You’ve certainly heard the old saying “you can drive a whitetail anywhere it wants to go.” There’s a lot of truth to that statement, but when whitetails aren’t under duress to escape, they often follow the path of least resistance. With targeted habitat manipulation you can even sway them into your shooting lane. Use subliminal whitetail invitations, and you may land a whitetail right in your deer trap.
The following tactics don’t come with a large bill at the end of the project. Instead, with some sweat equity you can increase your odds of having a whitetail walk down the yellow brick road.
Start with the basics and use manual labor to alter whitetail travel routes. Creating easier routes of travel allows you to guide deer to your stand. It’s best to do this a month or so before season to allow deer time to forget your noisy intrusion. For the fast road to trail alteration, bring along leather gloves, a pruner, a weedeater or machete, and a saw. First, look for a heavily used travel route that includes necked-down funnels and mature trees for stand placement. Brushy trees or those in clumps provide perfect stand sites that offer blind spots for deer to pass behind as you draw a bow or line up your scope.
With a trail and tree in mind, make that trail the easiest to travel. Clip overhanging branches, move downed timber and hack or weedeat a clear trail through grassy areas. Stand back and look at the route. If the route looks obvious and easily traveled, the deer will notice it without problem. If you need to steer deer closer to your tree, block the existing main trail with limbs and brush and chop a new route past your stand. I’ve had great luck with big tree limbs stacked together with thorny brush to force deer closer to my stand and off the main trail. I’ve even built scarecrows to push deer toward another trail with great results.
If you have a bit more flexibility on your property and have access to equipment, mowing and chopping brush can create whitetail highways. Several outfitters I know use brush mowers to carve paths through thick brush and grassy plots providing whitetails with an interstate-style trail. Mowers provide an easier way to carve a path, plus whitetails don’t miss the on ramp.
Most of America is crisscrossed with fences that provide a barrier for lazy whitetails. Deer routinely walk a fence to find a low spot for easier crossing. With the graces of a landowner, you can manipulate existing fences and even build new ones to route deer into your shooting range. If deer seem to bypass your habitat barricade, construct a short fence through an area that subtly pushes them toward you. Another tactic many hunters use is opening gates to get deer to travel through a natural opening instead of using extra energy to jump fences. If no gates exist near a crossing area, get the blessing of the landowner and tie a few fence wires down to create a low spot in the fence. Deer will likely see the easier route and take it instead of jumping across a fence in a random fashion. While working as a guide with Gardner Ranch Outfitters, we routinely opened gates and altered fences to route bucks past clients waiting in ambush.
Finally, even if you don’t have the budget to plant a large food plot, you can make mini plots in the woods with a rake and some hand-scattered seed. These plots won’t provide long-term nutrition, but they can make a buck swerve your direction on a trail that’s already been manipulated in your favor.
Another way to lure deer into shooting range without the labor of planting a food plot is to contact a local farmer and offer to pay them for a small corner of standing crops. Give them a fair market price, and they may save you a bit of heaven. When the farmer harvests the field, have them leave a small portion unharvested in a prime hunting location.
One river bottom area I hunt each season has several benches leading to the uplands. Whitetails often pick a bench and travel along it to a guarded bedding location. To route them my way, I block trails on one bench at trail junctions that lead to a higher level where my stand sits. Trail manipulation has led to successive mature bucks in this brushy location.
Deer have travel characteristics similar to you and me. When the pressure is off, they generally take the pathway of least resistance. Provide that route, and you’ll be inviting a whitetail into your deer trap.