Bad luck or just reality?

Discuss deer hunting tactics, Deer behavior. Post your Hunting Stories, Pictures, and Questions/Answers.
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PAbowhunter10
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Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby PAbowhunter10 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:41 am

Just got back from my first Ohio public hunting trip and sitting here trying to collect my thoughts from our five day trip. To say it was a challenge would be an understatement.
We decided to target some pretty big, well known, wildlife areas in Ohio hoping that we get into some of the action that everyone raves about. Specifically Tri-valley and Appalachian hills wildlife areas. For anyone not familiar we are talking 20,000+ acres for both areas with varying terrain features: Rolling hills, bluffs, hardwoods, open fields, and some of the nastiest thickest brush that one could imagine.
We had plans to scout the first half of the trip but I think we ended up scouting like 90% and ground hunting 10% even though we had our bows in our hands the entire time. After looking back at the boots on the ground work I believe we scouted over 20miles and bumped one deer (small buck) and seen one glassing (doe). I had people tell me the deer population was low out that way.... but come on. In PA you walk a mile or so and your probably going to bump a deer or accidentally run into a couple. The sign in the areas we scouted was decent but nothing mind blowing. Found some scrapes and rubs, and most of it was pretty fresh, but we could not figure out where these deer were bedding. We assumed it was up on the hilltops/leeward side of the hills or in the thick brush on the bottoms but never bumped one to verify our assumptions. Also the hunting pressure was pretty high, which we expected. Seen lots of vehicles on the roads and pull-offs but only ran into a couple hunters in the woods. The thing that was getting to me though was that you would push a mile out two back into the public trying to escape the pressure but would end up finding some old boot tracks or old set ups in your target area. I know some of you might say, well then look for the overlooked spots, but even the stuff by the road had human intrusion and sign. We talked to quite a few hunting parties and all said the same thing: huntings been tough and can’t seem to find any deer. Even out of all the vehicles we saw, not one had a dead deer strapped to it.
So to wrap things up, I expected this trip to be a challenge but it well exceeded my expectations. I am shocked that people actually consider southeast Ohio Public Lands a destination hunting location if the hunting pressure is so high and the deer population is so low. I don’t know if this was just a bad experience because of the time we went this year (Late October) and the whole COVID thing putting more hunters in the woods. Or are destination public spots like these discussed being depleted of deer because of the amount of pressure it sees every year. Not to mention the increase in attraction to hunting public land because of all the YouTube hunting shows and all the resources(online scouting tools) available to the average joe. I would like to get some feedback and thoughts from anyone who have hunted these public lands or similar situations on public in other states. I’m still trying to determine if I’m going to give it another shot in a couple of weeks. Thoughts? Thanks guys.


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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby PublicLand » Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:55 am

Interested, sounds nocturnal and/or pushed to private. Did you scout the property line? I know some guys that trophy hunt private in oh, occasional big one and many empty tags.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby PAbowhunter10 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 3:08 am

PublicLand wrote:Interested, sounds nocturnal and/or pushed to private. Did you scout the property line? I know some guys that trophy hunt private in oh, occasional big one and many empty tags.

For the first couple of days we exclusively looked at tough to get to property lines spots. Still didn’t bump deer in these locations. The only thing I could imagine is that the deer were nocturnal and laying down all there sign at night. Not sure what the pressure was like in early October in these areas.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby seazofcheeze » Fri Oct 30, 2020 3:09 am

PAbowhunter10 wrote:Just got back from my first Ohio public hunting trip and sitting here trying to collect my thoughts from our five day trip. To say it was a challenge would be an understatement.
We decided to target some pretty big, well known, wildlife areas in Ohio hoping that we get into some of the action that everyone raves about. Specifically Tri-valley and Appalachian hills wildlife areas. For anyone not familiar we are talking 20,000+ acres for both areas with varying terrain features: Rolling hills, bluffs, hardwoods, open fields, and some of the nastiest thickest brush that one could imagine.
We had plans to scout the first half of the trip but I think we ended up scouting like 90% and ground hunting 10% even though we had our bows in our hands the entire time. After looking back at the boots on the ground work I believe we scouted over 20miles and bumped one deer (small buck) and seen one glassing (doe). I had people tell me the deer population was low out that way.... but come on. In PA you walk a mile or so and your probably going to bump a deer or accidentally run into a couple. The sign in the areas we scouted was decent but nothing mind blowing. Found some scrapes and rubs, and most of it was pretty fresh, but we could not figure out where these deer were bedding. We assumed it was up on the hilltops/leeward side of the hills or in the thick brush on the bottoms but never bumped one to verify our assumptions. Also the hunting pressure was pretty high, which we expected. Seen lots of vehicles on the roads and pull-offs but only ran into a couple hunters in the woods. The thing that was getting to me though was that you would push a mile out two back into the public trying to escape the pressure but would end up finding some old boot tracks or old set ups in your target area. I know some of you might say, well then look for the overlooked spots, but even the stuff by the road had human intrusion and sign. We talked to quite a few hunting parties and all said the same thing: huntings been tough and can’t seem to find any deer. Even out of all the vehicles we saw, not one had a dead deer strapped to it.
So to wrap things up, I expected this trip to be a challenge but it well exceeded my expectations. I am shocked that people actually consider southeast Ohio Public Lands a destination hunting location if the hunting pressure is so high and the deer population is so low. I don’t know if this was just a bad experience because of the time we went this year (Late October) and the whole COVID thing putting more hunters in the woods. Or are destination public spots like these discussed being depleted of deer because of the amount of pressure it sees every year. Not to mention the increase in attraction to hunting public land because of all the YouTube hunting shows and all the resources(online scouting tools) available to the average joe. I would like to get some feedback and thoughts from anyone who have hunted these public lands or similar situations on public in other states. I’m still trying to determine if I’m going to give it another shot in a couple of weeks. Thoughts? Thanks guys.


My limited experience in southern Ohio says you were too early. I'd say starting next weekend (Nov 7) would be getting into good action. With that said, you experienced what I tell most people about southern Ohio, it is a grind, period. A guy has to have the mindset that he might only see one buck worth shooting the entire trip (if that), but it could be a giant, because its southern Ohio.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby cjw5136 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 3:12 am

I had very similar experiences. I hunted the Coshocton area for 3 years (2017-2019) trying several different areas in the late October-early November timeframe and had a really hard time even seeing deer. That terrain is tough. My friends went in 2016 and both shot very nice bucks and said they at least saw deer every sit but we all struggled every year after. We decided it wasn’t worth the trip anymore and cancelled this year. There was some hunting pressure but not terrible. We would find stands way back in some areas that were miserable to get to though.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby Bowtech1 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 3:23 am

Welcome to ohio. We have some of the highest hunter densities I've ever heard of. I will hunt a small piece of public less than 300 acres and at times their will be a dozen or more trucks parked there. Good thing is by the time it gets good most guys have given up on it. Ohio is not as easy to hunt as you would believe. I have a buddy that gets it done with giants on public land every year. The last 4 years has been bucks from 140 to 160. This is with 30 years of experience hunting these public lands. Point being. Ohio is not a state your just going to walk into and kill a big deer or any deer just on a whim. We do not have near the numbers of deer we did late 90s to late 2000s.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby jkelley1487 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 3:28 am

I hunt in southern Indiana and the hunting pressure on public lands this fall is insane. I guess it's the whole covid thing but it's packed everywhere. I'm sure there has to be a large increase in southern Ohio as well. I think it's just going to be a tougher year with the higher pressure.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby PAbowhunter10 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 3:39 am

seazofcheeze wrote:
PAbowhunter10 wrote:Just got back from my first Ohio public hunting trip and sitting here trying to collect my thoughts from our five day trip. To say it was a challenge would be an understatement.
We decided to target some pretty big, well known, wildlife areas in Ohio hoping that we get into some of the action that everyone raves about. Specifically Tri-valley and Appalachian hills wildlife areas. For anyone not familiar we are talking 20,000+ acres for both areas with varying terrain features: Rolling hills, bluffs, hardwoods, open fields, and some of the nastiest thickest brush that one could imagine.
We had plans to scout the first half of the trip but I think we ended up scouting like 90% and ground hunting 10% even though we had our bows in our hands the entire time. After looking back at the boots on the ground work I believe we scouted over 20miles and bumped one deer (small buck) and seen one glassing (doe). I had people tell me the deer population was low out that way.... but come on. In PA you walk a mile or so and your probably going to bump a deer or accidentally run into a couple. The sign in the areas we scouted was decent but nothing mind blowing. Found some scrapes and rubs, and most of it was pretty fresh, but we could not figure out where these deer were bedding. We assumed it was up on the hilltops/leeward side of the hills or in the thick brush on the bottoms but never bumped one to verify our assumptions. Also the hunting pressure was pretty high, which we expected. Seen lots of vehicles on the roads and pull-offs but only ran into a couple hunters in the woods. The thing that was getting to me though was that you would push a mile out two back into the public trying to escape the pressure but would end up finding some old boot tracks or old set ups in your target area. I know some of you might say, well then look for the overlooked spots, but even the stuff by the road had human intrusion and sign. We talked to quite a few hunting parties and all said the same thing: huntings been tough and can’t seem to find any deer. Even out of all the vehicles we saw, not one had a dead deer strapped to it.
So to wrap things up, I expected this trip to be a challenge but it well exceeded my expectations. I am shocked that people actually consider southeast Ohio Public Lands a destination hunting location if the hunting pressure is so high and the deer population is so low. I don’t know if this was just a bad experience because of the time we went this year (Late October) and the whole COVID thing putting more hunters in the woods. Or are destination public spots like these discussed being depleted of deer because of the amount of pressure it sees every year. Not to mention the increase in attraction to hunting public land because of all the YouTube hunting shows and all the resources(online scouting tools) available to the average joe. I would like to get some feedback and thoughts from anyone who have hunted these public lands or similar situations on public in other states. I’m still trying to determine if I’m going to give it another shot in a couple of weeks. Thoughts? Thanks guys.


My limited experience in southern Ohio says you were too early. I'd say starting next weekend (Nov 7) would be getting into good action. With that said, you experienced what I tell most people about southern Ohio, it is a grind, period. A guy has to have the mindset that he might only see one buck worth shooting the entire trip (if that), but it could be a giant, because its southern Ohio.


I can agree with your statements Seaz, but can you not hunt these deer in October. I have enough experience now to understand the difference between an average hunter and a skilled hunter. But my question is how can any hunter hunt a deer that can’t be found or is just not there. I have never seen anything like this before and I’m from PA which is supposedly one of the highest pressured states next to Michigan and Wisconsin.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby mauser06 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 4:04 am

I'm just dabbling into Ohio for the first time myself....


We had 2 totally different experiences.


I dropped pins on a ridge and walked right to setups I'm confident I can kill deer in. The sign was there. I was jumping deer.


You actually mention you knew the properties are WELL KNOWN. That was your biggest mistake IMO. I looked at those areas. Access looks pretty easy for the most part. Really no option to get too far from a road or trail.

When I was looking for places to start, I did the complete opposite. I wanted to find places noone was talking about.....in the areas that produce. So, I looked at a few different record book places and determined counties that produce book bucks consistently. Found the popular properties. Then continued till I found stuff noone was mentioning. Risky. That could mean it's horrible. But, that's not the case I don't think.


To put it in perspective, I laid eyes on 2 bucks Saturday. One crossed the road. Another killed by a hunter. Both were 130 class bucks.



The population isn't crazy high. But I was spotting rubs from the road. I was able to plot locations based on topography and aerials and walk in and find I was dead on.


I drove every road on the property Saturday morning. Maybe 15-20 trucks total. I am certain thatll pick up some. Talking to a few guys, they said it is never horrible. I drove another property Sunday morning. Not joking. A good 10-15mi of road through it. I saw exactly 2 trucks.


I don't think for a second it's gunna be easy. I'm planning on going back like the 7-13th or something. Then gun season if needed. I fully expect to have to put my time in and learn the area and the hunters and the deer....but, I'm super excited about what I've seen.



I'd say keep looking. Look for stuff with less roads and trails and less chatter.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby seazofcheeze » Fri Oct 30, 2020 4:14 am

PAbowhunter10 wrote:
seazofcheeze wrote:
PAbowhunter10 wrote:Just got back from my first Ohio public hunting trip and sitting here trying to collect my thoughts from our five day trip. To say it was a challenge would be an understatement.
We decided to target some pretty big, well known, wildlife areas in Ohio hoping that we get into some of the action that everyone raves about. Specifically Tri-valley and Appalachian hills wildlife areas. For anyone not familiar we are talking 20,000+ acres for both areas with varying terrain features: Rolling hills, bluffs, hardwoods, open fields, and some of the nastiest thickest brush that one could imagine.
We had plans to scout the first half of the trip but I think we ended up scouting like 90% and ground hunting 10% even though we had our bows in our hands the entire time. After looking back at the boots on the ground work I believe we scouted over 20miles and bumped one deer (small buck) and seen one glassing (doe). I had people tell me the deer population was low out that way.... but come on. In PA you walk a mile or so and your probably going to bump a deer or accidentally run into a couple. The sign in the areas we scouted was decent but nothing mind blowing. Found some scrapes and rubs, and most of it was pretty fresh, but we could not figure out where these deer were bedding. We assumed it was up on the hilltops/leeward side of the hills or in the thick brush on the bottoms but never bumped one to verify our assumptions. Also the hunting pressure was pretty high, which we expected. Seen lots of vehicles on the roads and pull-offs but only ran into a couple hunters in the woods. The thing that was getting to me though was that you would push a mile out two back into the public trying to escape the pressure but would end up finding some old boot tracks or old set ups in your target area. I know some of you might say, well then look for the overlooked spots, but even the stuff by the road had human intrusion and sign. We talked to quite a few hunting parties and all said the same thing: huntings been tough and can’t seem to find any deer. Even out of all the vehicles we saw, not one had a dead deer strapped to it.
So to wrap things up, I expected this trip to be a challenge but it well exceeded my expectations. I am shocked that people actually consider southeast Ohio Public Lands a destination hunting location if the hunting pressure is so high and the deer population is so low. I don’t know if this was just a bad experience because of the time we went this year (Late October) and the whole COVID thing putting more hunters in the woods. Or are destination public spots like these discussed being depleted of deer because of the amount of pressure it sees every year. Not to mention the increase in attraction to hunting public land because of all the YouTube hunting shows and all the resources(online scouting tools) available to the average joe. I would like to get some feedback and thoughts from anyone who have hunted these public lands or similar situations on public in other states. I’m still trying to determine if I’m going to give it another shot in a couple of weeks. Thoughts? Thanks guys.


My limited experience in southern Ohio says you were too early. I'd say starting next weekend (Nov 7) would be getting into good action. With that said, you experienced what I tell most people about southern Ohio, it is a grind, period. A guy has to have the mindset that he might only see one buck worth shooting the entire trip (if that), but it could be a giant, because its southern Ohio.


I can agree with your statements Seaz, but can you not hunt these deer in October. I have enough experience now to understand the difference between an average hunter and a skilled hunter. But my question is how can any hunter hunt a deer that can’t be found or is just not there. I have never seen anything like this before and I’m from PA which is supposedly one of the highest pressured states next to Michigan and Wisconsin.


PA, Michigan, and Wisconsin all have high pressure, but what they also have is high deer density (PA and Michigan have numbers, just not great age structure), especially compared to a lot of whitetail states. Let's say you have 3 Shooter Bucks per square mile in PA. That's potentially one shooter per 213 acres (640/3) assuming they are equally distributed (we know that's not true, but for the sake of discussion let's assume it is). Now consider a state like Ohio, or an even more extreme example, North Dakota. There might be 1 shooter per 3 miles or even 1 in 5. Now we are looking for one deer in 3,200 acres. In a state like Ohio, where there is a lot of quality habitat/hiding places AND a low density AND deer are primarily still on bed to food patterns (arguably through Halloween or real close) I just think it is an extremely uphill battle to kill that deer. That deer is mostly likely moving less than 1/4 mile (400 yards) in daylight, and maybe covering an area 40 acres in size within an area potentially up to 3,200 acres (if we assume 1 shooter per 5 square miles) Can it be done? Sure, guys do it, but I have a saying that I like that goes like this "It's POSSIBLE but not PROBABLE". Now, once the rut kicks off, and these deer are traveling 1-2 miles during daylight, the odds of crossing paths go up exponentially compared to say Oct 1 - Oct 28 and then its much more probable.

That's a long winded answer to say this, killing a buck in Ohio as a non-resident with limited boots on the ground scouting is best accomplished Nov 5-22nd. It can be done outside of that window, but there will be a luck more luck required even for skilled hunters.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby PAbowhunter10 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 4:26 am

seazofcheeze wrote:
PAbowhunter10 wrote:
seazofcheeze wrote:
PAbowhunter10 wrote:Just got back from my first Ohio public hunting trip and sitting here trying to collect my thoughts from our five day trip. To say it was a challenge would be an understatement.
We decided to target some pretty big, well known, wildlife areas in Ohio hoping that we get into some of the action that everyone raves about. Specifically Tri-valley and Appalachian hills wildlife areas. For anyone not familiar we are talking 20,000+ acres for both areas with varying terrain features: Rolling hills, bluffs, hardwoods, open fields, and some of the nastiest thickest brush that one could imagine.
We had plans to scout the first half of the trip but I think we ended up scouting like 90% and ground hunting 10% even though we had our bows in our hands the entire time. After looking back at the boots on the ground work I believe we scouted over 20miles and bumped one deer (small buck) and seen one glassing (doe). I had people tell me the deer population was low out that way.... but come on. In PA you walk a mile or so and your probably going to bump a deer or accidentally run into a couple. The sign in the areas we scouted was decent but nothing mind blowing. Found some scrapes and rubs, and most of it was pretty fresh, but we could not figure out where these deer were bedding. We assumed it was up on the hilltops/leeward side of the hills or in the thick brush on the bottoms but never bumped one to verify our assumptions. Also the hunting pressure was pretty high, which we expected. Seen lots of vehicles on the roads and pull-offs but only ran into a couple hunters in the woods. The thing that was getting to me though was that you would push a mile out two back into the public trying to escape the pressure but would end up finding some old boot tracks or old set ups in your target area. I know some of you might say, well then look for the overlooked spots, but even the stuff by the road had human intrusion and sign. We talked to quite a few hunting parties and all said the same thing: huntings been tough and can’t seem to find any deer. Even out of all the vehicles we saw, not one had a dead deer strapped to it.
So to wrap things up, I expected this trip to be a challenge but it well exceeded my expectations. I am shocked that people actually consider southeast Ohio Public Lands a destination hunting location if the hunting pressure is so high and the deer population is so low. I don’t know if this was just a bad experience because of the time we went this year (Late October) and the whole COVID thing putting more hunters in the woods. Or are destination public spots like these discussed being depleted of deer because of the amount of pressure it sees every year. Not to mention the increase in attraction to hunting public land because of all the YouTube hunting shows and all the resources(online scouting tools) available to the average joe. I would like to get some feedback and thoughts from anyone who have hunted these public lands or similar situations on public in other states. I’m still trying to determine if I’m going to give it another shot in a couple of weeks. Thoughts? Thanks guys.


My limited experience in southern Ohio says you were too early. I'd say starting next weekend (Nov 7) would be getting into good action. With that said, you experienced what I tell most people about southern Ohio, it is a grind, period. A guy has to have the mindset that he might only see one buck worth shooting the entire trip (if that), but it could be a giant, because its southern Ohio.


I can agree with your statements Seaz, but can you not hunt these deer in October. I have enough experience now to understand the difference between an average hunter and a skilled hunter. But my question is how can any hunter hunt a deer that can’t be found or is just not there. I have never seen anything like this before and I’m from PA which is supposedly one of the highest pressured states next to Michigan and Wisconsin.


PA, Michigan, and Wisconsin all have high pressure, but what they also have is high deer density (PA and Michigan have numbers, just not great age structure), especially compared to a lot of whitetail states. Let's say you have 3 Shooter Bucks per square mile in PA. That's potentially one shooter per 213 acres (640/3) assuming they are equally distributed (we know that's not true, but for the sake of discussion let's assume it is). Now consider a state like Ohio, or an even more extreme example, North Dakota. There might be 1 shooter per 3 miles or even 1 in 5. Now we are looking for one deer in 3,200 acres. In a state like Ohio, where there is a lot of quality habitat/hiding places AND a low density AND deer are primarily still on bed to food patterns (arguably through Halloween or real close) I just think it is an extremely uphill battle to kill that deer. That deer is mostly likely moving less than 1/4 mile (400 yards) in daylight, and maybe covering an area 40 acres in size within an area potentially up to 3,200 acres (if we assume 1 shooter per 5 square miles) Can it be done? Sure, guys do it, but I have a saying that I like that goes like this "It's POSSIBLE but not PROBABLE". Now, once the rut kicks off, and these deer are traveling 1-2 miles during daylight, the odds of crossing paths go up exponentially compared to say Oct 1 - Oct 28 and then its much more probable.

That's a long winded answer to say this, killing a buck in Ohio as a non-resident with limited boots on the ground scouting is best accomplished Nov 5-22nd. It can be done outside of that window, but there will be a luck more luck required even for skilled hunters.



Great explanation! Your spot on.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby <DK> » Fri Oct 30, 2020 4:59 am

Great post and great read through.

IMO the pressure is through the roof bc of the hunting public and add on in my state - Xbows. They get 200k+ views per episode so I know for a fact thats why its so crazy, especially in moderate pressure states. I specifically like hunting early season bc no one was around, here recently iv seen more ppl than ever and its 90* out in Sept. Deer sightings are definitely down as well. I ran into a guy at the truck one night that hunts my favorite property and he feels the same way.

Whats weird though is how I see these ppl grinding in conditions I like but they show up late and leave the woods early..? Im not sure why that is

Its funny to read and comment on this bc someone started a thread years back about what may happen on public land since Dan was getting more popular :lol:
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby Evanszach7 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 5:04 am

Lots of spot on insights here. As an Ohio native, I only hunt the hills of SE Ohio during the rut. A lot of good bedding will be in S/E/SE facing bowls.

In October, I focus on more Ag country, which is pretty much the rest of the state.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby PAbowhunter10 » Fri Oct 30, 2020 5:19 am

Evanszach7 wrote:Lots of spot on insights here. As an Ohio native, I only hunt the hills of SE Ohio during the rut. A lot of good bedding will be in S/E/SE facing bowls.

In October, I focus on more Ag country, which is pretty much the rest of the state.


Would you say the rut travel is on the tops of the bowls, 2/3 down, or bottom of these bowls? Also from past experience, do you know what terrain features normally provide the doe bedding. Struck out on figuring that out too on this trip.
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Re: Bad luck or just reality?

Unread postby seazofcheeze » Fri Oct 30, 2020 5:28 am

PAbowhunter10 wrote:
Evanszach7 wrote:Lots of spot on insights here. As an Ohio native, I only hunt the hills of SE Ohio during the rut. A lot of good bedding will be in S/E/SE facing bowls.

In October, I focus on more Ag country, which is pretty much the rest of the state.


Would you say the rut travel is on the tops of the bowls, 2/3 down, or bottom of these bowls? Also from past experience, do you know what terrain features normally provide the doe bedding. Struck out on figuring that out too on this trip.


My experience in Ohio is that a lot of the doe bedding was in areas that most guys would pick out as buck bedding on a standard topo. Meaning, points, benches, leeward side, etc. Most of the buck bedding was on "micro" terrain features that did NOT show up on a standard topo. What I mean is a tiny spur off a point, or above a bench etc. It seemed like the beds that clearly appeared to be buck beds had just enough room for one deer and as a result were too small to show up on a topo. However, they usually related to other terrain features we typically look for on a topo (points, draws, saddles, etc)


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