John's Journal...

What to Do on Your Hunting Lands Before Deer Season Starts

Day 2: How to Install a Stalking Lane to Hunt Deer Better

Editor’s Note: For the most success in the upcoming fall deer season, you need to take some time to plan now. By taking steps now, you’ll have better deer hunting in the future, a more-bountiful deer herd and improved turkey hunting.

Click for Larger ViewMark Thomas, a certified forester and wildlife biologist, suggests using an ATV with a sprayer to quickly and easily put-in a stalking lane through even the thickest cover without damaging the pines. “Most pine plantations are planted on an 8- by 10-foot space, which allows you to grow 720-trees per acre,” Thomas explains. “Each row should average about 10-feet wide with about 8 feet between each tree, which means you should be able to move your ATV down the row easily and put-in the stalking trail between the pine trees planted in the rows.” Once you have the sprayer attached to your four-wheeler, select a herbicide with the active ingredient imazapyr. “The mixture of herbicide to water will depend on the type of low-quality hardwood brush that you want to control,” Thomas emphasizes. “Typically, a 1% to 2% of herbicide to volume of water is recommended.”

You’ll find the stalking trails much more than just paths that allow you to move through the young pines without making noises that spook deer. According to Thomas, “We call these trails with blind corners herringbone stalking trails. When you have your equipment and your herbicide ready, determine the direction of the prevailing wind. Click for Larger ViewFor instance, in much of the Southeast where I live, the prevailing wind generally comes from the northwest. Therefore, the most-logical place to begin the stalking trail is on the southeast side of the young pine plantation. Use flagging tape to mark the trail you want to make. The trail should go through bedding, feeding and escape habitat inside the young pine plantation. As you lay out the trail, you need a good number of 45- to 90-degree turns in the trail.” You create your stalking trail between the rows of young pines. A productive stalking lane, which may run 1/2- to 1-mile deep into the pine plantation, will have 10 to 25 of these sharp turns in it. Since you only need to make a trail about 4-feet wide, set your sprayer to spray a swath about this width. “Even if you spray the young pines with a herbicide containing imazapyr, you won’t damage the trees, because pines are tolerant of this ingredient,” Thomas reports.

Here’s how to use the herbicide in planted pines. Turn between the trees planted in rows. As you start spraying the trail, go 40 to 60 yards before you make your first 45- to 90-degree turn. Click for Larger ViewGo across the rows between the trees for 20 to 40 yards. At that point, spray between the rows to the left and the right of the trail for 30 to 40 yards, making the ends of these two feeding areas turn-back slightly to create a herringbone pattern. You later can plant the two herringbone feeding areas off the main trail with green-field plantings. Or, you can fertilize these feeding lanes to cause the natural plants to regenerate themselves and create lush foliage for deer. Then return to the main trail, and go across the rows in the opposite direction of where you’ve already sprayed, continuing to spray and creating more feeding lanes on each side of the main trail.

Use a pruning saw to cut the lower limbs of the young pines along the edge of the trail and the feeding lanes. Pruning these lower limbs, especially where the trail makes the 45- to 90-degree turns, will allow you to see into the feeding areas where the trail turns-back and to keep the limbs from brushing-up against you and collecting odor that the deer will detect. “Pruning the lower limbs of the pines close to the trunk doesn’t hurt the trees at all and actually increases the tree’s saw-log potential,” Thomas reports.Click for Larger View “Once you’ve created these two feeding areas off the main trail, your later fertilization program will be the main ingredient required to pull deer into these feeding areas with their highly palatable and very-nutritious foods.”

After making these two feeding zones on either side of the stalking trail, continue to follow your flagging tape, until you’ve created a long trail with 10- to 20-herringbone feeding regions coming off the main trail. The size of the pine plantation and the terrain will dictate how long you need to make the trail and how many feeding zones you can put on either side of the trail. Once you’ve sprayed the trails and the hardwood brush has died-back, come-in, and clear the trails. “Although installing a stalking trail may seem like a lot of work,” Thomas explains, “a buddy of mine and I built a mile-long stalking trail in one morning. Once a trail is built, you should be able to hunt that trail for 10 to 20 years.”

To learn more about ways to improve your hunting lands, contact Mark Thomas at, or call 205-733-0477 or go to

Tomorrow: Burn Land to Improve Wildlife Habitat for Deer, Turkeys and Quail

Check back each day this week for more about "What to Do on Your Hunting Lands Before Deer Season Starts"

Day 1:Install Stalking Lanes in Pine Plantations to be More Successful Hunting Deer in the Fall
Day 2: How to Install a Stalking Lane to Hunt Deer Better
Day 3: Burn Land to Improve Wildlife Habitat for Deer, Turkeys and Quail
Day 4: Species that Benefit from Prescribed Burning
Day 5: Have Healthier Deer and More Quality Habitat by Using Trail Cameras


Entry 570, Day 1