June 14, 2016
Look up the dictionary definition of manipulate and you'll see words like influence, maneuver and direct.
These words rarely come up in conversations about whitetail hunting unless the topic is a deer drive. But think about it. Aren't you manipulating deer movement with the simple addition of a food plot?
If that has you thinking you'd like to manipulate deer movement even further, put your handyman skills together to carve, construct and create deer diversions on your hunting property. Release the manipulative inner you.
It bears repeating. Deer take the path of least resistance, at least most of the time. Creating easy routes of travel allows you to guide deer to your stand. This is especially helpful if you've found the perfect tree, but in a not-so-perfect place.
Plan this hedge-trimming operation at least a month or more 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 weed eater or machete, and a saw.
Look for a heavily used travel route that includes a pinch point through thick cover. Now use your tools and widen the trail past your intended stand. Carve a tunnel through the dense cover, but keep the integrity of the vegetative veil in place. You still want the deer to feel secure as they take the exit ramp through the brush.
If you have flexibility with your property management and have access to equipment, mowing and brush-hogging paths can also create whitetail highways. Trimmed paths stand out so mow paths from the edge of bedding cover to several food sources. Whitetails may soon follow the interstate-style byway. One pass is enough, but do it late enough so it doesn't grow back, yet early enough so deer can embrace it.
ROAD BLOCK AHEAD
Sometimes the problem is not a clear path, but too many paths and those off ramps diminish the odds of a deer meeting. To steer deer closer to your tree do what the highway department does and put up a detour in the preseason.
Look at all trail junctures and if the environment is brushy enough, simply block nearby trails in an effort to force deer onto the trail by your stand. Use downed timber, limbs and branches to create barriers across other trails. Wire hog panels and even a few strands of barbed wire stacked with brush also sends a road-closed message.
In some locations an open gate can lure deer away from your ambush choice. Close the gate to eliminate yet another travel option. You may have to get creative in habitats that don't have lots of timber. One year while bowhunting in South Dakota I built a scarecrow to force deer from one trail toward a second where I sat in one of the only trees for miles.
Sure you put in a food plot, but there's no rule that states you can't offer deer a snack first as they make their way to the entrée. Mini food plots strategically located near your ambush location can manipulate movement like trail modifications. You need an area that receives some sunlight and add sweat equity on your part. Your garden rake replaces a tractor, but you can utilize ATV implements for a slightly bigger plot.
Prep the soil first. It may need a dose of lime depending on PH balance. Your Natural Resources Conservation Service office can help you with that determination. Purchase a compatible seed mixture like Hunter's Specialties E-Z Grow and then scratch in a mini plot. You may want to visit it later and scatter some fertilizer to boost growth.
If rain is in the forecast you'll soon have an interior focal point that will be a must-stop location to give you a standing shot.
PAW AND SNIFF
Finally, in any of the above settings it pays to construct one more devious attraction. Add a mock scrape. Whitetail bucks and does rarely miss a scrape and the smell of urine almost always causes deer to pause, sniff and even get busy by freshening the scraped area. It can make your trail a must-take option. And like the mini plot, deer will pause giving you an opportunity to range and shoot while a buck has its attention directed on another chore.
Deer scraping begins in early fall so you can put your scrape in place in late summer and active it with a scent dripper just prior to your hunting window. You don't have to handle whitetails with kid gloves. Get pushy and manipulate them right where you want them for a slam-dunk shot this season.