If you’re looking for a late-season buck, one of the best places to hunt is a simple blowdown area where wind and age have toppled a large tree, creating a buck hideout that’s often neglected by other hunters.
Dropped by wind, age or disease, a downed tree with branches at odd angles offers perfect camouflage for the multiple points on a buck’s gnarly rack. Vegetation is sparse at this time, and animals feel secure hunkered down next to this prime, isolated piece of cover.
Follow this plan to tap into this often overlooked hunting hotspot for wary, mature bucks.
1. How to Find Blowdown Areas to Hunt
Focus on large fallen trees with limbs extending at various angles. If you can find a blowdown with saplings, grapevines, greenbrier, blackberry, or honeysuckle growing up between and around the branches, that adds to the appeal. Those plants provide additional cover and also food the deer can nibble on.
|This timber blowdown is a perfect spot to find a buck... isolated and neglected by many hunters.|
If you are planning on having timber stand improvement done on your property, consider this plan. Have the logger cut a couple extra low-value trees and leave them there in strategic spots for deer cover.
Extra Tip: With proper safety precautions, you can even do this yourself. Just don’t tackle trees that are too big. They don’t call some of them “widow makers” for nothing. Be sure to follow all tree-cutting rules and wear safety gear.
2. Location is Important to Hunting Strategy
Pinpointing tree deadfalls in the right location is also important for your hunting strategy. Early in the year timber blowdowns on ridges are good. As the season unfolds, those along the sides of hills, mid-level benches, and stream bottoms are often best because they’re protected from strong, cold winds. You might already know from experience or have a hunch which deadfalls on your property might hold bucks now. Trail cameras and scouting trips can also help you pinpoint the best bets.
|This blowdown area is particularly appealing for a deer because it's overgrown in vines and greenbrier, offering secondary food to the buck right where he's bedded.|
Extra Tip: Using binoculars offers a great way to check out deadfalls from a distance without spooking the quarry. If there’s snow, that’s also a big plus. Look for large single tracks leading towards the blowdown.
3. Deciding When to Hunt
Once you’ve located several potential targets, watch the Weather Channel. When the perfect wind arrives that will blow your scent away and allow you to hunt the blowdown or cluster of deadfalls, make your move.
Extra Tip: Make a last-minute in-the-field check of wind direction before starting the hunt. Just because a weather prediction calls for a certain wind direction doesn’t mean it will be blowing that way at the exact location you’re hunting. It should be blowing either towards you or crossways.
4. Understanding the Terrain for Deer Hunting Success
Deer on benches and side slopes often face down hill. They’ll watch below and rely on afternoon thermals pushing down slope to alert their nose to danger from above. This down-slope wind is the perfect setup for you to approach from the side.
Your scent won’t blow to the buck, and he’ll be looking down, instead of parallel, where you’ll approach from.
Extra Tip: Use any available cover to sneak into view of the blowdown, pausing often and staying low to the ground so you don’t push the buck out before you’re in shooting range.
|Oculus Pro Team HD Binoculars|
5. Use Binoculars as You Go
As you move towards the deadfall terrain, use your binoculars to see if you can pick the buck out. If you can slip a bullet, arrow or slug in between the tree branches, go for it. If not, sneak closer until you get a clear shot, creeping slowly and staying close to the ground. Belly crawl, if necessary.
Extra Tip: If you simply can’t see a buck, even though scouting, fresh tracks, or past experiences say one could be there, move in. Raise your gun to the port arms position and walk up for a jump shot. He may be there, but be hidden by cover.
6. Making the Shot
|Keep your gun up as you approach the blowdown area. Use low power optics or even iron sights.|
Often you can nail a bedded buck just as he starts to stand up. That’s your easiest and best shot. If you’ve practiced running shots and have a good broadside or quartering angle, you can also try a shot at his first bound.
Squeeze the trigger just as the crosshairs swing in front of the chest. Make sure you follow through, and don’t stop as the gun fires. Of course it goes without saying you should always make sure it’s a safe, solid background behind the deer with no other hunters present.
Extra Tip: Never shoot when a buck is running straight away. There’s too much chance of a poor hit and a wounded animal that gets away. Only try quartering away or broadside shots and only when the background is a solid hill or ground and not open space.
7. Hunting a Stream Bottom Blowdown
If you’ve located deadfalls along a stream bottom, wait until there’s a wind blowing across the creek. The buck will typically be facing downwind, so you can sneak along the stream, where cover is usually plentiful.
Extra Tip: Glass ahead with binoculars, checking out each fallen tree that you know holds potential. If you can’t spot the deer, walk in for a possible snap shot and follow the shooting guidelines listed above.
A Success Story
As you hunt blowdowns areas on sidehills, benches, and stream bottoms, keep in mind the success Illinois hunter Brian Bice had on a 1992 late season hunt. Bice usually stand hunts, but it was rainy and cold, so he didn’t think deer would be moving much and decided to try still hunting.
Stalking along a creek bottom on a rainy winter day, Bice caught sight of a giant buck bedded next to a blowdown in thick brush.
With a clear opening, he aimed through his open sights and fired, then shot again as the huge buck jumped up. Both shots connected.
The 6 ½-year old whitetail had 256 inches of antler, 27 points and 30 inch main beams, making it the number three Illinois non-typical buck at the time.
Deer like Brian Bice’s should go a long way towards keeping your adrenaline pumping and anticipation level high every time you approach a blowdown!