Thermals Lead to Big Bucks
Keith Lockwood of Virginia has had some awesome success two years in a row using woodsmanship skills he learned on The Southern Outdoorsmen Podcast.
Stories like this are some of our absolute favorites to receive. True woodsmanship led to both of these bucks being tagged, and there is something to be said for that. Notice how in both stories thermals and thermal hubs come in to play for rutting bucks.
I would venture to say that outside of powerlines and cutovers more big bucks are killed in the southeast in thermal hubs (we called them bowls growing up) than any other terrain feature. Like spokes of a wheel, draws and ridges funnel deer into a central hub resulting in a fantastic place for deer to travel, and a great place for us to set up and wait for them.
Next time you are out scouting take note of where the terrain funnels you. I would be willing to bet that sooner or later you will end up in a hub. It is the natural path of least resistance for any creature, two or four legged, to travel. Not to mention that as a deer with 297 million olfactory scent receptors a thermal hub is an absolute melting pot of all the smells of the area. To get a visual explanation of thermal hubs, check out this video.
Here is what Keith had to say:
Your podcast has significantly improved my hunting experiences the past few years, and helped me tag a 120 inch class mature buck this season and last season. My daughter was born in September 2019, and my son in June of this year. With less time to spend scouting and sitting in a tree stand hoping a nice buck would walk by, I discovered your podcast in 2020 and have listened ever since. The key to my success last year was listening to several of your guests recommend mid-day sits for cruising bucks. I located a great hub where several finger ridges came together for bucks to cruise and went in at 10 AM and a nice 8 pt walked to the hub at 2:45 PM. In the past, I would likely still be figuring out the evening hunt or just coming into the woods.
For this year's listener success story, I utilized thermals to my advantage as well as knowing where the doe groups bed and getting in between them. I hunt in the VA mountains and was aware of thermals, but for years never knew what they meant for deer movement and how to use them to my advantage. Your podcast explained them so well and scenarios to be successful. I set up in the morning in a dry creek bottom between two ridges. The thermals continue to draw air down the bottom until pretty late in the morning unless winds are strong. At 8:15 AM, two does crept from one known bedding area of thick spice bush past my tree at 5 yards heading toward another bedding area of mountain laurel. They were on high alert and barely made a sound in the dry leaves. I hoped their anxiety was due to a buck on their trail. Thirty minutes later, a mature buck appeared on the ridge with his nose up in the air checking the thermals. He was above me, but the thermals were pulling my scent down the bottom downhill. The buck slowly tracked the path of the two does, and I knew exactly where he would end up. I shot him at 10 yards with a muzzleloader and he went straight down. He is my second biggest buck at 125" gross. He was a 9 pt, but had recently broken off the 9th point as well as the ends of 3 other tines from fighting. There was white bone dust all over the antler burs, so the fight had been very recent. I had a picture of him on camera the week prior with all points still intact.
I realize now that my biggest buck, a 10 pt from 2013, was basically luck. I followed the mantra that the more time sitting resulted in higher chances. With the help of your podcast, I now hunt smarter rather than just harder. I'm excited to learn even more from you and your guests, and continue to have success in the field.
- Keith Lockwood
For some top notch advice on how to hunt thermal hubs, listen to episode 141 of the Southern Outdoorsmen Podcast. The episode is titled "FIND & HUNT a Bucks Core Area with Josh Driver". In that episode we have a fascinating conversation on how Josh uses terrain to figure out exactly where a mature buck is likely to like and travel. We also get in to how to read the terrain as a whole rather than looking at bits and pieces. which will allow you to see how and why the terrain features play in to one another, allowing you to find the very best spot on the entire property. If you are interested in hunting mature deer that episode is an absolute must listen.