Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

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NorthernWIBowhunter
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Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby NorthernWIBowhunter » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:48 am

Hello All,

I live in Northern WI. I hunt public land up here, which is plentiful, thankfully. On the flipside - there is almost no oak, anywhere that I hunt. Nor are there any cattail marshes. Plenty of swamps, some wet, and plenty of hardwoods (mostly maple, aspen, etc). The real problem is there there's plenty of thick cover. TONS of it. I've scouted up here for 4 years, walking about 50 miles each year from February - August. This year I've been reading this website, watching Dan's videos, listening to all of his podcasts, etc. But I still can't find buck beds. Bucks up here don't really do much scraping either, compared to what I've seen in southeastern WI and elsewhere. The scrapes I see are almost like turkey scratching, and I'd have mistaken them for scratching if I didn't get trailcam videos of the bucks making some of them.

Anyway, on to my question. There aren't many deer per square mile up here, and even fewer mature bucks. I just can't seem to find places where these bucks are bedding. I've walked way, way back to swamp islands, only to see no sign anywhere. I've scouted points, fingers, ridges, valleys, etc., and though I find old rubs, droppings, they're seldom concentrated in one area. And I haven't found any buck beds - ever. Plenty of doe family group beds, but zero buck beds.

Are big woods deer different? Do they no reuse beds? What do you guys look for when scouting the big woods? Obviously I look for transitions near cover, as remote as I can get. I just can't seem to catch a break. I hunted 41 sits last year on 4 different pieces of land. I was careful to not hunt the same 300 acre section more than 1-2 times every two weeks. I saw one buck in all of that time, a 6-pointer, which I was lucky to harvest (my first buck). I had bigger bucks on trailcam, but never saw any of them, and never got a picture/video of any of the bigger bucks during daylight until about 11/18, and I shot my buck on 11/11.

Anyway, if anyone has any tips for me, I'd greatly appreciate it.


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Dhurtubise
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby Dhurtubise » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:03 am

Do you have a rifle or muzzle-loader season while there is snow on the ground? If so I'd recommend tracking. Even if you don't manage to take one that first season, you will learn a bunch of places where you can set a stand next year.
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brancher147
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby brancher147 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:12 am

Dhurtubise wrote:Do you have a rifle or muzzle-loader season while there is snow on the ground? If so I'd recommend tracking. Even if you don't manage to take one that first season, you will learn a bunch of places where you can set a stand next year.


Expert advice right there...I hunted very similar woods in Northern Adirondacks for a few years. The biggest buck I have killed to date came from up there and I killed him tracking in the snow the week of Thanksgiving and actually shot him while I was standing in one of his bed's. I can't remember ever finding a bed on dry ground. Those deer are constantly on the move with different food sources, predators, etc and rarely bed in the same area over and over. I had 2 years worth of trail cam pics of the buck I killed and I killed him almost 2 miles away from where I ran cameras. Bowhunting such woods are very hard without a constant food source such as recent timber harvest or something to keep them in the area. But tracking in the snow can tell you more than anything. good luck.
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SRWbowhunter
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby SRWbowhunter » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:39 am

If you have much logging around you I would treat that like a bean field in the southern part of the state. That's where we watch bucks in the summer feeding on the regrowth. If you get lucky they may hold that summer pattern into the season but if not atleast you have an idea of the area they are in.
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Jonny
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby Jonny » Sat Sep 23, 2017 10:03 am

SRWbowhunter wrote:If you have much logging around you I would treat that like a bean field in the southern part of the state. That's where we watch bucks in the summer feeding on the regrowth. If you get lucky they may hold that summer pattern into the season but if not atleast you have an idea of the area they are in.


Gotta find the remote ones that others haven't found yet. Guys see that as a field edge and you know you gotta be on a field edge to shoot big deer :whistle:

Easy ones have lots of pressure on them. At least in my area
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby mainebowhunter » Sat Sep 23, 2017 10:31 am

It's a life long endeavor. It's why still hunting and tracking are so big up here. Spot on advice on the tracking. My buddy is a big still hunter. ..he picks up a lot of intel for bowhunting the next season.

I do not still hunt or track. It requires me to put a lot of miles on off season and my big woods are not nearly as big as others.

I spend a lot of time on edges. Subtle edges. Softwood hardwood egdes. Clear cut edges. Swamp, bog edges. My favorite edge is alder edges. Deer ...bucks love to bed those edges. My best buck bedding is found in alders.
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SRWbowhunter
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby SRWbowhunter » Sat Sep 23, 2017 11:08 am

Jonny wrote:
SRWbowhunter wrote:If you have much logging around you I would treat that like a bean field in the southern part of the state. That's where we watch bucks in the summer feeding on the regrowth. If you get lucky they may hold that summer pattern into the season but if not atleast you have an idea of the area they are in.


Gotta find the remote ones that others haven't found yet. Guys see that as a field edge and you know you gotta be on a field edge to shoot big deer :whistle:

Easy ones have lots of pressure on them. At least in my area

Agreed.
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Net Guy
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby Net Guy » Sat Sep 23, 2017 11:46 am

I also hunt public land in northern WI, so I know what you're talking about. This is my second year applying these tactics up there so definitely not an expert, but I've found more bedding this year than last.

Last year I got a smaller buck but have higher hopes this year. Most of my success scouting happened during January when there was snow up there. I tracked them back to their beds, then confirmed the bedding this spring/summer. Most beds were in overlooked areas of course. Don't forget you're not the only predator in the woods and walking further in is not always the best. ;)
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Jonny
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby Jonny » Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:01 pm

Net Guy wrote:I also hunt public land in northern WI, so I know what you're talking about. This is my second year applying these tactics up there so definitely not an expert, but I've found more bedding this year than last.

Last year I got a smaller buck but have higher hopes this year. Most of my success scouting happened during January when there was snow up there. I tracked them back to their beds, then confirmed the bedding this spring/summer. Most beds were in overlooked areas of course. Don't forget you're not the only predator in the woods and walking further in is not always the best. ;)


Let me guess. Wet areas?
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Net Guy
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby Net Guy » Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:32 pm

Jonny wrote:
Net Guy wrote:I also hunt public land in northern WI, so I know what you're talking about. This is my second year applying these tactics up there so definitely not an expert, but I've found more bedding this year than last.

Last year I got a smaller buck but have higher hopes this year. Most of my success scouting happened during January when there was snow up there. I tracked them back to their beds, then confirmed the bedding this spring/summer. Most beds were in overlooked areas of course. Don't forget you're not the only predator in the woods and walking further in is not always the best. ;)


Let me guess. Wet areas?


Maybe..... :whistle:
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Jonny
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby Jonny » Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:46 pm

Net Guy wrote:
Jonny wrote:
Net Guy wrote:I also hunt public land in northern WI, so I know what you're talking about. This is my second year applying these tactics up there so definitely not an expert, but I've found more bedding this year than last.

Last year I got a smaller buck but have higher hopes this year. Most of my success scouting happened during January when there was snow up there. I tracked them back to their beds, then confirmed the bedding this spring/summer. Most beds were in overlooked areas of course. Don't forget you're not the only predator in the woods and walking further in is not always the best. ;)


Let me guess. Wet areas?


Maybe..... :whistle:


8-)
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Ognennyy
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby Ognennyy » Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:51 am

I'd say the biggest thing it sounds like you have the heart and the drive to achieve the goal you're after, of grounding a big buck in a deep, big timber setting. It's a noble goal, and in my personal opinion the only one I'm interested in pursuing. The best advice anyone can possibly give you is, keep your chin up.

You're searching for a needle in a haystack. You come to this site and read all these success stories, and it can be discouraging when you don't ever even see a big buck. I'm not taking away from anyone's accomplishments, but big timber hunting is widely regarded as the toughest setting for white tail hunting. But more importantly, buck bedding up in that area for whatever reason doesn't fit nicely into any of the categories discussed on this site.

A few years ago I bought a bow and decided to learn to hunt. I chose the Adirondacks of New York as my proving grounds (very similar to what you have in Northern WI). Aside from transitions, as I've seen discussed above, there are only two other areas I've noticed buck beds tend to be found. One is a 1-2 acre bedding area located in an island of normal vegetation (small bushes, young hardwoods) surrounded by impossibly thick young evergreens. I mean it's so thick that I have to turn sideways to squeeze between the trunks, and it's all clogged up with abandoned / dead branches everywhere. No way to get through it without making tons of noise. That's one bedding area I've found, and I haven't found a similar one up there since.

The second is really the only hard and fast pattern I've discovered for finding buck beds in the Adirondacks; the downwind side of ridges. Where you'd expect to find bucks cruising during the rut, I find beds there all the time. I have never found a bed on a point. But to be fair, I gave up looking at points a long time ago mostly because I had never found a bed there, but also because they're not a common terrain feature where I hunt. So likely bucks do not key in on them. All three such bedding areas I've found are either located in a hardwood stand, or in very close proximity. If they're not in the hardwood stand, they're just upslope or just downslope of the hardwoods. And I assume does bed up top but I'm not positive.

Image

    The waypoints with "BBVRFD" in their names are buck beds.
    "HRDWDS" is a hardwood stand, mostly mature beaches (no oaks here either, since they log that out on public land here as well).
    Rubs F, G, and H are on an old skidder track leading up onto the ridge.
    I'm not sure if Rub I is related to all this, but it would make sense. They're rubs on black birches in a marshy area, 150-200 yards east of the beds.

I don't know if these are rut-only beds, or year round. Either way would make sense. Directly to the west of these beds is a funnel connecting the marshes to the North and South. There's usually deer sign to be found in there. And the wind here is mostly W or NW. So between that and the thermals the bucks can scent check does moving through there, right from the safety of their beds. These beds are central to three food sources; the hardwoods nearby to the SE and up above on the ridge, and both marshes. I also think they might bed here because they can monitor hunters. During muzzle loader and rifle seasons people commonly walk in near the creek bed to the South, that leads into the marsh. Their thermals drift right up to the beds. Long story short; I'm not sure if these specific ones are rut-only, but the general principal still applies; I only find buck beds consistently on the leeward (downwind) side of ridges.

One other note. I'm not sure if you have a lot of Alders in WI, but I've never seen one in the Adirondacks. I do notice a lot of deer rubbing on, and deer movement along the transitions of, stands of black birches / water birches, which grow in large clumps near bogs. I'm not saying people are incorrect and that there is no relation of deer to alders, but I will caution that for some reason people do commonly confuse them with black birches, and also with goosefoot maples. The later confuses me, because they look nothing alike.

Good luck man. I hope something in here helps. I'm really pulling for you.

EDIT: I forgot something very important: besides the recently logged areas as mentioned in earlier posts, swamps / marshes are the only other consistent food source in deep timber.
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby JoeRE » Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:08 am

You need to dig into those tamarack and tag alder swamps...assuming you have them in your area.

Took me 3 seasons looking all over up there to figure that out myself even though it is preached by the big woods hunters on here :lol: That is where the bucks are. A swamp doesn't have to be cat tails to hold big bucks. They use them the same way, points, islands and edges. The big boys are still there when theres pressure on the dry ground.
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby Hatchetman » Sun Sep 24, 2017 8:38 am

Couple questions...
How many baiters in the area?
How many wolves in the area?
You say, "Not many oaks in the area" As in only one oak area known to you within 2 miles, 10 miles, 30 miles?
Not at all trying to be a smart but just trying to get a feel for your situation to offer you suggestions.
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john1984
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Re: Bigwoods Hunting - Input appreciated

Unread postby john1984 » Sun Sep 24, 2017 9:02 am

I guess the north woods of WI are very diverse. Bear guide Mike Foss says the forests they hunt are loaded with oaks. I've never explored up there but the little bit of bigwoods I hunt which is probably 45% marsh land, the deer bed just like Dan describes in his marsh and swamp dvds.

Sounds like it's a lot tuffer way up there. What region of northern WI are you talkin about? ???


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