Drink Zone 101
Drink Zone 101.
There are whitetail drink zones all over the place. It’s easier to start with where you won’t find them. I haven’t seen a single whitetail on the coastline or river bank on the far right side of the map. Not saying there can’t be any there, but I haven’t seen any. I haven’t seen many on the lakes in the northern 1/5th of the map, although I’m a little less than 100% certain that none exist there at least for some people. I’ve heard of people finding them at the crater lake on Mt Leviathan, but I haven’t seen any there. There are usually whitetails literally everywhere else that has water. They are very spread out, so you need tents and some planning to bag more than a handful or two during one drink period.
Some people will deliberately delete zones that are too far off their regular route. I personally don’t think that works very well. A new drink zone will usually populate close to the one you just deleted, and you’ll have to devote more scouting time to find it.
Opinions vary a bit, but most people who’ve put in the hours to have an informed opinion consider shooting does to be mostly pointless if you’re just after trophy bucks. They’re usually just replaced by other does. I’d only start shooting them if your herds get segregated to the point where you start getting herds with 4 or more bucks. In that case, you can shoot a couple does out of a doe-only zone and shoot a couple bucks out of a zone with too many. Sometimes one of them will shuffle locations when they respawn. The overall male/female ratio seems to stay balanced though. If you’ve moved a doe out of that zone to make room for a buck, the doe will pop up somewhere else, and often somewhere you don’t want one. Sometimes a doe will respawn into a zone that had only a single buck before, turning it into a doe-only zone so you’re back to square one. It’s like playing whack-a-mole.
It can take 3-7 game days for animals to respawn into a zone, so make sure to rotate zones frequently and rest them long enough to repopulate. Don’t overhunt your zones. 4 rifle kills in the same place will delete any zones in the immediate area unless you’re shooting from a hunting structure. Shooting all animals that use a zone will also delete it. Even if you don’t actually generate enough pressure to delete the zone, having constant daily hunting pressure in an area can cause animals to abandon a zone and relocate. The zone might still show up on the map, but sometimes the animals will either start using a different spot in that zone or move to another area altogether. An abandoned or deleted zone means you’ll have to spend additional time figuring out where they went.
How do I find whitetail drink zones?
Where/how to actually look for WT drink zones?
Draw an imaginary horizontal line across the map about 4/5ths of the way to the top. ALL lakes to the south of that (except maybe the crater lake on Mt Leviathan) potentially have at least one small band of WT.
The WT on the smaller lakes are usually easiest to find, so you probably want to start there. Most of the WT on the little lakes drink within 25m of the water. The lakes themselves are small enough you can usually scout the entire shoreline in under a minute. Approach the lake from the downwind side during drink time. Start crouch walking once you’re within 125-150m of the shore line. If you haven’t spotted drinking animals by the time you’re in a position to see the entire shore, move a few yards right or left and look again to see if they’re behind trees. As a last resort you can walk all the way around the lake a few yards back from the shoreline. Even if you spook them, you can still find the empty drink zone or tracks that will lead you to it. The smaller lakes never have more than 1 WT drink spot in my experience. Once you’ve found it, you can stop looking. On my last playthrough, Mushroom Lake had a really nice WT herd. Over a dozen WT total, and usually 4-5 bucks. Ignore the small lakes at your own peril. ALL lakes big and small are worth checking at least once.
The 4-5 biggest lakes usually have at least 2 whitetail drink zones on them. I say usually because the 3rd playthrough, I do have only a single herd living near High Lake, and they drink on the river for some reason instead of at the lake. Some of them are visible from the shoreline, but some aren’t. Some of these zones are tucked a few yards back from the water behind the first treeline. Some of them are set back from the main lakes on small sloughs/ponds. They can be 50-100m away from the lake in places that don’t even look like they’d actually have water. Start by walking either the east or west shoreline during drink time from south to north. Keep an eye out ahead of you as well as taking frequent looks all the way across the lake. Due to the render distance for ground cover sometimes animals are easier to spot 350m across a lake than they are 50m from you on the near shore. Repeat this on the opposite side of the lake next time. Do this a few more times, but walk parallel to the shoreline a certain distance back from it. Maybe 30m from the shoreline at first, and then 60, and then 90. Once you’ve found 2-3 WT drink zones on a particular lake you can probably stop. I’ve never found more than 3 WT drink zones even on the biggest lakes. Most of my WT drink zones on the big lakes are on the eastern or northern sides. Not sure if that’s normal or not, but that might be a good place to start your search.
You can find WT drink zones nearly the entire north-south length of the central river including both branches above the confluence. They’re the hardest to find, but the easiest ones to hunt efficiently once you’ve found them. They tend to be fairly evenly spaced out along the river, and finding ones within 150m of each other is unusual. I’ve found some right on the river, but not many. More often, they’re in places where you’ll never see the deer if you’re just walking the banks of the main channel. They’re most common near places where there are trail crossings, railroad bridges, or sandbars where the animals can cross. Start using the same south-to-north search as on the big lakes, but continue repeating until you’ve walked parallel lines at 30m intervals all the way out to at least 150m away from the river bank on both sides. You should be carefully glassing in all directions the entire time. Some of the “river” drink zones are 50 ft up the sides of the surrounding hills. Don’t be afraid to investigate tracks or vocalizations. Drop a waypoint marker at your current location so you can come back and resume your normal search after.
The huge lake that spans the entire southern end of the map usually has at least a couple WT drink zones. Usual rules still apply. They can be anywhere from right on the shoreline all the way out to 100m or even farther away. The more systematic and organized you are, the quicker you’ll find them.
When’s the best time to look for drink zones?
When’s the best time to look for them?
When you’re trying to find drink zones, it doesn’t pay at all to show up early. Don’t even start walking/glassing until you’re at least an hour into the drink period. Remember, you’re not hunting for animals yet. You’re just scouting for zones so you can hunt them later. You can locate quite a few drink zones by following whitetail tracks, but the zones won’t show unless the WT have already been there drinking. WT have two daytime drink periods. The main one is 12-3 pm, but there’s a second early drink time from 5-7 am. Only a small percentage of WT (maybe 10-25%) use the early drink time so most people don’t bother with it. Your call.
Remember always that a drink zone can have more than one species using it, and more than one time slot. Just because there are blacktails or moose or rabbits drinking there at a certain time doesn’t mean WT don’t use it in the afternoon. If you’re serious about grinding a great one, it might be a good idea to print out a hard copy, or make a good electronic copy of your Layton map that you can mark up to keep track of which drink zones actually have WT and where you’ve already looked. I realize that’s a huge PITA for a video game, and wish the devs gave us the option to mark up our maps in game or at least made the drink zone icons list ALL species/times discovered there.
Start looking about an hour after drink time starts, and keep looking for at least an hour after it ends. The animals might be gone, but the tracks and need zones will still be there. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to look from about 1 pm til at least 5 pm. Quite a few herds feed within 150m of the river/lake where they drink, and their eating time is like 3-5 pm (3-7 maybe? i forget). You might find drink zones that were used recently. You will also find feed zones that you can use to extend the hours you can hunt WT during a given day and help spread your hunting pressure out a little.
How many zones are there total?
How many WT drink zones are there total?
No idea. Quite a few. Rough guess? If you double count the ones that might be getting used at more than one time of day maybe 3 dozen. Seems like a nice reasonable round number. Maybe more. Maybe less. I doubt anyone has found every WT drink zone/time on their map. A couple dozen is more than enough to keep you knee deep in WT bucks. Set aside at least every 3rd WT drink period for scouting and you’ll get there eventually.
A few helpful hints
Some helpful hints.
Avoid the urge to run or drive everywhere. Walk or fast crouch walk when you’re looking for zones. One rev of an ATV engine or a couple careless steps and the deer will be long gone before you ever spot them. If you use a backpack, ditch it. They’re noisemakers. 20 lbs is enough for a decent WT loadout even if you’re packing a tent or tripod. If you pare it down to one rifle, you can probably lug a tent AND a tripod and still come in under 20 lbs. Animals can hear you coming in this game quite a ways off if they’re downwind of you, so try to search and hunt into the wind (with the wind direction cone facing behind you) wherever possible.
Shooting your gun will spook everything within 350m now, so it might be a good idea to plan on not shooting it at all while you’re actively scouting for zones. That herd of WT will be in the same spot once you’re ready to actually start hunting. Unless you spot a potential diamond or great one in there, you’re better off not shooting at all on scouting missions. You don’t want to shoot them and spook off the other herd you might have spotted if you hadn’t gotten impatient. Shoot some other species outside WT drink times, or at least use a bow to hunt that day if you’re hard up for cash.
Remember to set any tent at least 150m back from your drink zones. If you’re using a tripod and want to take shorter shot set it up ahead of time. The noise from erecting a tripod can also spook animals from about 150m away. You might want to add an extra 50m to that distance if your tent or tripod is upwind of one of the drink zones you’ll be hunting.
Scouting gets kind of boring after awhile. Shooting stuff is way more fun. Take the time to do it right when you’re scouting so you don’t have to do it more than necessary.
Just keep plugging away
Won’t that take forever?
The people you see bagging 2 dozen or more bucks every drink time have spent hundreds of hours locating need zones and finding good tent/tripod locations. Don’t be surprised if you can’t replicate their success after 40 hours or even 100. Just not gonna happen. The Layton map is 4 years old, and they’ve had plenty of time to get everything sorted out.
Some of them have posted color coded maps on Steam, reddit or pinterest if you want a crib sheet. Exact locations are randomized, and tend to vary quite a bit from player to player, so you’ll still have to put in the legwork to pinpoint the zones on your map.
Once you get the hang of how to find drink zones, things will start snowballing and you’ll start finding more and more with less effort. Locating them is a skill that is developed over time, and once you’ve gotten the hang of it you can apply it to any map or species in COTW. Hopefully this guide has given you some basic tools to start filling your map with more drink zones. It took most of us quite a few hours in game to have consistent success with whitetail. Most of that success is based on being stealthy and devoting enough time to locate zones. If you keep at it, you’ll get there.
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