This is a guest post from acclaimed whitetail habitat consultant, author and deer hunter Jeff Sturgis. Enjoy! – MK
By Jeff Sturgis
Do you want a way to heat up your favorite bow stand locations for this season? Try creating some bowhunting travel corridors for deer.
Personally, my favorite time to clear shooting lanes is right now because the vegetation is full, and if you have a clear shot during the summer you will surely be set for fall. If you are like me and value this time of the year to maintain your shooting lanes, than I encourage to take an extra 15-20 minutes per stand to define some high-powered deer travel where you need it the most; within bow shot.
Creating Your Travel Corridor
Choosing the tree for your bow stand is the most important part of the process but once your tree has been chosen, it is time to define the trail that you would prefer the deer to travel on. Here are a few important strategies for creating your travel corridor:
1. The corridor should be at least 80-100 yards long, with your bow stand placed somewhere towards the downwind side of the middle of the corridor and within bow shot. Keep in mind that your corridors should function as giant arrows of potential deer movement, which point to nearby food sources or bedding areas. Typically the longer the corridor, the stronger the arrow of potential deer movement.
2. Once your bowhunting travel corridor has been visualized, I like to mark it with either tree marking paint or flagging ribbon prior to cutting.
3. To make sure that you can control your scent as much as possible, it is better to position your stand location on the outside elbow of the deer corridor instead of an inside corner.
4. Try to match the deer trail, within the corridor, to the natural flow of the land. I like to follow benches and saddles within hill country, as well as lines of habitat change including water ways, age of habitat and type of habitat.
5. It is important to keep the deer using your corridor from being able to see you while accessing your tree stand. By approaching your stand from behind a ridge or line of heavy cover you can keep your intrusions to a minimum.
*Keep in mind that a great corridor is only as good as the potential bow stand(s) that can be used to take advantage of the corridor, so choosing a tree to hang a stand should be towards the beginning of the process, instead of at the end. For more information on how to choose your next great stand location, I’d invite you to check out “Deer Stand Location Strategies”.
Once your corridor has been defined, it is time to start cutting!
Building Your Travel Corridor
Depending on the type and age of timber that you’re creating a travel corridor through, you may have to cut a lot or not much at all. Even a high quality hand saw can be used for trees a few inches in diameter or less. But regardless of how much you have to cut, I encourage you to hinge cut so that you can create both browse and blocking cover to enhance the deer movement. I like to hinge cut trees every 10-20′, forcing the tree to fall perpendicular and away from the intended deer trail. Although the trail should be continuous, the deer should never feel that they are trapped when using the trail. By cutting trees perpendicular to the trail instead of parallel, you will allow the deer to feel like they can escape at any time, in virtually any direction, when needed. This is particularly critical when hunting in areas with high predator populations, or even in areas with a high percentage of cover where deer are accustomed to less confining deer habitats than in coverless ag regions.
It’s also important to make sure that the trees you cut receive plenty of sunshine throughout the day so that the highest amount of regeneration can take place. Most trees that are hinge cut will regenerate aggressively from both the side of the fallen trunk and stump. Some of my preferred hinge cut species include red maple, box elder, ash and oak. The less that you have to cut a tree to create a hinge, the better the chance the tree will continue to survive. I have personally seen hinge cut trees that have survived over 20 years, so it pays to use a tool like the “Habitat Hook” to make your cutting efforts both safer and most effective.
When you are finished using hinge cuts to create a deer trail, it isn’t uncommon to have 20-50 trees hinged on either side of the trail. The last step is to clean up the deer trail, by making sure that the deer are left with one continuous corridor to travel on. If the soil is firm, the trail should be clear enough to ride a mountain bike through. I also avoid hinging any trees over the trail to create canopy or tunneled effect because, depending upon the region, the deer may actually avoid the corridor if too confining.
*For a full description of how to create chainsaw hinge cuts for bedding areas or travel corridors, try reading “Hinge Cut Bedding Guide”.
Are you hunting adjacent to tag alder swamps, native grass fields or upland shrub settings? If so, a small brush-cutting straight-shaft trimmer or one of the hand-operated, self-propelled mini brush cutters is all that you need to create a great corridor to cruise past your stand for bowhunting! In severe briar or extreme habitat circumstances, a timber head on a Bobcat can also do the trick, in particular when herbicide is used post-cutting to insure that species like Multiflora Rose do not take over your corridor. In many brush choked habitats, all that it may take to narrow down a monster buck’s travel patterns is to mow a few deer trails that meet in front of your bow stand.
Can you think of any stand locations that you can enhance for this season? Creating bowhunting travel corridors can pay huge rewards when it comes time for a close, clean and ethical shot. As the years pass and my travel corridors grow, I find that even my shots with a gun have typically been narrowed down to 30 yards or less because I typically hunt the same corridors with a gun that I do with a bow.
For precision deer travel movements past your bow stand, try picking up a saw and heading towards your favorite stand. And if your time is severely limited like mine, hinge-cut a few trees this year, and a few trees next, or even for the next few years, while continually adding to and improving the arrows of deer movement that you are attempting to enhance throughout your land. Eventually, you’ll see the results.