Hunt The Junctions
Maximize your stand time by using this strategy during the pre-rut and rut phase of your deer season.
Most hunters know by now that the most significant factor to taking a good buck is time spent in the stand. You can’t kill one if you’re on the couch. Well you can’t kill one just by climbing any tree in the woods either. You need to climb the tree that gives you the best shot at getting your buck. To me, that is done by hunting junctions.
I define junctions as places in your hunting area where three or more events come together. Events could be ridges, hollers or types of cover (pines, hardwoods, cutovers, etc.). Deer use these junctions to get from one type of terrain or type of cover to another in a matter of seconds. Not all junctions are the same, and finding one that bucks use is the key to it all. Notice I said bucks, not buck. The best thing about hunting the junctions is that you are not just hunting one buck. Multiple bucks use the same junctions when they are out making rubs, scrapes and looking for estrus does.
In this article, I will go over two successful junction hunts on public land. I will explain the types of junctions used, how to find them and the method to access them.
Hunt No. 1 takes place on a piece of public land that is hilly with a lot of hardwoods and some occasional pine mix. My wife Kathy and I hit the woods walking one and a half hours before daylight. Forty five minutes later, I tell her good luck, make sure she is prepared to hook up with her safety harness and then leave her at the tree. I ease past her for another hundred yards and slip up my tree as quietly as possible.
As I sit in my tree waiting for daylight, I am doing a mental inventory. Did you spray down with scent killer? Yes. Did you put deer lure out around tree? Yes. Do you have grunt call? Yes. Do you have one in the chamber? Yes. Alright just stay calm and be ready I tell myself.
Daylight approaches and the opening day of rifle season jitters intensify. A slight breeze picks up and mulls the sounds of foraging squirrels. Shadows are appearing everywhere. I scan them trying to catch the slightest movement.
KA-BOOM! A shot echoes through the woods from behind me. I get up and get ready for the possibility of something coming toward me. I stand there still as a board for 15 minutes listening and watching. Nothing. As I ease back into the comforts of my stand, the sounds of scattered gun shots in the area are the only evidence of life I hear during the next hour.
Floods of thoughts rush through my mind of the possibilities of what Kathy has shot. Monster buck was a possibility since the area I’m hunting requires all bucks to have at least four points on one side. We had already agreed not to shoot a doe due to the length of the hike. Even with the early shot, we agreed to wait until at least 11 so the other has ample hunting time before meeting back up to discuss the morning events or better yet pick up on a blood trail.
A couple of hours pass with no action around me and the distant gun shots are few and far between now. Just as I thought about climbing down and easing toward Kathy, the woods erupt with the sounds of several animals running toward me from my left. As I get into position, I see a big black pig with a string of smaller pigs coming down an old logging. When the big sow enters an opening, I let out a very loud pig squeal, which stops all of them in their tracks. I squeeze the trigger of the Browning A-bolt chambered in 30.06. Five shots later and big mama sow and four of the juniors lay scattered throughout the woods.
I climb down and gather up a garbage bag full of pork backstraps as fast as I can, while I resume wondering what Kathy has shot at. I position my climbing stand up in my tree above the sight line of a deer, assuming I might have to return for it later. I grab my backpack full of pork and head her way.
While I am easing upstream, I scan the trees for the burnt orange vest she is wearing, and of course, she has already spotted me and is up gathering her things. What did you shoot? It had four points on one side, and he looked nice, she replies. She stands up in her stand and points me in the direction of where the buck was standing when she shot. I think I heard him go down she said as I scan the ground for blood. Not finding any blood at where she thought he was standing, I begin zig-zagging in the direction he went, watching for blood and scanning the woods in front of me for anything out of place. Thirty yards later I see an antler sticking up.
I holler for her to climb on down and come here. What is he, she asked. He is a very nice 8-point and you made a perfect heart shot. Kathy comes running in grinning like a possum. You couldn’t have pried those horns out of her hands for the next 30 minutes if your life depended on it. After all the hugs and pictures, we field-dressed him and put him in the creek.
After one hour to get the deer hauler, one hour back, one hour to get the buck to the deer hauler and three hours back to the truck, Kathy had her best buck. He was a 3 1/2-year-old, 194-lb. public-land junction buck.
Now for the technical part of this hunt. I found this junction while turkey hunting one season. While walking and calling, I came upon a rub line at the end of a thick ridge heading toward a bottom. When I got to the bottom, I noticed that three more ridges fed into the bottom. One of the ridges consisted of thick pines, one a mixture of old pines and hardwoods, the other was mixed hardwoods. Once in the bottom, I noticed several scrapes left over from the previous season. The thing I noticed that really sunk in was the abundance of old rubs scattered through the edges of where the ridges met the bottoms. Of course this meant that bucks had been traveling through here year after year popping from one ridge to another while staking out their territories or looking for does.
During further investigation, I found that two more ridges fed in about 100 yards down the creek. Also, I found that on one side of the creek it was bluffed with an old logging road running below it that was entangled with mountain laurel bushes. This made for a good pinch-point.
When it came time to pick the tree, I went with a beech nut tree by the creek within bow range of where the three ridges came down to the bottom. This tree was also across the creek from where the logging road tied to the two other ridges I found in my investigation.
So I came back during the summer and installed a lock on into the beech tree. I also marked an access trail which included using the creek as the final route to minimize leaving a scent trail to the tree.
The end result of finding this junction was Kathy catching this buck shortly after daylight heading toward the three ridges from the two ridges by way of the laurel bush logging road. He was just not aware that a woman with a Remington model 700 chambered in 7mm-08 was waiting 32 yards away.
Hunt No. 2 takes place on a piece of public land that has swamps, a lot of cutovers with pine plantations, along with a variety of hardwoods. The area has amazing deer habitat. The hunt takes place in December, and it was a cold, frosty morning. Kathy has so many cloths on that if she fell down, I could roll her to the stand without getting a scratch on her. Even though it’s only a 25-minute walk, I decide to pack my coveralls in.
We slip down to her ladder stand with minimal noise. I put out some Tink’s #69 Doe-In-Rut Buck Lure, along with some dominate buck lure out from her tree in three different places. As I make my way toward the swamp, I stop several times to put a little of each scent out. Once I make it to my lock on, I put out some more scent.
I hastily put my coveralls on and then ease up the climbing sticks to my perch in the edge of the swamp. A barred owl calls out as the darkness gradually changes to light. Crunching noises can be heard everywhere around me. Squirrels sound like elephants playing in the frozen leaves. I am on the edge of my seat trying to put an image to every sound that I hear.
Finally around 8:30, I put eyes on a doe contributing to part of these noises. She eases to with 15 yards of me, and I decide to let her pass. We need the meat, but the images of old big boy following her runs through my mind. She passes on by with no signs of a buck behind her. Thirty minutes later, she comes back and starts sniffing around within ten yards of me. I am starting to get nervous as she continues to hang around. She has to smell the odors of the lures that I had misted earlier that morning are my words to calm myself.
Dang that women I am thinking to myself as I hear something run and pile up to my right. Can a man not hunt? Movement in front of me brings me back to reality. If you want to contribute to this hunt, you better pull the trigger on that doe before she spooks off from all the commotion. I follow my own instructions and squeeze the trigger. She takes off through the swamp like you had touched her with a hot poker.
I look at my watch to see what time all this action has taken place. It’s only 9:22. I decide to stay in the tree for another hour because of all the movement. Plus the hunters who have gotten cold will be walking around, possibly pushing other deer or hogs toward us.
Sure enough at 10 I see movement out in the swamp in front of me. The movement quickly turns into a deer with a nice rack slipping across one of my shooting lanes. When he steps into the next one, I grunt him to a stop. The buck drops in his tracks as my Winchester model 70 chambered in 300 Weatherby magnum barks.
Wow I think to myself, that was three shots in 40 minutes. This could be a great day!
I get to my buck and see he’s a nice 8 point! I run a quick count in my head; yep he is the seventh 8-point buck or bigger that I have taken in this junction. As I head to Kathy, I walk up on a stocky 6-point lying about 40 yards from my stand. As I ease closer, I see a perfect round hole in his shoulder.
After the celebration of the morning’s events, we get all three deer ready for the trip out. We retrieve the deer hauler from the truck and strap the 8-point and doe to it. Switching from dragging the 6-point buck and rolling the pair, we get back to the truck in one and a half hours. Not bad for a morning in the woods.
Now this junction is very unique. About a mile across from the swamp is a green field on a ridge. Over the years I figured out that the deer traveling back and forth use this side of the swamp to junction off to numerous thick ridges used as bedding areas. Kathy has a ladder stand set up to intercept deer accessing one of three ridges from the swamp. I have a lock on set up in the edge of the swamp in view of accesses for three more ridges.
The best time to find these junctions is after deer season. The leaves are off and you can visibly see the sign easier. Locate your major food sources in the area, green fields, cutovers, acorns, etc. Now locate suspected bedding areas. I prefer to look at thick ridges that have lots of blowdowns and that the sun shines on in the mornings when it rises.
Now by using satellite imaging or walking, find any timber or terrain changes of three or more that deer could use to access to and from feeding and bedding areas. Check these places for old scrapes and rubs or numerous tracks before stand placement.
Once you have found your junction and have chosen stand placement, wait for the pre-rut and rut phase of your season before hunting.
When you do hunt it, use scents and calls to intensify your hunt. If you can handle it!
Editor’s Note: Michael Perry is a hunter that GON met when it was publishing AON. Michael hunts exclusively public land and has appeared on numerous podcasts and has recently written a book with knowledge learned from his many years of hunting public land. To purchase the book on Amazon, go to https://a.co/d/iV6c9XX.
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