Photograph courtesy of Bossi/Flickr
You may see them as a blight on the land-scape, but power lines do offer one benefit: They make pretty good places to ambush a buck. Flanked by mature woods that provide little food for whitetails, these long, narrow strips of prime edge habitat abound with tender forbs and berries that deer relish. Also, because power companies don’t need the ground beneath their lines to be mowed down like fairways, it’s typically overgrown with low brush and saplings, which provide enough cover that deer feel safe feeding along the borders during shooting hours.
Power lines funnel deer, too. In most cases, whitetails travel parallel to the wires and just inside the woods until they reach a strategic point where they cross to the other side. This travel pattern makes it relatively easy to pinpoint prime stand locations.
As promising as power lines can be, though, it takes a carefully conceived strategy to hunt them successfully. Here’s what to factor into your plan:
LOCATION Not every power line promises good deer hunting, so you need to pick the right ones. Use a topo map to select a strip that passes through forested land, since those running through open areas offer little to attract deer. Also opt for a fairly remote stretch. Nearby houses or a road mean more hunters and hikers will be around.
STAND SITES Scout to find out where deer are moving in relation to the power line. Pay particular attention to trails that intersect it at a right angle. These will commonly exist where a major food source, say, a white oak stand or an abandoned orchard, is on the opposite side. You’re also likely to find these trails anywhere that bucks can remain hidden as they cross. Look for dense cover or a low spot such as a swampy swale. When you find large, fresh tracks or rub lines along these routes, put up a stand nearby.
Also take note of trails that parallel the line and look for tracks or smaller meandering trails that lead out into the open area but don’t cross. Droppings and chewed stems indicate that deer venture out of the woods here to browse on raspberry, blackberry, honeysuckle, greenbrier, forbs, and saplings. This is another prime stand location.
When you’re setting up, hang your stand where you’ll be able to see deer feeding in the clearing as well as those milling back in the woods. Move away from the edge itself where your form would stand out.
STILL-HUNTING Power lines also provide the perfect surroundings for walking up on deer. Ease along just inside the cover, staying far enough back that animals in the clearing won’t spot you. See if there’s an access or maintenance trail paralleling the line where you can sneak quietly, scanning the woods with binoculars. Every 50 to 100 yards or so, loop toward the edge and cautiously check the opening for browsing or crossing deer.
DRIVES Wherever there’s good bedding cover near a power line, there’s a good opportunity to drive deer. Have the drivers push the cover toward the lines. Position two posters on the edge of the clearing outside of the drivers’ positions, but on the same side of the line. This way, they can take bucks that curl to the sides or those that run across the line, without shooting toward the drivers.
SAFETY AND PERMISSION Never take a shot if your bullet might hit a power line, pole, or transmission tower. Be aware that at any time there may be workers performing maintenance in the area. Wear blaze orange and always obtain permission. And when you kill your buck, remember to offer a few steaks to the person who granted it.
ATV APPROACH Done carefully, a very effective way to approach a tree-stand site without spooking deer is to have someone drive you to your hunting spot on an ATV. Have the driver wait, with the motor running, until you’ve climbed to your perch. When the driver rides off, deer believe the danger is gone and move normally, as though nothing has happened. Just be sure to give bedding and feeding areas a wide berth when deer are in those places. And stick to existing trails and field edges with the vehicle. This is not only the most responsible method; it also makes less noise. This same tactic can work equally well with a truck, a farm tractor, or a snow sled in winter. As long as the vehicle leaves after you get into your stand, there’s a good chance the deer will go back to business as usual.