John's Journal...


Escape Trails, Night Trails and Snow 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.

The whitetail realizes the presence of danger in his environment, especially during hunting season, so the buck has certain pre-determined paths he uses to escape danger. Often these vague trails will show little wear. But bucks utilize routes through the wilderness to dodge hunters.

Night Trails:

Many of us waste thousands of hours hunting over trails deer never use during daylight hours. To decide whether or not deer use the trail you hunt as a night trail, check to see if it has numbers of tracks on it that go straight in one direction. Deer use these trails to get from point A to point B. The animals don't meander along these trails and feed, walk these trails in search of does or take these paths to and from food sources during daylight hours. Like us when we travel from one point to another, deer will take a Click to enlargewoods interstate—the most-direct route. You easily can locate these night trails in open woodlots. To pinpoint whether or not deer use these paths as nighttime trails, use a trail timer or a motion-sensor camera with a time and date stamp.

But as one hunter emphasizes, "I never hunt heavily-used deer trails but instead get off those trails and locate a secondary trail downwind of the major trail. Trails in very-open areas will have the least-productive deer hunting. When you easily can distinguish a trail going through an open region, and you think, 'Boy, deer have torn up this place,' that trail probably gets used during the night because it offers less cover and safety for the deer." To consistently take whitetails, you must identify various types of trails and learn where the deer go and why they travel to these regions as well as when. After gathering that information, try and put a tree stand where you can bag a buck.

Snow Trails:
"I have several thickets close to my home in Orchard Park, New York, where bucks go to bed," says Chris Kirby, the president of Quaker Boy Calls. "I can go to the thickets after a snow and easily determine if any bucks will be in the thickets. If a thicket has no trails going into oClick to enlarger out of it, then I know no deer are in there. If a thicket has trails going into it but all the tracks on that trail are small, then I know that the only deer going into that thicket are does and small bucks. However, if I see a single trail that has big tracks going into the thicket, I'll hang a tree stand to wait on that buck to clear out and give me an opportunity to take him."

If all else fails, head for your tackle box. One way to detect the movement of deer on various kinds of trails is by stringing a 1- or 2-pound-monofilament fishing line high enough across a trail that a raccoon or a dog normally won't trip it, but a deer will. Always take the line out of the woods when you leave.


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 3