John's Journal...

Create a Hot Spot Where You Can Hunt Deer Close

Day 5: How to Install a Stalking Lane to Hunt Deer Close

Editor’s Note: Through the years, I've learned that focusing on the big aspects of deer hunting doesn't always bring as much success as paying attention to the small details like having food available that deer like to eat and having places where you can hunt deer close with your bow, muzzleloader, pistol or crossbow. Following through with the little things that everyone else thinks they automatically will do, but don't, will ensure success afield for bagging deer.

Click for Larger ViewForester and wildlife biologist Mark Thomas of Birmingham, Alabama, suggests that to install these lanes (see Day 4) you use an ATV with a sprayer attachment 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 spacing, which allows the owner 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 4-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. Typically, a 1- to 2-percent of herbicide to volume of water is recommended."

Click for Large ViewYou'll find the stalking trail much more than just a path that allows you to move through the young pines without making noise that spooks a deer. According to Thomas, "We call these trails with blind corners herringbone stalking trails. When you have your equipment and your herbicide ready, you can then determine the direction of the prevailing wind. For instance, in much of the Southeast, where I live, the prevailing wind usually comes from the northwest. Therefore, the most-logical place to begin the stalking trail is on the southeastern side of the young pine plantation, if you live in the southwest. 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."

Click for Larger ViewAs 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. “Be sure to choose a herbicide that even if you spray the young pines with this product, you won't damage the trees, because pines are tolerant of some herbicides," Thomas reports. Then 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. Go 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.

Next 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 says. "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 sports that contain highly-palatable and very-nutritious food."

Click for Larger ViewAfter 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 areas 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, then 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 at least the next 10 to 20 years." To harvest more and better bucks close this next season, install stalking lanes with the permission of the landowner through the pine plantations of the lands you hunt.

For more information, get the new eBook, “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows” by John E. Phillips. Go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (AMA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Check back each day this week for more about "Create a Hot Spot Where You Can Hunt Deer Close"

Day 1: Plant Fruit and Nut Trees to Create a Deer Hunting Honey Hole
Day 2: The Importance of Native Plants and Natural Nuts to Create a Honey Hole for Hunting Deer Close
Day 3: Use Wildlife Plantings to Make a Deer Hot Spot You Can Hunt
Day 4: Build Stalking Trails through Thick Cover to Help You Take More Bucks
Day 5: How to Install a Stalking Lane to Hunt Deer Close

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Entry 692, Day 5