when planning your set. There are several other boxes, or Kill Factors as the Keefer Brothers call them, to check off as well. Refer to the blog below and create a Kill Factor list for the mature buck you are hunting!

Lastly, entering and exiting your stand is a whole other animal when you are hunting large timber.  Stealth can come at a premium and one crunch of the leaves or snap of a twig can end a hunt before it even begins.  It is important to put some time in ahead of the hunt to clear a path directly to your stand that will allow you to be as quiet as possible when both entering and exiting the stand.  Checking this box will save you a lot of trouble and heartache, trust us!

Hunting whitetails in the big timber country of the United States is a great challenge and can produce some absolutely stellar whitetails.  It offers a different challenge, but if you are up for it, the rewards are well worth it!

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