Easing the .30-06 up to my shoulder, I settled the crosshairs on the buck’s chest, exhaled partially and squeezed off. Two football field lengths away, the eight-pointer crumpled on the spot. I had just killed my second buck on a two-day hunt with legendary deer hunter, Realtree founder, and college football star Bill Jordan.
Bill had invited a few writers to join him for a hunt at Callaway Gardens in Georgia and my guide had placed me on an elevated stand overlooking a power line clearing. In two days I collected two nice bucks and saw many other deer. Ever since then, I’ve been a firm believer in hunting power lines, especially in a location new to me, like this Georgia property was.
When looking at a vast mature forest you plan to hunt, picking a specific spot may seem like a daunting, almost impossible task. But if you study a topo, pour over Google Earth maps, or go on a scouting foray and pinpoint a power line running through it, you’ve found a perfect spot to begin your hunt.
Unbroken, mature forests offer little in the way of food or cover for whitetails. But a power line slicing through such sterile environments provides miles of prime edge habitat with both abundant shelter and food such as tender forbs, berries, shrubs, and saplings.
Power companies don’t need the lines mowed down to the ground like a golf course, so they often let them grow up into low brush and only mow or cut back the trees occasionally. Sometimes they even seed the openings with plants deer like to eat.
Since they are more open than the surrounding woods, power lines also funnel deer in routes that parallel them until they reach a good strategic point to cross over to the other side. This helps you pinpoint prime stand locations.
As good as they are, it still takes a carefully planned strategy to get the most out of hunting these deer magnets.
First, pick the right lines to hunt. Using a topographic map, MyTopo.com, or Google Earth, select a line that passes through forested land, since those running through open areas offer no attraction to deer.
Next, get out and scout to see where deer are moving in relation to the line. Chances are they’ll parallel it in some areas and cross it in a few strategic spots. These are often where there is a major food source on the opposite side, such as a corn, alfalfa, or soybean field or perhaps an abandoned orchard.
Bucks don’t want to cross where they’re exposed, so look for low spots or dips in the terrain. Follow the trails along the power line and then find fresh large tracks where animals ventured out into the opening and crossed to the other side. That’s a prime stand site.
Also search for areas where the trails parallel the line and some tracks lead out into the line but don’t cross it. This is likely a spot where the deer simply ventured out to browse on raspberry, blackberry, honeysuckle, greenbrier, forbs, and saplings. Look for droppings, indicating the deer lingered there and chewed stems of bushes and branch tips.
Place the stand where you can see into the clearing to pick up feeding animals and also back into the surrounding woods for deer milling about there before venturing into the open. Avoid setting up right on the edge where your human form will stand out.
Still hunting. Power lines also offer a perfect setup for still hunting. Ease along just inside the cover, staying back far enough that you can’t be seen by the animals in the clearing. Loop up every 50 to 100 yards and carefully scan the line for grazing or crossing deer. Also search along the edges back in the cover on the far side with 8 or 10 power binoculars.
Sometimes there’s an access or maintenance trail paralleling the line just back in cover where you can sneak along quietly without busting through brush or making a racket. Use this if it’s available.
If you see a buck too far for a shot, you have two options. You can make a looping stalk back in cover to get in range, or use a grunt call, doe bleat, or rattling horns to try to entice him closer. Opt for the second approach if the rut is about to start or in full swing.
Drives. Find heavy deer use areas next to a power line that also feature good, thick bedding cover. Push that area towards the line with the wind behind the drivers.
Before starting, position two posters on the edge of the clearing, but on the same side as the drivers, flanking them. This way they can take bucks that curl out the sides or those that run across the line and not be shooting towards the drivers. The drivers themselves can shoot at deer that run back behind, from the way they came.
Safety & permission. Never shoot if your bullet might hit a power line, pole, transmission tower, or workers who might be performing maintenance on the line. Wear blaze orange and always obtain permission before hunting the line from the power company or landowner, whoever controls access rights.
No, you might not tag two bucks in two days like I was fortunate to do on the Georgia hunt with Bill Jordan, but I can almost guarantee a power line setup will produce some fine deer hunting memories with enough scouting and persistence and the right tactical approach.