Whitetail Scouting 101: Locating Funnels and Pinch Points
June 21, 2016
Funnels and pinch points play as vital of role in your whitetail success as a productive food plot program.
Sure, food lures deer in like free food samples at a giant box store, but without routes that manipulate deer into ambush opportunities your food efforts may fall as flat as a kale sample at a health food store. The percentage of failure rises if local deer feel pressure and linger in timber for a nocturnal entrance to feed.
Increase shooting odds by locating funnels and pinch points on your property. Deer use them as travel shortcuts and you can use them as shortcuts to success.
Funnels and Pinch Points
Funnels are generally defined as terrain or manmade features that channel whitetail travel activity. This may include land features such as riparian zones, coulees, hillside benches and ridgetop saddles. In the manmade category it might include fences, hedgerows, planted windbreaks and seldom-used back roads.
Pinch points oftentimes exist in a funnel, but further neck down a meeting location to an x-marks-the-spot site. They include narrow creek crossings, bottlenecks of timber, cliff-side trails and an open gate along a tightly-strung fence.
In either category think the path of least resistance. Whitetails vary their travel, but generally lean toward an easy path that provides refuge.
Begin that search at home or on a smart device. Satellite images from popular hunting programs, like ScoutLook Weather or OnXMaps, give you the view from above and allow topographical overlays to view terrain underneath the canopy.
These lines of elevation reveal subtle terrain features deer use to sneak between food and refuge. As you research scout for strips of narrow cover connecting large blocks of timber. Also be on the hunt for ribbons of habitat that lead to food sources or sanctuary. If you find funnels that connect, like spokes in hub, you've hit a homerun.
Next, narrow your search for pinch points in between. Obvious selections, such as constricted tree lines, stand out on satellite images and you may be able to decipher others with mapping help. Still, a walk in the woods may offer the most credible insight.
Aaron Volkmar, a 14-year veteran whitetail outfitter, believes onsite exploration is the best way to confirm funnels and pinch points. His various hunting properties in Iowa, Missouri and Kansas keep him in scouting mode much of the offseason. He suggests firsthand scouting any time of year, except hunting season. Nevertheless, he advises winter and spring scouting as his top preference if at all possible.
"The best way to scout and for the best view of funnels, and pinch points is to go out in the middle of winter. Your intrusion will long be forgotten by hunting season. Locate and rank travel corridors based on how many deer use them, and find the pinch points," notes Volkmar. "I also do a lot of scouting for funnels and pinch points during turkey season. Vegetation is not in full bloom and much of the sign from the previous fall is still evident."
To bolster his findings he employs lots of long-range glassing, especially during the summer when bachelor groups begin to form and bucks consistently feed in daylight. Volkmar is looking for bucks appearing on trails with distinct pinch-point opportunities he discovered while walking properties.
Scout and Confirm
Since Volkmar specializes in hunting mature bucks he deploys trail cameras to help inventory bucks on his properties. Despite the extra eyes in the woods, he limits his forays into the woods to check trail cameras. This is especially important if the camera is near a pinch point with a high probability for a mature buck meeting.
"If I glass an older buck or catch one on a trail camera, the last thing I'm going to do is walk in repeatedly to check a camera. You likely only get one opportunity on a mature buck. You won't get that opportunity if you keep busting or jumping a seasoned buck."
One of Volkmar's Iowa properties is characterized by a 9-acre stand of timber that funnels through two fields into another 4-acre bowl of trees. That small habitat zone eventually dwindles to nothing in a nearby crop field. Last season Volkmar counted no less than 38 active scrapes along the corridor and he placed stands in the narrowest pinch points.
The first time he put a client in the funnel the hunter arrowed a 160-class, 8-point buck. And that was after rattling in a buck estimated to be in the 170s. The next hunter in the high-traffic funnel never connected, but passed on three bucks in the high 150s.
That's a good problem to have and that's the definition of a hot funnel with pinch-point precision. Be on the lookout for your own whitetail thoroughfare this season.