Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Creating A Deer Highway for the Handicapped Hunter


Hinge Cutting from Outreach Outdoors
Courtesy of Outreach Outdoors
As May turns into June and the early summer begins to heat up, this is the time of the year to make the drastic changes you thought about last November to your hunting spot.  Being in a wheelchair can add an extra dimension of strategy.  It also can give you an edge when executed correctly that can pay off big come October.

The place where I hunt has a small pasture. Once you pass through a secondary gate there is another small pasture with dotted oaks.  This is where we have planted  a clover food plot.   The second pasture then gives way to full fledged forest.  Last season, I made a mistake that I am confessing now so that you can learn from my transgressions and be a step ahead of me.

Tall Hay modified pic
Only cut what is necessary!
In order to get my chair through the pastures, which had 3-4 foot hay growing in it, we cut trails.  The problem was that we were too aggressive in what we cut.  We complicated that mistake even further by cutting them too close to the opening day of the season.  The deer were using that tall grass as cover.  It never had a chance to recover and I probably missed out on some deer because of this.

Truth is, I got a late start in determining where I was going to hunt and in turn began to cut these trails in August which was too close to the opening of the season.  Your activity will rarely bother deer so long as you leave enough time for your presence to fade away.  Remember, deer are creatures of habit.  Now I am no deer psychologist but, a habit takes about 21 days to establish in a human let alone a deer.

Last year we made a mistake.  This season we will leave the tall hay everywhere except the exact paths necessary for entrance and exit.  We will likely add in shooting lanes if necessary by about late July.  We did, however discover something after making the cuts and I will come back to this in just a bit.

Natural Deer Corridors
Before Funneling
Once we got past the field where the forest began, we ran into an entirely different set of challenges.  There were old trees that had fallen and logs littered the property.  It made it difficult for me to get in and out and let's not mention trying to be quiet.  This season however, we are going to use those same obstacles to bring the deer to me.

Deer, like any other animal, only want to exert the energy necessary to do whatever is on their minds.  This means they will walk a decent distance to go through an open gate instead of jumping a fence.  Although they do walk on defined trails, they also have a tendency to go a little willy-nilly through an area.  Last season, we cut a couple of paths into the forest area and immediately noticed deer sign on these paths as well as in the high grass.  The same trails we created so that my wheelchair could enter and exit easily became valuable highways to the deer also.

Funneled Deer Corridors
After funneling
All those logs can be obstacles or resources.  This summer we are taking those old downed trees and will arrange them to create choke points in order to concentrate deer movement leading to the food plots and other natural forage.  On top of this, we are opening a gate in the back corner of the property and making the barbed wire lower in a couple of spots that the deer are jumping the fence.  All of this will help them to not have trail A.D.D. and will funnel them to my desired locations.  Taking these simple steps will give me a much better chance to encounter the deer I/you are targeting.

Hinge-cut Trees creating a choke point
I want to emphasize that we are doing all of this now so that the deer have plenty of time to become acclimated to their new walk-ways.  I want them to associate any activity by us to mean new mineral blocks, fresh food, goodies in the feeder, etc.  We even like to place our hunting blinds out by early August so that there are a good number of days for them to get accustomed to those too.  More on this line of thinking in a future article I promise!

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