The following article, by Mark Kenyon, is a sample chapter from the new “Rules of the Rut” eBook by Wired to Hunt. In this book Mark joins a group of whitetail experts (Andy May, Chase Burns, Chris Eberhart, Craig Dougherty, Dan Infalt, Don Higgins, Jeff Sturgis, and Todd Pringnitz) to share their favorite and most effective ways to hunt the rut. I’ve been reading my copy of this book on my phone, while on the treestand, and it’s proven to be more than worth the $1.99 you’ll pay for it.
It’s the classic rut hunting scenario.
A frosty cold morning is punctuated suddenly by the rustling of leaves quickly getting louder and coming your way. The first thing you see emerge from brush is a plume of steam erupting from the snout of a thick faced whitetail. The thick and tall tines of a mature whitetail rack emerge next, and your heart immediately goes into overdrive.
With cut crop fields on either side of you 40 yards away, you know that this behemoth will have to come your way. The ambush has been laid, and he’s walking right into it. 60 yards. 50 yards. 40 yards. He continues to close the distance, until finally, at 30 yards he pauses with his nose in the air. Instincts take over, your bow is drawn, you touch the release, and the arrow erupts forward.
This scene plays out year after year all across the country during the whitetail rut, and all because of the power of pinch points.
If you can truly understand the power of pinch points, and hunt them strategically, it could be you living out this story in a season to come soon!
Why Pinch Points?
So, why are pinch points all that important?
During the rut, a buck’s primary focus is finding a doe that’s ready to breed. Unfortunately for said buck, most does he comes upon are usually not going to be receptive to his reproductive efforts. Because of that fact, bucks need to cover a lot of ground during in the rut in order to find a doe that’s ready to rock.
Given this fact of life, as a hunter during the rut, a great tactic is to find areas that these bucks will often travel through while searching for these does. What’s even better, especially for a bowhunter, is to find a spot that these bucks will travel through that is relatively small and will bring deer surely within shooting range.
If you’re looking for this kind of spot, you’ll often find it come in the form of pinch points or funnels.
So why do pinch points work well for funneling buck movement during the rut? It’s simple really – bucks love cover. When traveling during the daylight, bucks almost always want to remain in cover and hidden from humans and other potential dangers. To do this, they often travel in thick vegetation, corn fields, cattails, etc. Sometimes though, this kind of cover is sparse, and when you can find sparse strips of cover that connect two areas that bucks want to visit, you’ve found yourself a pinch point.
Pinch points can also be created by obstructions such as rivers, roads, railroad tracks and the like. Again, the key here is that some type of natural or man-made feature forces the majority of movement into small area.
During the rut, as bucks cruise for does, they inevitably will need to travel through a number of pinch points as they visit various doe hot spots. Spend enough time near one of these funnels, and you’ll eventually see some horns. That is assuming you hunt it right though…
How To Properly Hunt Pinch Points
So once you’ve found yourself some pinch points, how can you best hunt them?
The first thing you must consider when hunting a funnel is stand location, and the first factor effecting stand location should be wind direction. At all costs, try to ensure that your stand is downwind of the majority of trails moving through the funnel. You also definitely don’t want to sit in a funnel when the wind is blowing your scent up or down the travel corridor. Outside of wind considerations, if the funnel is not too large, you’d also like to be able to shoot to the majority of the funnel as well. Keep that in mind when choosing pinch points and how you then want to position your stand.
Secondly, when it comes to hunting a funnel you need to keep in mind that this is an area that bucks will be traveling through, not hanging out around. That means bucks will be on the move, and quite possibly moving quickly. With that said, you need to ensure that you have enough shooting lanes and large enough lanes cut to ensure that you can get adequate shot opportunities at a buck quickly moving through.
Speaking of quickly moving deer, I personally am not an advocate for shooting walking deer. I know sometimes it just happens and some people feel comfortable doing it, but I personally would prefer a still animal. That said, when I’m hunting a funnel, I plan on stopping a buck (hopefully in a shooting lane) before firing. I do this by making a soft mouth grunt or bleat, which will ideally result in the buck pausing for a few moments.
While this presents a still shot, it does also offer a little risk. By making a noise you’ve instantly put that buck on alert, and there may be a greater chance of that buck now “jumping the string” when you release an arrow. Given that possibility, when stopping a buck for a shot, I’ll assume that he’ll jump the string to some degree. To compensate for that I aim at the lower 1/3 of the kill zone. This way if the buck does jump the string, I’ll hopefully still hit high in the kill zone, and if he doesn’t jump I’ll still be in the vitals.
The last consideration to keep in mind when hunting funnels during the rut is that these types of travel corridors are prime spots for mid-day action. Bucks typically cruise from bedding area to bedding area in the late morning or early afternoon, and therefore end up doing a lot of their “funnel travel” during this time. That said, if you’re hunting this kind of spot, I’d highly recommend you plan on hunting all day. If you can’t stomach a full day hunt, you’ll be missing a lot of opportunities.
Find The Pinch Points, Hunt Them Right
This year when planning your rut hunting excursions do yourself a favor and make sure to stake out a few locations within pinch points. Hunting these areas are the bread and butter of many hunters’ rut strategies, and for good reason. It just plain works.
So take a look at some maps, find the pinch points and funnels, and hunt them right.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have one of those frosty cold mornings, when the silence is punctuated suddenly by the rustling of leaves quickly getting louder and coming your way…