As we continue to do more off-season scouting here in Nebraska one factor that we have repeatedly run into on public land is open wooded areas. It took us a while to figure this one out, it really shouldn’t have, but it did. It was staring us right in the face the whole time and it finally sank in as we scouted a new piece of public land a couple weeks ago and I thought it worth passing along because as soon as we moved away from that area and into thicker cedar trees and just thicker woody cover with thicker understory, we found a series of large rubs and what we think is going to be a good early season stand location near a transition line from this thick cover to some oak trees.
As we have seen with many hunting properties and pieces of public land here in Nebraska, many wooded areas are just too open to consistently hold deer, especially bucks. I have heard it described, and I think it is the best way to illustrate the point, as “park” woods. Meaning if you were to go to a state park, or park where camping takes place, the area would look similar to that. I say to Brody all the time, “it has that state park look to it.” That is not a good thing! Think large fully grown trees and open understory where you can see a long ways in any direction.
I said it took Brody and I a while to figure this out, and it did. We saw these areas as places where we could see a long ways in any direction, giving us a great observation sit. The problem was, there were never any deer close enough to actually see. It is one habit we have gotten out of doing.
Now while scouting, when we get to that area on a piece of public, where we get that open understory and large, mature trees, we just keep walking. If you can see a good 75-100 yards, there is very little chance a buck is going to bed in that area. For one thing, there is no thermal cover in winter bedding scenarios to keep the buck warm, which is important for late season hunts. Also, a buck wants to be able to see danger coming, but he also wants to be able to make one bound and be out of site again. If he has to run 200 yards to do that, he will bed elsewhere.
You might get a doe or two to bed in that area, but the bucks won’t be there. They need to feel secure and open woodlots just don’t cut it. Yes, it might be great turkey hunting in the spring, but it is not the place for your tree stand in the fall. One other factor of open understory is the food component. Deer are browsers, meaning they browse as they walk or move throughout the evening or day. These open understory areas have very little, if any native forbs or browse for the deer. No food, no cover, no bucks.
These open areas are places to move through quickly while scouting or doing a hang and hunt. You want thick cover. Brody and I now know when we get to these “state park” areas to just keep walking. It took longer than it should have, but we can now cross these areas off and save ourselves a couple sits each fall. Seems simple, but sometimes us hunters get caught doing the same things year after year and it is important to realize when something just doesn’t work. One of my goals and I am sure Brody’s as well, is to get rid of the observation sits and go right into the thick cover. Don’t waste time in these open spots. Yes, we might see fewer deer per given sit, but the deer we do see will more than likely be bucks.