3 Hot Rut Funnels

My entrance, wind, and setup were perfect, but despite all the “perfect” that 3.5-year-old buck was still snorting his warnings at me over and over. Letting my bow string down I collapsed back into my stand to sulk for a minute. That was the very buck I’d been looking for all season. 

During a spring scouting mission, I found one of his shed antlers on a deeply grooved ridge-side. Not far from the antler I found classic buck bed worn heavily into the dirt from years of use. The moment that I’d been dreaming of since March went just as quickly as it had come. 

Based on observation from a previous hunt, I placed myself exactly where I assumed movement would occur. The buck initially arrived on scene trailing a doe above my chosen location. Hiking to the spot in the dark, I had missed being in the right tree by 15 yards. 

I was preparing to make a shot as the buck passed above me. I had confidence in my wind, but my setup was not the “perfect” I’d  originally thought. Slowly and painfully I turned in my stand to shoot. Just then my tree stand squeaked. The buck looked in my direction, unraveled, and fled the scene. As exciting as that encounter was it would have been a wild experience to seal the deal.

The whitetail rut sometimes makes the hunting feel like you could perch above almost any deer trail and see different bucks all day long. Remember, bucks are a little less guarded during the rut, however; mature bucks still have amazing instincts. Even if they are a little rut-crazed. 

During your scouting adventures, there is importance in determining the timing and conditions that correlate to the sign you’ve found. First, you should capitalize on a buck’s instinct of survival. After survival, focus your attention in that buck’s next weakness—the pursuit of hot does. Their weakness may change through the phases of the rut – here’s a podcast about hunting the different phases of the rut. If you want to be in heat of the action, e-scouting and in-person scouting alike make uncovering a goldmine a real possibility. As far as the rut is concerned, there are hundreds of funnels that we can mull over. These are a few of my favorites that you’ll want to check out.

Extended Ridge Points

Extended ridge points aren’t exactly a true terrain feature term, so I’ll try to explain. I’ll depict this as a main ridge that comes to a rounded end. The main ridge is where does predominantly bed. Moving along, the ridge then drops off modestly to a narrow spine-like point. Via a topographic view, this feature will appear to be shaped like a tennis racket. 

Towards the end of the extended point terrain will drop off aggressively. The end of the extended point is what bucks typically prefer for bedding cover. Ends on this type of point provide easy scent checking of doe bedding as well as a fast escape from heavy hunting pressure. 

Determining the right spot for an ambush by mapping deer trails running in and out of the bedding areas is a priority. Nevertheless, trails that run directly down the center of a point easily fool an unknowing eye. Those exposed trails are avoided by bucks, unless the security cover is substantial enough to keep a buck in hiding. Bucks use trails that aren’t easy to detect and lie around the sides of the point. Trails like this enter into the heaviest cover leading up to doe bedding.

A common theory for hunting buck-bedding in hill country depicts a buck bedding with the wind traveling over his back. The buck would also be looking downhill, sucking up thermal currents coming from below. But reality says bucks like to live where they know their area the best and where they feel the most secure. Using the wind and thermal rule as a guide is a good starting point, after that trial and error is vital! You’ll often hear the analogy: “If every night someone was waiting in your kitchen when you came out of your bedroom for a midnight snack, how many nights would it take you to stop going to the kitchen at midnight?” It likely wouldn’t take you very long to come to the conclusion going into the kitchen at midnight is a bad idea. 

Deer are smart, and while everyone keeps hunting the leeward side of ridges, you might know something those other people might not. Don’t ignore it! I’m not going to claim that I’m of expert level by any means. However, if you’re an amateur, take notes early on because you may have done something right that you won’t recognize until you’re more experienced. You may want to use that piece of information later on in your hunting career. 

If I could choose my favorite wind I would choose a crosswind, or a wind that would put a buck almost downwind of my location. The wind in that situation needs to be off to the side enough to stay out of a buck’s nose. If a buck is approaching from the east, he will feel almost invincible on a NW or SW wind. Chances are you’re going to get busted a time or two when learning this approach. However, there are only a few other things that will increase your odds like this will.

Narrow Logging Roads 

Usually, when I’m talking about a clear-cut, I’m talking about one in the 3-7 year-old range. Right now I’m talking about narrow logging roads running through a clear-cut between 15-20 years old. Narrow is key! It makes deer feel secure even if an area is seemingly open. Key features to look for: a trail that runs a distance of 200 yards or more, easy buck access to does on one side, and a barrier relating to bedding or food on the other side. The barrier should consist of heavy cover or some kind of rocky point that bucks can hide behind as they enter the food source. 

Shooting lanes are hard to come by when hunting in a sea of 3-6 inch saplings. You will need to scout for mature trees in the interior because there could be potential openings under their canopy. Usually, mature trees will provide a small bulge-like opening in the logging road that create natural shooting lanes. Shots will most likely be in close at 5-12 yards max, so if you’re hunting a spot like this keep your eyes sharp!

During a November rut hunt, I once spooked a buck and doe that were bedded in brush along the main access . The pair immediately jumped across the road into a plethora of silver poled saplings. I drew my bow to get a shot at the buck. Confused as to what happened, the buck stood broadside a mere 30-yards away. That old clear-cut covered all his vital parts so well that I couldn’t make a shot happen. After a few minutes of investigation, the pair of deer continued along their way on that protected logging road. 

Old cuts like this may not be as productive as new clear-cuts when it comes to quality browse. But for security and travel these cuts are hard to beat. Remember deer have been funneling in and around those old cuts for a very long. That travel pattern will continue to serve a purpose for the local deer herd. 

Ditches and Bows

Ditches and bows go together like cement and bricks. They are a highly identifiable terrain feature which can make for quite a bit of hunting pressure. Finding a good series of subtle ditches is a much more beneficial approach.

Typically, hunting trails that pass over the top of a ditch are OK. But as hunting pressure increases, you’ll find that the tops are mostly unproductive. Yes, bucks (all deer for that matter) prefer the path of least resistance. But if it means staying alive deer will use more difficult terrain than some would expect. Bucks prefer to travel across a folded series of ditches using the quick rise and fall in elevation to stay hidden. They will also travel up and down a ditch when food sources lie above or below.

Some element of water is a huge advantage when choosing a ditch to hunt. Ditches that have runoff, seepage, or a spring will continue to vacuum scent straight towards lower elevation regardless of wind direction. Wind that is somewhere around 7-10 miles may override this kind of thermal pull, but more often than not thermals will flow with a water source almost all day. To achieve that thermal benefit, you’ll want to choose a tree that is as close to the ditch as possible. Trees that are even 10 to 20 feet off the edge of the ditch might be too far away for the desired effect.


Rut hunting is some of the most fun any hunter can have and every person who hunts whitetails knows it. Remember as deer adjust their movement based on the increase in hunting pressure, you should adjust right along with them.