Clearing trails through deep snow on your hunting property can help deer reach vital, dwindling food sources–and it can put a late-season buck in your lap. Once you shovel out your vehicle, hit the woods and try this simple tactic.
Step 1: Create a path for deer to walk on.
Start at a major late-season feeding area and clear a path toward a known or suspected bedding area. Try to get within 150 to 200 yards of where deer bed down. That’s close enough that they will quickly pick up the trail, yet far enough that you’re not apt to spook them.
Any number of implements will do the job. I’ve used an ATV or small tractor with a blade, a snowblower, a leafblower, a shovel–even my feet. Clear the trail as soon as possible after the snow or even during it if a blizzard is bearing down. It’s easier to clear a foot at a time while it’s falling than 3 feet when it’s done. You know deer are bedded then, so you won’t bump them.
Step 2: Ambush deer on the path you made.
The key, of course, is to plan the route so it steers deer past a spot that’s advantageous to you. That may mean running it upwind of a permanent stand location. Or it may mean picking the perfect tree–one that has good cover and allows you to get in and out without spooking deer–and running the trail upwind of that. Sometimes I’ll start by clearing a major route and add a smaller one slightly off to the side through heavier cover that a mature buck would prefer. Then I hang my stand there.
With dense whitetail populations in many parts of the country, winterkills can be severe after deep snows. If I can help 20 or 30 deer reach a vital food source in difficult conditions and possibly harvest one mature buck out of those, I don’t feel bad about it. You shouldn’t either.