Do I need to “take it down a notch?” Big woods/cedar swamp

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Do I need to “take it down a notch?” Big woods/cedar swamp

Unread postby B Hunter » Sat Sep 19, 2020 10:23 am

Here’s the deal guys. From shining the last few weeks before season I found a few nice bucks in a bean field a couple hundred yards off the public. They always seem to be there about 2-2.5 hours after dark, never before. I talked to a fellow public land hunter opening morning and he confirmed he’s had them on camera, and showed me the pics.

This area is roughly 1500 acre “cedar swamp” but this year is relatively dry so no standing water. Some muck but not hard walking at all from that aspect. There are some islands, but there are walking trails that go to every single one, and they get pressured ( boot tracks tell me so). I will add that I’ve not hunted or scouted this piece previously, I was drawn to it by the bucks I’ve seen shining.

This area has a lot of “interior edge” where it transitions from thick (can see 50 yards) to really thick ( can barley walk through, some you have to crawl). These transitions are gradual, very hard too see from a map, and very few elevation changes that show up on topo.

My game plan so far has been to scout these Interior transitions and look for fresh sign. In doing this I have kicked up plenty of deer, which at least has tipped me off to some bedding areas. Lots were does, not sure if there were any bucks. No obvious indication of buck beds, unless I’m overlooking.

What I’m struggling with is to find the sign that I am looking for. I tend to always push further into the suspected bedding because I’m not happy enough with what I see to set up on. I eventually walk through all of it and before I know it it’s 20 min to dark. In my mind observation sits are hard when you can only see 20-50 yards. The best sign I’ve seen are some tracks that seem random in the muck ( no defined trails) and some browsed vegetation. Track size and freshness seem to be distorted in the muck,or maybe I’m not good enough to tell the difference.

In my mind what I’m looking for is a edge with some large beds, fresh rubs, well defined entry/exit trails with large tracks. Possibly fresh scrape nearby.

When I tell my buddies I’ve been walking around the bedding looking for the “perfect sign” they tell me I need to take it down a notch and just hunt the not so perfect stuff. Not sure I can do that since it seems like there’s hundreds of areas like this, and there’s only so many days I can hunt. On the other hand, Maybe what I’m looking for doesn’t exist in this habitat? Maybe the mature bucks won’t create the sign I’m looking for?

Should I keep on searching, or should I “take it down a notch” and give some of these “random tracks, light browse spots a try? Maybe I’m overlooking something that this sign is telling me?

Thanks for the time.


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Tim H
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Re: Do I need to “take it down a notch?” Big woods/cedar swamp

Unread postby Tim H » Sat Sep 19, 2020 10:57 am

This time of year you won’t be finding the aggressive rut sign you are probably looking for. You gotta give some spots a chance to see what’s in the area otherwise you’ll never know.
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Re: Do I need to “take it down a notch?” Big woods/cedar swamp

Unread postby 1STRANGEWILDERNESS » Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:05 pm

I hunt large cedar swamps a lot in the U P and if I went strictly off hot sign big rubs etc I would go past a lot of areas that turned out to be holding a good buck. With that amount of pressure I would think hard about what might be right in front of everyone’s face that everyone is ignoring.
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Re: Do I need to “take it down a notch?” Big woods/cedar swamp

Unread postby headgear » Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:16 pm

Keep your eyes peeled for tracks, there should be a rub/scrape or two around too to tip you off. 1500 acres is pretty big area but just keep looking, there are going to be a lot of good hiding spots but if you start to narrow them down you will find them eventually. Also with all the trails and pressure I would focus on crawl through thick stuff and overlooked stuff near the trails. Sometimes it is as simple as scouting areas that don't have any huntable trees but sometimes you have to dig around and find the spot within the spot if you know what I mean. I have a couple of 3-5 square mile swamps I have been working on for 10 years, not sure I will ever finish them but over time you figure some things out.
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Re: Do I need to “take it down a notch?” Big woods/cedar swamp

Unread postby Rich M » Sun Sep 20, 2020 2:05 pm

Last time I was learning a new area was 2018. Quota permits...

Anyway, found plenty of areas with a few tracks and kept at it. Found the motherload and got 2 in 2 mornings.

Look until you find. You'll find them eventually. A deer can go a long ways in 2 hours...
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Re: Do I need to “take it down a notch?” Big woods/cedar swamp

Unread postby PK_ » Mon Sep 21, 2020 2:10 am

Well if you are scouting to hang and hunt, this time of year if you run into the type of sign you’re looking for then yes you went too far. Way too far.

Most of the best buck bedding I have found in the type of terrain you are describing you could literally walk within a few yards of and not see the beds/rubs due to how these bucks bury in and hide. But they are also in spots where they see, smell or hear you before you are even close to being a threat.

If it was me I would dedicate a day and just grid search as much of it as I could until I found what I was looking for. Focus on the highest and lowest elevations. Find some sort of barrier or dead end. When you find a mature bucks bed room, there is no mistaking it.
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Re: Do I need to “take it down a notch?” Big woods/cedar swamp

Unread postby B Hunter » Mon Sep 21, 2020 2:38 am

headgear wrote:Keep your eyes peeled for tracks, there should be a rub/scrape or two around too to tip you off. 1500 acres is pretty big area but just keep looking, there are going to be a lot of good hiding spots but if you start to narrow them down you will find them eventually. Also with all the trails and pressure I would focus on crawl through thick stuff and overlooked stuff near the trails. Sometimes it is as simple as scouting areas that don't have any huntable trees but sometimes you have to dig around and find the spot within the spot if you know what I mean. I have a couple of 3-5 square mile swamps I have been working on for 10 years, not sure I will ever finish them but over time you figure some things out.


Sounds good, thanks. So far the best sign & most deer I’ve ran into have been in the areas you describe. I’ve noticed some areas where there is a small opening surrounded by super thick and that’s where they like to be. Have also found buck beds filled with rubs 40 yards off the trail, didn’t seem to be from a mature animal however.
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Re: Do I need to “take it down a notch?” Big woods/cedar swamp

Unread postby B Hunter » Mon Sep 21, 2020 2:57 am

PK_ wrote:Well if you are scouting to hang and hunt, this time of year if you run into the type of sign you’re looking for then yes you went too far. Way too far.

Most of the best buck bedding I have found in the type of terrain you are describing you could literally walk within a few yards of and not see the beds/rubs due to how these bucks bury in and hide. But they are also in spots where they see, smell or hear you before you are even close to being a threat.

If it was me I would dedicate a day and just grid search as much of it as I could until I found what I was looking for. Focus on the highest and lowest elevations. Find some sort of barrier or dead end. When you find a mature bucks bed room, there is no mistaking it.


I always have the stand on my back and I see what you are saying with your statement about probably going too far to hang a set for that day. In my mind I would rather push further in to scout to learn what is there than throw a sit further back in a spot I’m not certain about. Just not sure if I’m being too aggressive by diving in, and maybe I should be sitting back.

I can definitely see your point about walking right by beds and sign because it’s so thick. That being said, it’s probably worth doing a little of both strategies. 4 out of my 6 hunts in this area have turned into all day scouting missions with no set up.


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