How to find buck bedding using maps and apps.

How to Find Buck Bedding Areas Using Maps and Apps

Finding buck bedding areas is the secret to successful whitetail hunting, but this can be a huge challenge. Fortunately, technology has made it easier than ever before. With the correct maps and apps, you can identify buck bedding areas and increase your chances of bagging a trophy buck this archery season.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to use topographic maps, aerial (satellite) images, and hunting apps to find buck bedding areas, so you can confidently scout and plan your hunting trips. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or just starting out, this information is essential for a successful hunting season.

Step 1: Understand the Basics of Buck Bedding

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of using maps and apps, it’s important to understand the basics of buck bedding. The first step is to identify the habitat where mature bucks are likely to bed down, taking into account the factors of scent, security, sight, wind, and thermals.

Mature bucks choose their bedding areas based on three factors: scent, security, and sight with close proximity to food and water. They will typically bed downwind of potential predators to avoid being detected by their scent. They will also choose areas that provide good visibility and cover, so they can see potential predators approaching and have a quick escape route.

Buck bedding on a point in hill country
Buck Bedding on a High Point in Hill Country

In terms of wind and thermals, bucks will typically want the wind in their face, so they can detect predators before they get too close or have it come over their head where they can take advantage of thermals rising to their front. Bucks will often bed on points or ridges where they can catch the thermals and have a good view of their surroundings.

When scouting for buck bedding areas, look for areas that provide good cover, such as thickets or brushy areas, while also being downwind of potential predators. Look for areas with good visibility and escape routes, such as points or ridges that catch the thermals. Also, pay attention to the prevailing wind direction and how the thermals may be affected by the terrain.

In terms of habitat, bucks will typically bed in areas with plenty of food, water, and cover. Look for areas with lots of browse and vegetation, such as river bottoms or thickets. Also, look for areas with nearby water sources, such as creeks or streams.

By identifying the habitat where mature bucks are likely to bed down and taking into account the factors of scent, security, sight, wind, and thermals, you can start to narrow down your search and focus on areas that are most likely to hold mature bucks.

Saddles, Points, and Spurs on a topographic map for buck bedding.

Step 2: Use Maps to Identify Buck Bedding Areas

One of the easiest ways to find buck bedding areas is to use a topographic map, whether it’s a paper map or a digital one. Look for areas that meet the criteria we just discussed: good visibility, nearby food and water sources, and thick cover on the edges. You can also look for terrain features that might attract bucks, such as ridges, saddles, or benches. These areas offer a good vantage point and can make it easier for bucks to detect potential threats.

Here are some specific terrain and feature types to look for on a map when searching for buck bedding areas:

  1. Edge habitat: Look for areas where thick cover, such as brushy areas or forests, meet open areas, such as fields or meadows. These transition zones often provide good bedding areas for bucks, as they offer a mix of cover and visibility. Deer are creatures of the “edge” and will use transition areas like this to travel, browse, and bed down.
  2. Topographic features: Bucks like to bed down in locations where they can easily escape if necessary, and topographic features can offer these escape routes. Look for saddles, ridges, benches, or other areas where bucks can quickly and easily descend or ascend steep slopes to escape danger.
  3. Water sources: Bucks need access to water, so look for streams, ponds, or other water sources nearby. These areas can also attract other animals, such as does or predators, so bucks may choose to bed down nearby for protection. Even a small, intermittent water source can help pinpoint obscure locations for bedding.
  4. Vegetation types: Bucks prefer to bed down in areas with good cover, so look for areas with thick vegetation, such as coniferous forests, dense shrubbery, or tall grasses. These areas can provide cover and shelter for bucks, making them ideal bedding areas.
Buck bedding near transition areas and close proximity to doe bedding.

Finding Buck Bedding in Hill Country or Mountain Areas

When looking for potential buck bedding areas on a map in hill country or mountain areas, there are several key features and terrain elements to look for that can indicate the presence of deer, including points, spurs, and draws. Here are some specifics on what to look for:

  1. Points: Points are areas where a ridge or hill extends out into a valley or other terrain feature. These areas can offer a natural travel route for deer, as well as provide good visibility for bucks to watch for predators. Look for areas where points intersect with thick cover, as these areas can provide good bedding sites for bucks.
  2. Spurs: Spurs are narrow ridges or ridgelines that jut out from a larger ridge or hill. They often offer good cover and visibility and can be used by deer as travel routes or bedding areas. Look for areas where spurs intersect with thick cover or drainages, as these areas can provide good bedding sites for bucks.
  3. Draws: Draws are low points between two ridges or hills that often have a drainage or creek running through them. They can offer water sources and travel routes for deer, as well as provide good cover in areas with thick vegetation. Look for areas where draws intersect with thick cover or saddles, as these areas can provide good bedding sites for bucks.
  4. Ridges and hilltops: Bucks often bed down on ridges or hilltops to take advantage of the prevailing winds and gain a better view of their surroundings. Look for areas where ridges or hilltops intersect with thick cover, as these areas can provide good cover and bedding sites for bucks.
  5. Southern exposures: As I mentioned earlier, bucks often bed down on south-facing slopes to soak up the sun’s warmth during the winter. Look for areas with a southern exposure, such as hillsides or ridges, that can provide good sun exposure.
  6. Clear cuts and edges: Clear cuts and edges can provide good food sources for deer, as well as offer good visibility for bucks to watch for predators. Look for areas where clear cuts or edges intersect with thick cover, as these areas can provide good bedding sites for bucks.
  7. Escape routes: As in any terrain, bucks prefer to bed down in areas where they can easily escape if necessary. Look for areas with steep terrain, such as ridges or gullies, that can provide quick escape routes if danger approaches.
Buck bedding on opposing points for different winds.

Finding Buck Bedding in Low-lying Areas & River Bottoms

When looking at a map in low-lying areas and river bottoms, there are several key features and terrain elements to look for that can indicate the presence of deer, including:

  1. River crossings: Deer often use rivers and streams as travel routes, especially during times of the year when water sources are scarce. Look for areas where rivers or streams intersect with thick cover or other terrain features that can provide good bedding sites.
  2. Creek beds and drainages: Creek beds and drainages can offer cover and travel routes for deer, as well as provide water sources. Look for areas where creek beds or drainages intersect with thick cover or other terrain features that can provide good bedding sites.
  3. Floodplains: Floodplains can offer good cover and food sources for deer, especially during times of the year when crops are planted or harvested. Look for areas where floodplains intersect with thick cover or other terrain features that can provide good bedding sites.
  4. Swamp edges: Swamps and marshes can offer good cover and food sources for deer, especially during times of the year when water sources are scarce. Look for areas where swamps or marshes intersect with thick cover or other terrain features that can provide good bedding sites.
  5. Natural funnels: Natural funnels are areas where terrain features, such as hills or ridges, channel deer into a specific area. Look for areas where natural funnels intersect with thick cover or other terrain features that can provide good bedding sites.
  6. Isolated islands: Islands or patches of land surrounded by water can offer good cover and isolation for deer, making them prime bedding sites. Look for areas where isolated islands intersect with thick cover or other terrain features that can provide good bedding sites.
  7. Oxbows: Oxbows are horseshoe-shaped bends in rivers that have been cut off from the main channel. These areas often have slower-moving water and can offer good food and cover for deer. Look for areas where oxbows intersect with thick cover or other terrain features that can provide good bedding sites.
Edge transition areas near water sources.

Step 3: Use Mobile Hunting Apps to Enhance Your Map Research

While maps can be a great tool for finding buck bedding areas, they don’t always provide the level of detail or up-to-date information that you need. That’s where apps come in handy. There are many apps available that can help you identify terrain features and other elements that might attract bucks. Some popular options include HuntStand, OnX Hunt, and Spartan Forge.

Bedded Buck on south facing slope

These apps allow you to view topographical maps, satellite imagery, and even weather information. They also provide you with the ability to mark and save locations that you find interesting, so you can refer back to them later. This can be especially helpful if you’re scouting for hunting season and want to keep track of potential hunting spots.

When using apps to enhance your topo map research for finding bedding areas, there are several layers and features you can utilize to improve your scouting efforts. Here are some specifics on how to use different map layers and features to find potential buck bedding areas:

  1. Satellite imagery: Apps that offer satellite imagery can provide a more detailed view of the land and can help you identify specific features such as clear cuts, which can provide good bedding areas for deer. Look for clear cuts on the edges of thick cover, which can provide both security and easy access to food and water.
  2. Weather data: Apps that provide weather data can be useful for identifying areas where deer might be bedded down. During hot weather, bucks may seek out areas with good shade and access to water, while during cold weather, they may bed down in areas protected from the wind.
  3. Marking and saving locations: Many apps allow you to mark and save locations that you find interesting. Use this feature to mark potential bedding areas that you identify on the map, so you can revisit them later and confirm the presence of deer activity.
  4. Other layers and features: Depending on the app, there may be other layers and features that can help you find potential bedding areas. For example, some apps offer land ownership boundaries, which can help you determine where you have permission to hunt. Others may offer historical data on deer sightings or harvests in the area, which can help you narrow down your search.
Marking beds, rubs, scrapes, and stand locations on your mobile hunting application.

Using Satellite Imagery Layers

When using satellite imagery layers in mobile hunting applications to find potential bedding, there are several key habitats and features to look for that can indicate the presence of deer. Here are some specifics on what to look for:

  1. Dense cover: Bucks like to bed down in areas with dense cover, so look for areas with thick vegetation such as shrubs, brush, or coniferous trees. These areas can provide both cover and shelter from the wind.
  2. Edge habitat: As I mentioned earlier, edge habitat can be a good place to find buck bedding areas. Look for areas where thick cover meets open areas, such as fields, meadows, or clear-cuts. These transitional zones can provide good cover and visibility for bucks.
  3. South-facing slopes: During the winter, bucks will often bed down on south-facing slopes where they can soak up the sun’s warmth. Look for areas with a southern exposure, such as hillsides or ridges, that can provide good sun exposure.
  4. Water sources: Bucks need access to water, so look for streams, ponds, or other water sources nearby. These areas can also attract other animals, such as does or predators, so bucks may choose to bed down nearby for protection.
  5. Escape routes: Bucks prefer to bed down in areas where they can easily escape if necessary. Look for areas with steep terrain, such as ridges or gullies, that can provide quick escape routes if danger approaches.
Edge and Habitat transition areas near water sources with thick vegetation.

When using these map layers and features, it’s important to keep in mind the basics of buck bedding and look for areas that provide security, shelter, and easy access to food and water. Don’t be afraid to zoom in and take a closer look at specific areas, and always scout on foot to confirm the presence of deer activity.

Step 4: Visit the Area and Scout on Foot

While maps and apps can give you a good idea of where to look for buck bedding areas, there’s no substitute for visiting the area and scouting on foot. Once you’ve identified a few potential locations as we talked about above, take the time to visit them and look for signs of deer activity, such as tracks, rubs, or scrapes. You can also look for trails or other areas where deer might be moving through the area.

When physically scouting the area, it’s important to keep a few key things in mind. First, you want to be as quiet and scent-free as possible to minimize spooking any deer in the area. As you move through the area, pay attention to any signs of deer activity, such as tracks, droppings, or rubs. These can be strong indicators that bucks are using the area for bedding. Look for spots where deer have scraped away leaves or grass to create a depression in the ground, which can be a sign of a bedding area.

You should also look for signs of browse, which is the vegetation that deer eat. If you see areas where plants have been heavily browsed (tops bitten off of forbs and other deer-friendly plants), it could be a sign that deer are bedding nearby.

As you scout potential locations, keep in mind the Buck Bedding 101 factors (Scent, Security, and Sight) we discussed earlier. Look for spots where bucks can bed downwind of potential predators, while still having good visibility and cover. If you find an area that meets all of these criteria, it could be a prime bedding spot for mature bucks.

It’s important to remember that buck bedding areas can vary depending on the time of year and other factors. Don’t be afraid to revisit locations you’ve scouted before to see if anything has changed before you plan your hunt. And always be respectful of the land and follow any applicable hunting regulations and laws.

Good luck!

 

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