I heard the unmistakable roar of a rifle halfway through the drive. When I reached the top of the hollow, I was thrilled to find my buddy kneeling next to a big-bodied eight-pointer.
The most productive places to drive are linear-shaped and feature a route deer naturally want to follow because it offers security and cover. If you stop and think about it, hollows fit that description perfectly. They’re long, narrow funnels and natural travel routes for mature bucks.
Pinpoint Your Route
The best hollows to drive have feeding or staging areas near the bottom and good bedding spots near the top. They can vary from 150 yards to half a mile long.
While hollow topography itself offers some security, they should also feature cover such as deadfalls, conifers, brambles, or sapling thickets.
Go With the Traffic
In the morning deer move up hollows from lowland feed areas to high bedding cover. In the afternoon they typically reverse that pattern.
By timing your hollow drives right, you can move bucks easily because you’ll simply be bumping them in the direction they were going anyway. Drive deer up from the bottom of the hollow in the morning, down from the top in the afternoon.
Using this approach also lets you take advantage of natural thermals in the hills that drift upwards in the morning and settle down in evenings. This pushes the driver’s scent towards the quarry and carries the odor of posted hunters away from the deer.
Identify the Exits
Some deer will go all the way to the top or bottom, but others will bail out at strategic locations where they feel secure. Post hunters to safely cover as many of these exits as possible.
Bucks will often escape where a strip of brush leads out of the hollow. Post a hunter there—on the downwind side if there’s a crosswind—as the deer will attempt to catch the scent of the driver.
Another spot to watch closely is where a smaller side crease or depression in the topography juts out. These offer a low area where a tall-tined buck feels secure slipping out.
Benches just down from the peak also a natural exit point. A buck may try to sneak out there on a morning drive to avoid being silhouetted at the top of the ridge. On afternoon hunts they’re quick escape routes the instant deer feel pressure from above.
Two final exit points are the top and bottom of the hollow. The top is particularly favored if there’s a saddle offering a low spot to cross over the ridge. On afternoon drives bucks may run all the way to the bottom, especially if there’s some key cover or a staging area there.
Start Your Engines
Once the plan is set and the exits are sealed, the drive can begin. Be sure each hunter knows the locations of the others and dons enough blaze-orange to land a passenger jet.
The drivers should push with the thermals at their back, blowing up in the morning, down in the evening. Move slowly with no shouting or whistling.
Pause occasionally near brush and blowdowns. The movement, noise, and scent of the hunters will all help push the quarry. Since you’re moving slowly and quietly, bucks should ease away at a walking pace or slow trot, offering good targets for posted hunters.
That’s exactly the kind of shot my hunting buddy had when we drove our local hollow. He turned that opportunity into a hefty eight-point on the ground.
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Deer photos copyright by Denver Bryan / Images On The Wildside 2016