ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- It was Nov. 6, 2018 when my dad and I kicked a huge buck out of a bedding area along the Red River in North Dakota.
A few years of scouting and hunting here have shown me that bedding is primarily in areas between the river and timber. The pockets of open canopy that allow the sunlight to hit the ground helps the ragweed grow to about 12 feet high.
The deer love it. They browse on ragweed while it’s still green in the summer and early fall. After freezing, the thick stalks provide great protection from the wind and cold, along with perfect security as the deer stay hidden and can hear anything moving through it.
I marked the bed I thought that big buck came from in 2018 on the onX Hunt map on my phone with the intention of going back and closely looking things over to figure out a hunting setup. Finally, on Aug. 15 of this year, I got back there to do that.
There is a small tree within the ragweed and tall grass a few yards from where I had the waypoint set three years ago. You can see the tree on an aerial map, and those single trees or bushes within thicker cover like that should be the first place you look for a bed while scouting. It seems to often be the spot within a spot where an older deer will lay claim to.
I was heading for that tree on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon when a deer busted out through the ragweed. All I saw was its back end before it disappeared out of sight.
Sure enough, under that tree was a big bed. It was almost worn to the dirt with matted down dead grass. That leads me to believe this is a bed that this deer uses frequently.
When I scout areas like this with the intention of hunting them, I want to learn everything I need to know in one trip. The next time in will be with a bow in my hands weeks or months later.
A faint trail from the bed was visible through the thicker grass leading into the timber. My buddy, Tyler Notch of Alexandria, and I followed that trail out slowly and looked over each tree.
One about 30 yards away from that bed was small, but it provided shots to both the exit just inside the timber and also to the tall grass and ragweed. I cleared a few branches so I can climb in there with my hunting saddle with no problems in the dark.
It’s not just one bed I’m hunting here. This entire narrow, thick stretch holds multiple deer and has everything I’m looking for when it comes to trying to get on deer in daylight, especially outside of the rut. We all know that deer move best during early morning and late evening, but that doesn’t mean they are never on their feet in between those hours.
The key to giving yourself a chance is to be inside the bubble where they feel secure being on their feet. That’s why this bedding area has me excited about its potential.
- RELATED CONTENT: Read more hunting stories from Northland Outdoors.
I was hunting just on the edge of a similar area about a quarter mile up river the first week of November 2020. The tree I was in was on the edge of thick ragweed just like this when a 2.5-year-old 8-pointer came in after first light and bedded down against a single dead tree about 40 yards behind me.
I did an all-day sit and watched that buck get on its feet and mill around within that cover almost every hour until he eventually moved out of sight. He’d slowly walk and browse maybe 20-30 yards, all within that thick cover, and then bed back down.
That buck did not have any concerns being on his feet, likely because he has never experienced human pressure within that security cover. Every stand I have ever come across hunting these properties in North Dakota have been on field edges just inside open timber.
You can shoot a deer in the morning during early and mid-season. You just need to be where they feel comfortable moving. The key to capitalizing on that narrow window of movement is being smart about when you hunt these bedding areas.
I can’t come into the tree for an evening sit in the specific setup outlined at the beginning of this column. I would bust that deer out of there if he was bedded under that tree.
West or northwest winds are the only winds I’ll hunt it on. My access will be coming up the river in a kayak well before morning shooting light, climbing up the steep bank and walking 15 yards to slip into the tree I prepared. I could even walk up the river this year because it’s so dry.
If I was going to hunt this in the very early season -- say sometime in September -- I would make sure to get in at least an hour before gray light.
I usually make three trips to North Dakota from Minnesota during the season -- opening weekend, late October and the first week of November.
That late October period when bucks start staying out a little later into the morning checking scrapes is when I will absolutely target this spot if I can get a west/northwest wind.