Hunting deer is one of the more popular big game animals and the reason for this is simple; they are located throughout the Americas. They are very adaptable and living in close proximity to where we live and at times depending on the terrain, may live not far from your dwelling.
As we have traveled over the thirty plus years it did not matter where we might be, there were deer there, both Whitetail and Mule deer
Almost all animals, including man, are creatures of habit, taking advantage of anything that makes their life easier including the easiest route possible.
In the first, several years when I had the “cabin” and hunted deer, the deer, especially bucks always seemed to enter a field or food plot from about the same route, avoiding others and taking the one that was easiest to get through.
Many times, these were locations, which were impossible to set up on, as there were no trees to put a deer stand in and a ground blind was hard to conceal, standing out like a sore thumb.
Once spring came, it was all hands on deck, with my hunting partner and me reevaluating the situation and making some changes, spending a lot of time in the woods, figuring out why one trail would be used more than others as all of the trails eventually led to the same bedding area.
I decided to figure it out, to understand why the deer used certain trails and what it would take to make the deer come out in front of our stands instead of the other side of the valley.
We spent a lot of spare time looking over these trails, trying to understand why, if they all started in the same place and eventually led to the food plots and crops, why would they choose one over another?
* I had a deer house on of the first trail that ran through a heavily brushed area along the fence line on down into a draw full of hardwoods and cedars.
* On another trail, towards the middle ridge that came through heavy cedars, where my two man elevated blind was located.
* Another ran from a cornfield into an open valley coming out below another fence line, where I had a brushed in my ground blind.
* While another one came from the west, down below my “cabin” into the valley that I had cleared of cedar trees that then grew up into heavy, tall nasty weeds. From there, it meandered up towards the ridge, eventually joining with the trails that came out on top.
After spending hours stumbling around, checking out each trail, it was obvious why the deer and especially the bucks where coming out on one or two main trails.
* The first one, followed the new fence line and eventually to an area where many trees had been pushed into a pile out of the way of the new fence, blocking the main trail, with two smaller trails heading up to the ridge.
The smaller trails were fairly well worn, but the small low entrance and its trail through heavier cedars, made it hard for deer, especially a big-racked buck to get through without beating its rack to death.
If I wanted to make it more attractive to the deer, the bucks, making it easier for them to follow, to get through I needed to spend a couple of days opening up trails and trimming the low hanging branches.
* My next trail, consisted of two trails, coming down through the cedars, which seemed to be the one needing the least work, and one that was being used a lot, I trimmed back the cedars, opened up the top, giving the deer more head clearance, making it easier for the deer to travel through it.
* The third trail, was going to take a lot of work, was bordered by dense cedars that came out along a fence line bordered by brush with a steep ravine on one side.
I brought out my weed whacker with a cutting blade and chopped a wider easier trail near the fence and where it came close to another trail across the fence, I used light wire to pull down the top two wires, making it a low area in the fence, a location easier for the deer to get across.
* The final trail, was pretty open from the gate leading from the cornfield out about twenty-two yards, that is where the trail became a disaster as it went into a brush and weed infested bottom with no defined trail across the valley,
In order to make this more attractive and open it up, I used another piece of mechanics or stove pipe wire and pulled the top wire of my gate down 6” to 8” inches, making it easier for the deer to cross.
Using my small riding lawn mower and brush whacker, I cut a clear trail through the briars and brambles, making a nice easy trail that would lead the deer right to another trail leading into the cedars.
Once I had completed it, I had two opportunities to take a deer, depending on which direction they were traveling. For morning hunts, I set up an elevated Tripod stand, allowing me to catch them when they were making their move from cornfield where they fed that night. For an evening hunt, I could be in my two man blind catching them as they went from the heavily wooded ridge down through the valley back into the cornfield to feed.
In order to eliminate the chance that the deer might use the other trails, I blocked several of them with cedars that I had cleared from the other trails. This worked extremely well as we knew the deer would take the easiest route and by opening up the area, they would be there until winter really set in when they moved out and herded up along the river.
To attract and hold the deer on the property I was hunting I had put in several RAKS mineral licks as well as two good size food plots and a water tank that I kept full throughout the spring on into the late fall.
I figured that if I furnished what the deer needed, it would attract the does and fawns and once they took up residence there, when the rut rolled around, my excellent population of does would bring in the bucks from a long ways.
I had a rule, when we hunted it, the bucks taken would have to be a 4 X 4 or better or some of the excess does, hoping that those hunters neighboring my property would do about the same, letting the smaller bucks pass.
Over the next few years until I lost the rights to hunt it, I had opportunities to take several nice bucks including a heavy 4 X 4 and several does from the two-man stand.
The trail leading from the cedars down in the valley towards the cornfield proved to be one of my best set ups.
One early cloudy cold morning, before daylight, we could see the outline of a big animal coming over the gate, stopping by the mineral lick that then, tore a tree nearby to pieces marking its territory and then made its way up to the ridge into the cedars.
After a late lunch, I set up on a rise, off to the side of one of my stands, up against some cedars, giving me full view of the valley. Since I had been in the stand earlier, I thought the buck might swing wide of it come into the open ground before crossing the gate into the corn.
I knew that the hunters on the adjacent property had spotted the buck earlier in the week and set up on the adjacent hill facing me, so they could see any deer coming through my ground heading their way.
It was about three that afternoon, when a doe burst from the cedars running hard through the bottom, not far behind it was a “Big” Buck, as the doe ran out in front of me, I grunted stopped her for a second forcing the buck to slow down.
As the doe spotted the buck advancing towards her, she cleared the gate and charged on up the ridge.
I had my 25:06 to my shoulder as soon as I spotted the buck and as he came in from my left, I lead him a little and fired. The buck went down, but quickly gained its feet, and taking no chances at not getting this big deer, I dropped him with my second shot.
As I came down from the ridge, it was obvious this was a big-bodied deer and as I got closer, its white face and 7 X 7 rack stood out against the background.
It was the biggest deer I had ever taken both body and rack wise, and it meant a lot to me knowing that the hard work I had put into the property had paid off.
I tried several times to load the deer, even bending up my grill guard, trying to get the back of my tail gate low enough to get it into the truck.
I finally got a hold of the landowner, who helped me load the big deer, I had it weighed at the elevator, gutted it weighed right at 230 pounds.
I spent a lot of time working on the property, hoping to take my grand kids hunting there, but once the word got out about the buck, the landowner made as deal with others for a large lease and I had one final hunting season there where I tagged a decent 4 X 4.
One does not need to go through as much work as I did to make your hunting area more attractive to deer and other wildlife, look for their travel areas as they are creatures of habit and make it easier for them to get to where you want them to go.
Gary Howey, Hartington, Nebraska, is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide and inducted into “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame” in 2017 and the Producer/Co-Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series. If you are looking for more outdoor information, check out garyhoweysoutdoors.com, like Gary Howey’s Facebook page or watch his shows on www.MyOutdoorTV.com.