Benches Are Tough—But Worth It
Benches are usually the hottest places to hang a stand in rough country if the wind will cooperate—which, unfortunately, it rarely does. Every bench I’ve ever scouted was torn up with trails and rut sign. It is obvious that these bedding and travel areas serve as major contact points for bucks looking for does, and much of an area’s entire rutting activity takes place here.
Benches aren’t easy to find. In fact, the majority of those that I hunt are actually old, overgrown logging roads. Natural benches tend to be wider and, for the most part, show more signs of heavy use. But regardless of how they were made, swirling winds make all benches tough to hunt.
You can effectively hunt only those benches located on the sidehill facing the wind. Benches down in narrow draws won’t work because the wind will swirl too much. The valley has to be wide to give the wind a straight shot at the sidehill so it won’t swirl. You can also get away with hunting a bench in a narrow valley on those perfectly still mornings that seem to come along only once a season. With no wind, thermals will carry your scent either straight up (when the sun hits the slope) or straight down (when it is in shadow). Either direction will keep your scent away from deer traveling the bench.
You can best access benches from above. I like to slink down a ditch to the chosen spot whenever possible to stay out of sight. On those rare occasions when the conditions allow you to hunt one of these hotspots, plan to stay on stand all day long. You may get to hunt the stand only once or twice a year, but if you don’t mess things up by hunting it at the wrong times, once or twice may be enough.
Some of the biggest bucks in North America live in rugged country because these are some of the most difficult places to hunt effectively. If you’ll focus on ridges and benches and forget the sign you find in the bottoms of draws, you’ll shoot more and bigger bucks this season.