How to Find Big Bucks Using Topo Maps

Mature bucks have learned how to adapt quickly once hunting pressure ramps up. They occupy pockets of public land bordering private properties where they can seek refuge from predatory hunters.

These core areas can be identified using thick vegetation cover, concentrations of rubs and scrape lines and scrape lines – but first you must arrive there!


Topo maps are invaluable tools for hunters, but it’s crucial that they know how to use them effectively. When using either printed maps or an online app, ensure the north is facing upward – this will allow your brain to associate the terrain on the map with what lies before you, helping ensure you don’t become lost!

As you review your topo map, pay particular attention to contour lines. These sloping areas on the map indicate how steep or flat an area is; when close together they indicate steep terrain while when spread apart they indicate gentle terrain. Knowing this can be useful since deer travel up slopes; steeper ones require more energy from them for traversing them.

Saddles are important terrain features to identify on a topo map. A saddle is defined as any low spot on or between two ridges that serves as a funnel, funneling deer movements to certain locations. Deer often prefer to travel through saddles since this approach makes traveling easier on their legs while conserving energy.

As well as saddles, pinch points should also be a key target on your topo map. A pinch point is defined as any location on a hillside where steep terrain meets gently-sloping areas – an essential travel route for deer that provides the opportunity for treestands or trail cameras.

Bench is another feature to include on a topo map, since deer frequently use benches as travel routes over steep hillsides, or for bedding down on them because it offers protection from predators.

As part of your topo map analysis, look out for converging hubs and transition lines. A converging hub is where multiple ridgelines converge – this makes for a good location to set up a stand or trail camera to increase your odds of encountering a deer traveling through.

Bedding Areas

Mature bucks typically select beds that provide both cover and an excellent line of sight, as well as being safe from predators; typically this means sites near food sources or where it will provide them with enough protection from predators. If a mature buck is hunted in or near its bedding area, it will probably abandon it and may return only during the rut period.

Discovering these areas requires studying maps, satellite, and topographical imagery as well as taking an in-person trip across the land where deer are living. Check for areas with plenty of rubs and scrape lines; bucks prefer these areas because they provide sensory protection against predators and are near food sources.

Bedding areas that make the best use of available space should be located on gentle terrain or valleys if the land is hilly, within 100 yards from a food plot, agricultural field or oak flat, and no further away than two or three times this distance from water sources.

Ideal deer beds should be protected by a ditch or drainage, not too close to roads, deer trails or other deer paths, and should have access to year-round water sources nearby. Buck bedding areas will always provide escape routes up or down in case they are trapped during the day.

Scouting Phase (Scouting Areas and Signs of Deer) In this step, mark some bedding areas on your map and start looking for signs of deer – rubs and scrape lines should be obvious, but pay special attention to where the bedding area itself is located as mature bucks often like to bed with their back to the wind so they have something blocking the wind when leaving and returning to their area.

Bedding areas will experience significantly less hunting pressure than core areas because deer hunters are likely to avoid areas occupied by deer. Therefore, it’s key that bedding spots be located early before deer season starts and keep hunters away unless breeding activity has begun in that particular spot.

Core Areas

There’s often an assumption that big bucks live deep in swamps or thick brush, but that isn’t usually the case. They actually move more frequently when hunting – staying close to core areas but often venturing beyond them for larger game, especially during rutting season.

At this time of year, most mature bucks leave their core areas to find does and fight rivals, making scouting of these areas all the more essential when the season opens. Rubs and scrapes are great ways to find these areas; often appearing along ridge tops, depressions or bedding areas near food sources – an effective indicator that these bucks have left.

Old bodies of water tend to form oxbows, creating islands of cover for deer to bed down in safety. Oxbows also offer great hunting pressure relief as these spots often feature thick cover such as cattails or thick shrubbery that provide cover from hunters. These locations may also serve as great places for finding big buck signs as many of them don’t receive as much hunting pressure than others do.

One way of identifying core areas is by studying a topographical map and noting any depressions or ridges on the property. These areas provide many advantages for deer such as giving them height advantage, being able to sense approaching threats early, or providing them an escape route if things start turning dangerous.

Trail cameras are an effective way to locate deer bedding areas and core areas on any property you have access to, which allows you to track their movements throughout the day and determine where their food sources lie.

Finding a buck’s core area on your property may be challenging, especially if there’s not enough ground available to scour. By pinpointing these key locations of an animal on your land, locating it becomes much simpler to track him during the rut.

Avoiding Pressure

A buck’s success lies in the habitat it lives in, yet mature whitetails are adept at hiding when hunting pressure increases. According to research, most adult deer seem to vanish as soon as hunters enter an area, thus emphasizing how crucial it is to avoid exerting too much pressure during hunts.

Finding locations where other hunters don’t hunt is the key to successful hunting, which means being creative about how you access public land and searching for isolated pockets of it miles from roads or trails. Be ready to hike further than most hunters to reach spots that might yield big bucks!

Hunt the periphery of an area to locate big buck spots. For instance, when scouting bedding areas for bedding deer, look for pinch points near ridges or other high ground that provide better views of approaching traffic and can act as an ambush point when they travel from their core daytime hideout to evening food sources. When hunting food plots early in the season look for places surrounded by cover; timber or wetland-surrounded locations tend to have less deer encounters than more open fields that offer greater open vistas.

Once temperatures begin to dip and the weather shifts, this is an ideal opportunity to hunt a food plot or hunting location as deer movement should pick up significantly. Lower barometric pressure from fronts provides superior wind conditions as well as creating windows of opportunity to catch bucks moving between summer food sources to bedtime.

Doe groups present another great opportunity. At this time of year, the rut is in full force, attracting plenty of doe groups into your favorite buck spots. Be sure to hunt these doe areas under ideal conditions to ensure that any triggers that might begin breeding don’t come too unexpectedly; otherwise you risk disrupting a breeding cycle before it has even started!

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