As a deer hunter who’s spent many seasons chasing whitetails through hardwoods, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to hunt ridges successfully. Trust me, ridge hunting can be an extremely effective technique if you know how to take advantage of the unique opportunities these terrain features provide.
Let me walk you through my top strategies, from playing the wind right to picking the perfect stand location. I’ll share the lessons I’ve learned through trial and error so you can skip the mistakes and fill your tag on a mature ridge runner this season.
Key Takeaways for Hunting Ridges
- Scent control is critical when accessing stands above ridge crests
- Identify mast trees, saddles, and pinch points using maps and boots on the ground scouting
- Glass for deer movement using quality binoculars before accessing stand sites
- Pay extremely close attention to wind direction and thermals along ridges and valleys
- Take a slow, stealthy approach to stands from the downwind side
- Be prepared to stay all day, ridges allow visibility to spot cruising deer
- Learn to read deer sign and patterns around ridge funnels and pinch points
- Exercise caution and remain undetected when hunting below ridges
- Capitalize on weather fronts that influence deer to move along ridges
Saddle Up and Get Ready for a Challenge
Before we dive in, let me warn you – hunting whitetails along ridge tops and saddles ain’t easy. But the payoff can be huge if you’re willing to put in the work. I still remember my first successful ridge hunt years ago – spotting that big boy slipping up the hill at last light was a total rush!
The two keys to success are patience and persistence. You need to be willing to hunt all day waiting for that perfect moment when your target buck appears. But when it happens, man does it feel good!
Okay, let’s break it down…
Playing the Wind Right is Crucial Above the Ridge
When you’re positioning a treestand above the crest of a ridge top, scent control has to be priority number one. I’m talking showering with that scent-eliminating soap hunters swear by, spraying down all your gear with a scent neutralizer, the whole nine yards. One whiff of human odor drifting down and your hunt is toast.
I’ve learned the hard way how tricky the wind can be along ridges. Thermals rising off the ridge send your stink right to the deer bedded below. So take your time on approach, go slow, pause a lot to scan ahead with your binoculars.
Trust me, you don’t want to spook the big boys right off the bat. Patience and stealth will pay off.
Saddle Up in the Right Spot
When scouting your hunting area, make sure to identify saddles and pinch points along the ridges using your topo map. These funnel features are primo ambush sites.
Deer are lazy like us humans – they like to follow the path of least resistance. So set up stands where ridges merge or gullies create an easy path. You’ll catch deer cruising back and forth to food and bedding areas.
While scouting, I also always keep an eye out for mast-bearing trees near ridge fingers. In the fall, a white oak loaded with acorns can really attract deer.
I like the onX Hunt elite feature that shows where acorn producing oak trees are. This makes it easier when scouting with maps.
And don’t forget to check for fresh rub lines – they’ll tip you off to where the bucks are traveling.
Stealth Mode Engaged Below the Ridge
If you can safely access stand sites from the downwind side, hunting below a ridge can be deadly. But you gotta be cautious and make like a ninja on approach.
Use available cover and move slowly, pausing to glass ahead frequently. Funnels and pinch points are prime ambush sites. Look for major trails between bedding and food or leading to water sources.
Pay attention to the weather too – cold fronts and storms really get deer on the move. And take advantage when they seek shelter from pouring rain or heavy snow. You can sometimes catch them by surprise under these conditions.
Wrap Up and Get Hunting
There’s a ton more tips and tactics I could share but I need to wrap this up. The main takeaway is that with the right strategy, ridges offer awesome hunting opportunities.
So do your scouting, play the wind right, and be willing to hunt all day. If you put in the work, you’ll tag your next trophy ridge runner.
I’m heading out next weekend to sit a saddle I’ve had my eye on. Wish me luck and maybe I’ll see you out there!
Frequently Asked Questions About Hunting Ridges
What time of day is best for hunting ridges?
I’ve found early morning and late evening to be prime time for ridges. Deer are moving between bedding and feeding areas at dawn and dusk. Set up early on prevailing upwind sides to intercept them. All day sits can work too if you’ve scouted a high traffic saddle.
Should I use a climber or hang a lock-on stand when ridge hunting?
For mobility, I prefer using a climber so I can easily shift locations day-to-day. But lock-ons are great on pinch points you’ve pre-scouted between ridges. Just be sure to approach and leave the area without leaving scent or noise.
What wind speed is too high for effective ridge hunting?
Anything over 10-15 mph can make playing the wind in ridge terrain difficult. But don’t be afraid to hunt leeward sides of ridges on extremely windy days. Deer will tuck into sheltered bedding areas during high winds.
How do I locate saddles using maps and aerial imagery?
Look for hourglass shaped contours on topo maps indicating a dip or saddle between two ridges. Check aerial satellite imagery too. Saddles usually have lighter vegetation from deer trails. Use onX Hunt as an additional scouting tool.
Should I still hunt or use a blind when ridge hunting?
For mobility in open woods, still hunting can be effective to slip along ridges quietly. But ground blinds near funnel points offer concealment advantages. Hang-on stands give elevation to see over ridges and spot deer. Mix up strategies.
How do I pick the best stand locations on ridges?
Scout for funnel features, mast trees, thick cover, major trails, and terrain contours. Look for pinch points and saddles in maps and on the ground. Pick areas with good ambush cover downwind of expected deer travel routes.