John's Journal...


Meandering Trails, Terrain Trails and Mating Trails

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’ve heard talk that a big buck is feeding in a green field, but despite watching from dawn to dusk, you haven’t seen hide or hair of him, just some does and small bucks. What’s wrong? As long-time deer hunter Larry Norton of Butler, Alabama, explains, "Big bucks, especially in the South, rarely come to green fields in daylight hours, even during the rut. They don't have to come out in the open and show themselves to find a hot doe but instead can walk along a trail 30 to 40 yards off the downwind side of the field and still smell the does. Generally they'll wait until dark and then move out into the fields to eat." So, you haven’t seen the big buck because he’s not using the same trail as the does and the smaller bucks. The lesson: deer use several different kinds of paths or trails. If you know what to look for and Click to enlargewhere to look, you can take a stand and drastically increase your ability to find and bag deer. Let’s take a look at some of those trails, and try a short quiz that’ll help separate rumor from reality.

Sometimes deer take routes through the woods without leaving trails. Even when deer frequent a particular area, they may not walk down a certain path as they move through this region but instead will meander through the woods. Often meandering trails occur where two types of habitat pinch down a woodlot and create a funnel. Usually deer will meander rather than take a specific route through that funnel. For instance, if a field or a clear cut corners the bend of a creek, the deer only may keep 30 to 50 yards of woods between the creek and the field where they prefer to walk, although a large expanse of woods may lie on either side of this small neck of woods. If the leaves have fallen on the ground in this region, you'll find little if any deer sign on the ground.

According to Sam Spencer, retired fisheries biologist and longtime bowhunter from Alabama, "Hunting a funnel that narrows down to one specific area improves the odds of the deer coming by you, instead of their walking past you out of range. For example, set up your stand near where a dead tree has fallen in a funnel area because the deer must walk around it. Any break in the funnel where deer must pause for a shot to go under a fence or Click to enlargeto cross a stream also make productive spots for taking deer, because the deer have to stop and think about how to traverse the obstacle rather than danger."

Terrain Trails:

Because terrain trails concentrate deer coming and going from two different directions onto a very narrow path, they can work very productively for the hunter. A hunter may discover a terrain trail in the saddle between two mountains, because this saddle provides the lowest place for the deer to cross the mountain range. By taking a stand on either side of the mountain, the hunter has the best chance to bag a buck. However, if you place your stand in the middle of a saddle and spook the deer, the animals may run back the way they've come and spook other deer that come up the trail. Deer also will walk a creek bottom or a wash through thick cover. As Clarence Yates, from Birmingham, Alabama, an archer who has taken more than l00 deer with his bow, says, "Deer like the path of least resistance just like humans do. Deer usually will cross a small creek through an opening in the bush, just like people will."

A path along the edge of a creek or a riverbank makes one of the easiest types of terrain trails to find. Traveling along the edges of water gives deer an instant and immediate terrain break they can use to put between danger and themselves. If hunters or other predators spook the deer, the animals quickly and easily can jump into the river or cross the creek and utilize water as a barrier to protect them from their pursuers. Depending on the trail's proximity to the creek or a pond, you may have to wade the water and hunt from the water and/or if possible, put up a tree stand Click to enlargeon the opposite side of the creek from the trail. Or, if you hunt a backwoods pond filled with flooded timber, place your tree stand in one of the trees out in the pond. Then you can approach and leave your stand by wading the water and eliminating the human odor you normally will leave on the ground.

Mating Trails:

Too, during the rut, a buck often will have a regular route he travels in search of females as he expands his territory to try and service more does.


Check back each day this week for more about TRACKS AND TRAILS – WHAT DO THEY TELL?

Day 1: Meandering Trails, Terrain Trails and Mating Trails
Day 2: Water, Food and Bedding Trails
Day 3: Escape Trails, Night Trails and Snow Trails
Day 4: Deer Track Quiz, Part I
Day 5: Deer Track Quiz, Part II



Entry 335, Day 1