My Strategy for Highly Pressured Public Land: Pressure Funnels

Show Notes

In this episode of the Southern Way Hunting Podcast, Josh is flying solo to talk about a strategy he's found to be highly effective on pressured ground: hunting pressure funnels. 

This strategy isn't flashy, takes a lot of legwork, and depends on lots of hunting pressure. But it sure seems to work! In fact, this has been Josh's primary strategy over the last four seasons, and his encounters with mature bucks have skyrocketed. Tune in to hear how he puts this simple but not easy strategy to work! 

Have you tried this strategy? Let us know how it works for you on Instagram!

Show Transcript


Thanks for tuning in to the Southern Way Hunting Sportsman's Empire Podcast Network. I'm your host, Josh Raley. And on this show, you'll hear hunting tactics, stories, and strategies from hunters across the South. Our aim is to sharpen our skills as hunters and outdoorsmen become more efficient and effective in pursuit of our craft and even have a little fun while we're at it.

And of course, no matter the pursuit, we focus on doing things the Southern Way.

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of The Southern way hunting podcast. I'm your host, Josh Raley, and got a little bit of a different episode in store for you today. So typically I have a guest on, who's got some kind of experience sharing their knowledge and helping us all do a little bit better when it comes to being outdoors.

Typically this time of year, we've been talking about deer. Now come spring, we'll be talking about turkeys. Might talk a little bit of [00:01:00] fishing. Probably not because I don't really care too much about fishing. I enjoy fishing, but it's not number one on my list or even a distant number two. Turkeys, however, are way, way up there.

So if you like turkey hunting, this is going to be your place this spring. Cause I'm probably going to make the shift to pretty much talking turkeys, I don't know, two, three times a month at least. Maybe every episode we're going to talk a little bit of turkey hunting because I can't get enough of it.

Once once deer season ends for me this year in February, I will be switching hard into deer mode. Actually thinking about doing a little bit of turkey hunting real early in a different state. I just don't know yet. We'll have to see. We'll have to see how that goes. Have to see what, what shakes out and what doesn't for me.

But today I'm flying solo. I'm all alone and I want to share with you something that I have been honing in over the last couple of years. This is a strategy for finding [00:02:00] deer on public land. Now, I have to say I've done a fair amount of traveling to deer hunt over the last couple of years. I've done a fair amount of deer hunting here in the south over the last couple of years.

I deer hunted a lot, exclusively really, in the South when I was younger. I've hunted Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia. I don't think I've ever hunted Tennessee or, I know I haven't hunted Kentucky, pretty sure I haven't hunted Tennessee and I have not hunted Florida. I've hunted a lot of what I would consider.

Relatively highly pressured public land, did a lot of it with a gun. It was during the pressure part of the season, did a lot of it with a bow as well. I've also hunted a lot of hunting clubs that are either butted up to public lands or, got a lot of people on them, like right now I'm in a lease.

2000 acres. There are a lot of guys on the lease. It's one of those situations where you get in on the [00:03:00] lease and you ask them, okay, how many guys are in the lease? And they're like, Oh not many. And then come to realize later, it's like way more people per acre than, or way more people than should be, you don't quite have enough acres for the number of people.

My preference is to have it somewhere in the, well over a hundred. So 120 to 300 acres per person on a lease. Now, does that make them more expensive? Absolutely. It makes them more expensive, but there is an astronomical jump in the quality of your hunting. When you do that. So if you have spent your whole life, maybe hunting a lease where there's, 40 acres, 50 acres, a person kind of thing.

And I'm not talking about small leases, right? I'm talking about the big ones where you got a thousand acres, 2000 acres, 3000 acres leased at a time when you've only got 40 acres, a person, that's a lot of people, and that's a whole lot of pressure. And you look at these clubs that are getting. Shooting the big deer, having a lot of success.

Their food plots are productive, shooting a lot of deer off their fields in the evenings. [00:04:00] And you think, man, what makes their place better than mine? It's probably the number of people like you can look at those clubs. Like I can look back on the clubs that I've been in and the ones where I had a lot of success were the ones where.

There were 20 guys on 3, 600 acres. There were, uh, nine, eight guys on 1, 000 acres. Just not a lot of people on that landscape, but anyway, this is a strategy that I want to share with you that I've been honing over the last couple of years and I haven't really shared.

In detail, my thought process about it because it's been in development, right? Like it's not something that I hear a ton of people talking about. Now, some of this stuff, yeah, you're going to be like duh, I already knew that already. And I'm not trying to share anything earth shattering. I'm just saying, this is a strategy that I have employed.

I haven't heard anybody talk about it quite the way that I think about it. And I hope that comes across in this episode, but it's a strategy that I want you to give a shot to, or give it a try or just think through it, [00:05:00] man. Give me your feedback on it and let me know your thoughts. Let me know how you do if you put it into practice, but as a strategy for highly pressured.

Highly pressured land. Now, I will say this is going to depend on having some pretty consistent pressure on a piece of property. A lot of our WMAs here in the South, they'll have a lot of pressure for the four day gun season, and then nobody's on that property for the next three weeks. That's not a high pressure property.

It's high pressured for four days. So this strategy may be great for you day two, day three, day four. It's not going to be great for you after a three week break where nobody's been on the property. It's just it depends on hunting pressure. So I want to start off by telling you how I came across.

And started to develop this strategy. I heard a guy on a podcast talking probably four or five years ago. And he said he was looking for a big deer and he was like, you know what, I knew pressure was coming from this direction. I knew pressure was coming from that direction. And so what I did is I got[00:06:00] basically in the middle of that and boom, that's where the deer was.

And so I went out that year and I was on my favorite piece of public ground up in Wisconsin, actually. And I thought, okay, there's pressure coming from the North. There's pressure coming from the East. There's pressure coming from the south. I'm going to come in from the east still, like some of this other pressure is.

But I'm not going to use a common parking area. I'm going to basically ditch my car in a pretty sketchy place on the side of the road, which was still legal, but still definitely a pretty sketchy spot, got my car there, walked in to equal distance from all the pressure. So if the guys came from the South, they'd have to walk like a mile.

If they came from the North, they'd have to walk like a mile. They came from the East. They'd have to walk like a mile. So I was in this perfect center between all of this pressure and I knew guys were doing this because I'd seen them doing it like throughout the season. I'd seen their car, their [00:07:00] trucks in the parking lot.

I'd been out there scouting enough to know round about where people are hunting, right? Like you get a month or two into the season, you start to see trails, dipping off into the woods that it's pretty obvious that somebody's going in there pretty regularly. So I'll go into the spot that's in the center of all of this pressure.

And my first morning there first of all, I go in and I find just a ton of sign, just, it's absolutely destroyed with sign. There are scrapes everywhere, rubs everywhere. I'm like, Oh man, this is the spot. So I sit it and that first day there, I have an encounter with a good eight pointer end up missing the deer.

I go back in there, have another good encounter with the same eight pointer. I go back in there another time. And I have a morning where I have an encounter with three mature bucks, all within bow range. Within about 30 minutes of each other. I missed one of the deer. Another deer ran by so quickly that I couldn't get a shot at him.

He was probably in the one 60 [00:08:00] push in that one 70 number, but I'm going to call him a one 60 plus size deer. And then another deer came running in seconds after him and busted me moving up in the tree. He was an old just. Giant, five, six, 7-year-old kind of deer, gray faced, racked. That's obviously going downhill, but somewhere in that 1 30, 1 25, 1 30, maybe one 40 range.

Really good deer though. And then I went in there another time and had an encounter with the original eight point, so that was my third encounter with him throughout that year. Now this spot, why was it so good? The landscape was exactly the same as pretty much the entire other landscape on this piece of public.

The terrain features were basically non existent. There wasn't a lot going on in there to make this be the spot. Food sources. There was none of that, right? There was food off in different directions, but this was not [00:09:00] in the food. It was a little bit thick, right? But so was this whole area. So it wasn't nothing made this spot stand out.

The only thing that made this area stand out was the sign that I found once I got in there. And I quickly came to realize that it was because of the pressure. Now I thought this for a number of years, hunted that spot for three years, actually went in there this year and last year, and that spot is now being pretty heavily pressured by a guy who lives just, I don't know.

At the entrance of this public ground. And he's been in there quite a bit and you can tell the hunting in there is not the same. So I've come to call this hunting this hunting style or hunting strategy, hunting the pressure funnels. That is funnels that are created by hunter pressure. There aren't necessarily any terrain features.

There aren't necessarily any bedding features. There aren't necessarily. Any other things that would funnel these deer through this area, except for [00:10:00] the fact that there's pressure coming from multiple directions, right? So as I begin to think about this how do you locate these areas? Now, let me back up just a bit.

If you find within this area. A ditch crossing or a bench or a bedding thicket or something like that within what feels like it would be, a pressure funnel obviously you up the odds, right? Like we're trying to put as many things in our favor as we can when we go into the deer woods, especially around the rut, which is, many of you guys are either in right now or gearing up for here in the South.

Trying to put as many things in your favor as possible. This is another one of those things. This pressure funnel idea is another thing to put into your into your quiver, let's say. So where do you start when you're going to employ this pressure funnel access? Or this pressure funnel strategy.

You start with access. Not only for others, but also for [00:11:00] yourself. So number one, you've got to take the time to realize what are other people doing? Now, I did this through, uh, personal observations. I sacrificed a lot of Saturday mornings where I would not actually go hunt. I would go drive the roads and look at the parking areas and see where people are parked.

Or I would go sit there in the evenings. I'd walk out 30 minutes before dark. And I'd stand in a road, half a mile, quarter mile from the parking lot. And I'm watching where these guys headlamps are coming in from. I'm watching which direction of the road did they walk in from? Now this was because I got to hunt a lot during the week back then and still do now.

And so I don't really need to hunt on the weekends when a lot of people are out there. So that's another piece that, that kind of goes into this for me. But I would take the weekend and I would scout the pressure. I'm looking at what parking lots are busy. I'm looking at where these guys are going. I'm looking at where are these trails that I'm finding?

Am I finding somebody? Who's, walking into this spot, [00:12:00] obviously once or twice a week. Cause he's got his old honey hole back in there. I want to know where that's at. How far is he going? Is he going 50 yards off the road, a hundred yards off the road? What's he doing? So I'll follow that trail.

I'll take it in there as far as I can. I'll follow the night eyes. If I can find some of those, follow the flagging, whatever the case may be. You got to find out where people are now, most people, and this has been backed up in study after study. Are not going to be hunting very far off of a road or main trail.

They're just not going to do it. They may say, Oh, I hunt a mile back in there. Yeah. First of all, you probably don't. And second of all, you may walk the trail for a mile, like the main trail or the road. And then you cut off into the woods, a hundred yards, 200 yards. I think if you walk 400 yards through the woods, like through actual timber with no trail You are probably way past most of the pressure you're going to encounter.

The [00:13:00] reality is most guys are not going to walk 400 yards off of a road or a main trail. So pay attention to what others do or what others are doing. And then also those spots where pressure comes from multiple directions. So think through maybe your WMA roads. If you're, a guy that hunts a lot of WMAs like I do think through your WMA roads.

Oftentimes you have them running. Either down towards each other or they'll run the ridge lines, right? And you got the, the bottom in the middle. Think about the pressure coming from two directions. If it's just one road off by itself, it's a little bit harder to think of that as a pressure funnel.

When you got guys coming from multiple directions, two directions, maybe even three roads come together at one spot or three parking areas, form a little bit of a half moon shape. Okay. Now, all of a sudden you've got something that creates a pressure funnel. Now you've got pressure coming from multiple directions that are going to push the deer down into a smaller smaller area, think about what other people are doing and something that I've noticed [00:14:00] is that the shifts that the deer are making due to pressure are not.

All that far, especially if you're in an area with a high deer density. You get into some of the mountain stuff, man yeah, it may be that it's just, there's just not the deer density there to even care about it. But that's a different style of hunting than I'm typically doing.

We don't have a lot of spots like that around here that just have crazy low deer densities. But I used to think that man, if people are hunting here. The deer are another thousand yards back, and that's just not the case. Like the deer are adjusting from what I could see and from how I've been testing this theory, a hundred yards, 200 yards beyond what the furthest person can see.

And I think a lot of those deer are going to probably going to get shot during a gun hunt. But when it comes to bow hunting, if we're talking bow hunting pressure, especially we're talking a hundred yards, 75 yards beyond. where that pressure goes. So you get into this, this pressure funnel.

Let's say the pressure funnel forms almost like an imaginary line, right? lEt's say this [00:15:00] hunter walks down the trail and he goes in a hundred yards, this other hunter goes down the trail, he goes in 200 yards. The third hunter goes in the trail and he goes in 150 yards. If you draw a line from dot to dot, just connect their stand locations, generally dot to dot.

So that's your pressure line. Go in 75 to 200 yards past that pressure line and just see what see if the deer sign begins to pick up. That's what I noticed. I noticed that, you get 75, 200 yards ish past that pressure line and all of a sudden I start to find I started to find the sign, right?

I got to start to find it. And so that's why it's important to the next thing that I'm doing after I'm figuring out where people are, I'm mapping out the pressure. I'm actually going to mark on Onyx as well as I can where other people are hunting. Now, does that take a lot of work? Yeah, it does.

It takes a lot of work. And, you might be thinking too man, so many guys are mobile these days. Like, how, how far, like, how [00:16:00] easily, really, can you keep track of what either, what other people are doing? Just because somebody carries mobile gear into the woods doesn't mean that they're...

Hunting mobile. That's a distinction we need to make. So they're hunting mobile. Yes. Maybe they're not hunting the exact same tree every time, but oftentimes you'll find they're within a hundred yards. I do this myself, right? Like I find a good spot and I'll be in the same five or 10 acre chunk for a week.

I'M moving 50 yards at a time, a hundred yards at a time, just making little tiny micro adjustments within an area you can generally figure out where that person is, even if he's. being a mobile hunter or whatever figure out where that pressure is making it to market on your on X and then, back out of there.

And also, so another caveat for this is figuring out what kind of pressure it is. So is it bow hunting pressure? Is it gun hunting pressure that has now passed? Or is it one of my favorites to play off of is[00:17:00] small game pressure because small game pressure spots that are, popular for small game hunting.

Those are some of my favorites now because the deer get so accustomed to those guys walking in there and walking that same Ridge. every single week for for squirrels or they're in there, up in Wisconsin, they're walking the same route for pheasants every single week. They're walking the same edges every single week or they're walking, they're rabbit hunting.

So them and their dogs are busting through the same thickets every single week, right? Like same kind of thing. I love that small game pressure. I'm playing just off 75 yards, 100 yards, 200 yards. Off of that small game pressure. So I'm going to map that out on my on X. Then after I've done that, I'm going to start focusing on the areas that are just beyond it.

And I'm going to try to find, okay, where is, where are the other features inside of this? Here's my area. I'm beginning to find some sign. Maybe are there terrain features that sort of bolster this one more step [00:18:00] up? Is there a nice saddle? Is there a bench that I can play off of it? It doesn't mean that I'm going to hunt those, right over that terrain feature or whatever I find, but it does give me a point of reference.

Like it gives me one more point where I'm pretty sure, okay, the deer are going to end up over there. At this Creek crossing or at this ditch crossing or whatever whatever the case may be. So we've covered, I'm going to check my notes real quick here. Make sure I've started at all. So you're starting with, or make sure I've covered it all.

You're starting with access yourself, access for others, where they're going. You're mapping out that pressure. You're focusing on the areas that are just beyond the pressure line, one to 200 yards. aNd we're, obviously we're thinking about those places where we're more highly valuing those places that have pressure coming from the east, from the west and from the north or, multiple directions.

Pressure coming in are gonna funnel those deer down even better. And then from there you focus on the unpressured pockets, [00:19:00] right? Like you, you find that honey hole in the middle. And it doesn't mean you're always gonna find the honey hole in the middle, right? It doesn't mean that it's always going to be there.

But man, I've had a lot of luck doing it like. If I'm just being honest with you, my hunting over the last four years, I've seen more large deer in the last four years of hunting than I have probably in my entire hunting career, I went from being a guy that didn't see a lot of deer, unless I was hunting private land.

To a guy that's surprised when I don't see a deer. If I go hunting, I went from, mature buck encounters twice a year, once a year to mature buck encounters, 50 percent of my outings. 45 percent of my outings and encounter meaning, I was within a hundred yards or whatever. And a lot of that's with a bow.

Yeah, obviously you're not going to do that well, having these encounters, nonetheless my [00:20:00] success has just gone through the roof. So I'm focusing. Almost specifically and only on these unpressured pockets. And then double that. Double down on that. By finding those pinches, terrain features, travel corridors, all that kind of stuff.

That's absolutely the best case scenario. You're finding, for me, a big time favorite, ditch crossing, creek crossing, that kind of stuff. Within this little funnel. And that's my strategy. And, you take those and you do your scouting, you throw in some cameras maybe. And just see what the deer are doing in there.

So I wanted to air that out there for you guys. Just as my experience, my thought process. I felt like I was really at a time right now where I want to, throw that out there for a lot of people and ask your thoughts on it. And have you maybe try it. There's a lot of gun seasons left on WMAs around here.

There's, a lot of time left in the season. This is especially effective during the rut I've found. And yeah, curious about your feedback, curious [00:21:00] about your thoughts, curious about if this is something that you have been doing for years. Typically, if I have a good idea, I'll air it on a podcast episode and I'll have six or seven guys be like, man, my grandpa taught me that, and that's how we've hunted our whole life.

If I find something that works, it's okay, yeah, it works, but you're not the first one to find it. And I'm confident that this is what's going on with this. So guys get out there, find those pressure funnels. And see what man. Let me know. Send me a message on Instagram at the Southern Way hunting podcast.

I think that's what my Instagram handle is. Anyway, if you just look up Southern Way hunting podcast, you'll find me on Instagram. So shoot me a message. Let me know how you do. Also, if you think that this is a croc and not actually going to work, then let me know that too. But please do back it up with something.

Don't just be like that sounds dumb. It's yeah a lot of things sound dumb. Give it a shot though. If it doesn't work, let me know. If it does work... Let me know that too. But anyway, guys, thank you so much for tuning in for this solo episode. Next week, we'll be back with another awesome [00:22:00] guest.

Until then, get out in the woods. That's all for today's episode. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you dig this show, please go subscribe to this podcast, wherever it is that you get your podcasts. And if you can leave us a review, I would really appreciate that. Until next week, let's keep doing things the Southern way.