If you want to how to scout buck beds effectively, the first thing you need to understand is how bucks choose their bedding areas in the first place. In this post, I’ll take you through the basic rules of thumb for how mature bucks select their bedding areas and show you some examples of the key things they look for before deciding to bed down in a location.
When it comes to scouting deer bedding areas, it is important to understand that bucks and does bed differently and do not have the same criteria for selecting a bed. Does bed in family groups and often bed in a circular fashion to provide security and don’t rely on things like winds and thermals unless they are bedding alone.
Bucks on the other hand, specifically mature bucks, refine their bedding selection process over years. They learn the areas they live in and find those locations that provide them with the biggest wind advantage, most security, and available escape routes possible. A mature deer doesn’t make it through multiple hunting seasons without mastering a few key rules of thumb. If you want to plan to hunt them effectively, you need to master them too.
*If you want a detailed breakdown of everything in this post, watch the video below now.
The Three “S’s” of Buck Bedding
There are some basic Rules of Thumb for how a buck chooses their bedding areas. The most critical to understand is the three “S’s” of buck bedding. They are Scent, Security, and Sight. Understand, for every rule listed here, there are different situations, terrain variations, limitations, food source locations, and pressures (parcel size, hunting pressure, roads, development, etc.) that influence where deer bed and when they move during the day and night. The rules listed below are optimal scenarios that they will look for when selecting a place to bed down.
Scent drives everything a deer does. This applies to does, but bucks, especially mature bucks rely on scent to determine how they travel, feed, and bed. They use the wind direction and thermals to take a tactical advantage over predators and hunters alike. An old mature deer can be very hard to hunt.
Prevailing Wind at their Back
A mature buck will prefer to bed with the wind at his back. Primary buck bedding will usually be based on the prevailing winds in the area and alternative bedding will change from day to day (and even during the day if it shifts substantially) depending on the primary direction of the wind from day to day. He will want the wind at his back so he can smell anything coming from behind him. A deer’s sense of smell is far greater than even a bloodhound and they can smell almost on a molecular level. They don’t just smell something, they smell the parts of the odor. This asset allows them to feel comfortable putting their back to an area, with visibility to their front.
Thermals to Their Front
A mature buck will also rely heavily on the thermals in an area for scent. This is why in hill country and mountain areas, bucks will often bed in the upper one-third of the hill. This allows them to bed there during the day. They are able to take advantage of the thermals rising through the day, pushing any scent below them into their face, thus giving them the advantage of both visibility and thermal wind to their front.
Bucks will look for both travel routes and bedding areas that provide them with security. Security bedding begins with adequate security cover and concealment from predators and people. Mature bucks will want dense security cover behind them with visibility to see what is coming in front of them. Deer are creatures of the “edge.” They travel along and bed near transition lines. Transition lines are places where different habitats or changes in terrain occur. These locations might not always be very obvious to the untrained eye, but you will find deer trails and bedding near these areas because oftentimes they provide the cover and concealment provided by the thick dense cover they desire, and more importantly, these transitions between habitats also provide food sources that they can browse on while transitioning from one location to another during the day.
*Bucks will bed in what appears to be an open area if they have a backstop behind them that makes them comfortable. Sometimes this can be a hill or dense area of trees with a slope behind them. This includes an area that sits on the “military crest” of a hill. The military crest is the area where a hill begins to slope and then begins to drop. This area can provide a slight backstop with just enough cover for bedding locations.
As discussed above, mature bucks will want a bedding area that gives them a good view in front of them. As they take advantage of the winds at their back and thermals, they will select bedding that allows them a good view of the area in front of them. A deer’s sight is not great when determining colors, but they are very adept at detecting movement and have exceptional peripheral vision. They will select bedding that allows them to have visibility where needed unless there is a lot of hunting pressure.
One of the most important rules of thumb to consider is pressure. Specifically hunting pressure. Bucks will adjust their bedding based on predators, but when hunting season begins, the number of hunters and hunting pressure applied to an area can drive them to bed in different locations like thick dense cover. If there is a lot of road access high on a hill or mountain and all the hunters are accessing a hunting area there, then bucks will tend to bed in lower areas. This applies to anywhere you hunt. As the season progresses, you will normally find the biggest bucks in the most remote locations where there is little to no pressure. If you want to find big mature bucks, you will need to go where most of the hunters are not.
Buck Bedding 101
This is basic, buck bedding 101. Using the rules of thumb (the 3 “S’s”) above will help you identify potential buck bedding areas and help you get started on your scouting of buck beds a lot faster. Always remember that this is the optimal scenario for a mature buck, every deer has its own personality, and every area has its own dynamics. The basics are that mature deer will want the wind at their back with security cover, and they will want visibility to their front with additional thermal wind coverage to aid them in smelling what might come at them. They will want to get away from hunting pressure and sometimes will even want to be able to observe where the pressure is coming from. All of these things play a role and will give you a head start. If you want a more detailed look at this, please watch the video above for more details. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below.
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