How to Steer Deer and Get Whitetail Bucks to Come to You
When I bought my farm, I cleared trails through the weeds and thickets so my family could explore the property....
When I bought my farm, I cleared trails through the weeds and thickets so my family could explore the property. We weren’t the only ones who liked the easier walking. The new paths were soon littered with deer tracks. And the next fall, on a remote trail we rarely used, I took a nice 8-point buck.
There are many ways you can alter the environment to steer deer past your stand. (But only do so on land where you have permission.) You can make these five simple, effective modifications in a weekend or less:
 LOWER A STRAND OF FENCE WIRE. This is the simplest alteration of all, and one of the most reliable. Just push down the top strand of a barbed-wire fence and fasten it to a lower strand with a piece of rope or wire. If the fence is on your property and is no longer in use, take this alteration a step further and clip the top two strands completely out of the way. In either case, deer will soon discover the easy crossing and cut a trail to the spot. Pick a downwind location within shooting range and with enough cover to keep you hidden, then hang your stand.
 CLEAR A TRAIL THROUGH A THICKET. Jumbled cover, thick swamps, and overgrown brier patches are magnets for bucks. But busting through such areas isn’t easy for them. Clear a path, and chances are they will follow it. You’ll need some general knowledge of where deer bed and feed so you can match the direction they want to travel. In most cases, a brush hog will do the job, or simply a weed eater, pruning shears, and perhaps a machete. Don’t carve a superhighway that could raise suspicion. Make it just wide enough for one deer to walk through.
 MOW A SWATH THROUGH TALL GRASS. Switchgrass and other native warm-season grasses grow over 6 feet tall and offer great escape and security cover. Deer cut their own trails through these grasses, but if you mow a strip leading to an area where they already want to go, such as a cropfield, they’re apt to take the easier route. What’s more, you can customize the course of your new path so that it leads just upwind of a hedgerow, brushy area, or other cover or terrain feature that will accommodate a tree stand or ground blind.
 PLANT A FOOD TRAIL. You may not have the time or equipment to plant large food plots, but you can grow a small row of plants that will draw whitetails to your stand. Find a deer trail within the woods that leads from a bedding area to a food source. Then look for a fairly open area along it where you can simply rake away the leaves and debris and sow some fast-growing seed, such as rape, wheat, rye, oats, or fall mixtures from wild-life seed companies. With a bit of rain, these will come up quickly and you’ll have a trail of lush deer food popping up that bucks will follow.
 CREATE A WATER HOLE. Deer need to drink regularly in early fall and through the rut. If there isn’t a water source on your property, deer will head elsewhere. Creating a water hole keeps them close by, and it makes a good ambush site.
The source can be simple. Sometimes I gather rocks and logs along a creek to create a pool of water that will remain several weeks after the rest of the stream dries up. Alternatively, you can shovel out a simple hole in a low, moist area that will collect water, or even hire a bulldozer operator to dig a pond.