Take a walk down an agriculture field and count how many deer trails spew from the timber like the roots off an Aspen tree. The number of entry and exit routes that gush from bedding to feeding can be a puzzled maze of complex branches that truly make even the most seasoned hunter boggled. Instead of hanging ten tree stands along this confounding labyrinth of passageways, create a mousetrap that manipulates a whitetails travel corridor and shrinks their area of travel.
Often times, you’ll find several deer trails running parallel to a field even within a hundred yard stretch. Instead of gambling on which trail a buck will walk down, utilize blockades that prevent him from using trails downwind of you or a path that’s beyond your comfortable shooting range.
Flagging deer trails helps you see how they all run through the woods so you know just which ones to barricade.
I start by walking my fence line and marking deer trails after I figured out where I want my stand placed. Once I’ve seemingly run out of orange tape, I begin plugging these deer trails with heavy brush. If you’re lucky, you’ll find enough branches, dead-falls and of course, last year’s Christmas tree to use as your blockades. If you stumble across a maple tree, go ahead and make a hinge-cut to it. I’ll spend a couple hours piling brush into the deer highways I want to cut off, while leaving the ones open that will direct deer past my stand.
Now that the trails are corked, I’ll get an idea of which direction the majority of these trails are coming from. Often times, most deer runways stem from a certain direction, but begin to diverge once they get close to a food source. This primarily happens because mature deer will approach open areas with the wind to their advantage. Different winds mean different routes. However, you don’t have to worry about that anymore – thanks to prisoning their options of movement into your gain.
This used to be the entrance of a major deer trail. Now it’s been barricaded and completely abandoned by deer which are now using one closer to the tree stand.
Now listen, before I go any further into this manipulation of Man vs Deer, you’ve probably heard of people cutting fence wires to create mini-bottlenecks. This technique is used in hope to bait deer into traveling the “path of least resistance.” Hey, that’s great, more power to you. That’s not the point here. For one, unless you’re hunting a farm with a perfect barbed wire fence that doesn’t have a single strand break or low-point – that routine is almost a waste of time. Call me crazy, but every farm that I’ve ever hunted had fence breaks and small open holes due to weathering or tree falls. And quite frankly, the idea of mousetrapping is to booby trap a big buck by taking away his available escape routes. I’m banking on plugging holes rather than opening them.
It takes a bit of hard work, but the end results can certainly be worth it. I’d argue this style of habitat manipulation is just as effective as planting food plots in terms of hunting deer.
The next step is crucial and takes some serious stealth. Once your wife or (husband) is at work, sneak that push mower of yours into the woods. God forbid, if they catch you mowing thick tangled brush or accidentally pulverizing a big pine limb… they’ll freak. I use a push mower because I don’t want to mow a Texas sized sendero with a big brush hog. That defeats the purpose of constructing a small deer-friendly path, which weaves through trees and small thickets.
Mowing a narrow path will help promote deer travel.
From the start of your food source and along your tree stand, let that mower chew its way in a singular direction toward the vicinity of where you anticipate most deer coming from. This freshly mowed trail will pass along your wedged trails and soon turn into their new natural travel route. You’ll only need to trim a footpath no more than a hundred yards. Deer will instantly take note of the new byway and let their curiosity lead them down the trap.
Hitting the trails with Round-Up will prevent any new growth before the fall.
For a finishing touch, hand-spray the trail with Round-Up to kill any new growth. This ensures that your new conception isn’t overgrown with weeds come hunting season. You’ll want to make the trail as obvious as possible and invite animals to utilize it.
A mowed and herbicide treated trail through a dense woods.
Creating mousetraps for deer isn’t rocket science. And there’s no cheese necessary. Even a hillbilly like me can spend a day using the principle of sweat equity, small tools, and a little gas money to create a picture-perfect ambush spot. This idea can explode into creating mini traps all over your property that steer deer into using particular trails that will provide you with the upper hand come deer season. Set your traps. Hunt them smart. And enjoy watching them trickle into your “bait”.