While sitting in my ladder-style treestand for only the second time this past early archery season, I found myself worrying about where the deer would enter the field. Although deer traveled up and down the wood line while eating white oak acorns and fed in the plot itself, it occurred to me that I didn’t know the specific spots they would most likely enter. When a friend and I hung the ladder stand a couple of months prior, I knew several deer used the small plot as a favored food source. I also knew that most of the deer were coming from a steep river bottom on the back side of the plot.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks. As I became more familiar with my new hunting spot, I soon realized I could not draw deer into archery range. Even though I had a successful hunt later in October, I felt like more luck than skill. I wished I had fine-tuned the stand’s location based on where deer were actually entering the field.
Now that a new season is approaching, I spend a lot of time in the early summer months trying to improve the habitat for deer. I also have made a few changes that will help draw deer to a bottle-neck area, hopefully making archery harvests easier.
The summer is a great time to improve hunting areas. By working several months before the hunting season, deer have time to adjust to and take advantage of the changes that have been made. Plus, deer have time to settle back into their daily routines after any disturbances associated with the improvements.
The main project I focused on this year was creating a more specific travel route for deer to enter the same plot I described earlier. The deer come to the food plot from the river bottom, and the travel area includes a wide variety of hardwood timber and excessive underbrush. To establish a more specific travel route between the two areas, I began using a chainsaw and a pole saw near the center of the edge of the plot where I wanted to encourage deer to enter. I sawed small trees and brush to create an opening approximately four to five feet wide. For the next sixty to eighty yards, I made a path down the steep wooded hill until I reached an area where the bottom flattened. I cut a clear path the entire way, only leaving four to five over-hanging branches thirty to forty yards from the edge of the plot. I did this to encourage bucks to make scrapes below these licking branches in mid-to-late October. The overall result is a “path of least resistance” leading from the bottom to the plot, providing a new travel corridor for deer and more predictable deer traffic for me.
After creating a more specific game plan for the upcoming hunting season, I continued my preparation efforts by establishing my treestand location. When deciding where to place the entrance of my trail leading into the plot, my primary consideration was where I would place my stand or blind when hunting. Near the edge of the wood line, I have ten to 12 large white oak trees that serve as a preferred food source in late September and October. These same trees provided multiple options for placing my hang-on stand.
After hanging climbing sticks and my hang-on stand, I elected to trim all shooting lanes simultaneously instead of waiting until closer to the hunting season. Trimming shooting lanes in the summer allows for multiple shot windows when hunting in the fall, while also allowing time for deer to become familiar with the changes. While deer may not notice the change of the missing branches in the trees, they will notice the limbs and brush on the ground. I used the trimmed limbs and brush to further my advantages, strategically placing them at any location along my new deer path where deer might veer from the trail.
Summer is a great time to make improvements to your hunting areas. In my case, I no longer have doubts about where deer will enter my food plot this season. You can make similar improvements that result in more predictable deer travel on your own hunting property. Put in a bit of work now and start looking forward to the rewards to be realized once the season begins.