November 2006
Featured Articles

Follow "Structure" to Your Buck

By Todd Amenrud

  Todd Amenrud arrowed this buck on its way to the BioMaxx plot in the background. The buck passed through a funnel created by falling several trees. To get to the BioMaxx the buck had to pass through the funnel or travel through an area where he would no longer have the wind to his advantage.
As with most animals, whitetail travel from place to place using cover and terrain to their advantage. From fish, to pheasants, to whitetails, to humans, our travel patterns are greatly dictated by the lay of the land, conditions during that time of year, obstacles, and other influences that govern to us how easy, or hard it is going to be to get from point A to point B. Learning to recognize the transition areas, access points, and travel corridors of whitetail can be a key to bagging your buck this season.

Common sense dictates that we take the easiest, safest and most direct route we can find between two points. With a whitetail, however, it’s the easiest, safest, most direct AND most inconspicuous route between two points.

Normally whitetail will use the cover to their advantage. However, I’ve seen the opposite while hunting open areas. They will use the wide-open to their benefit and they seem to learn that “distance” means safe. That’s why I said the most “inconspicuous” route. If they don’t have thick cover to work with, they will usually take the path least noticeable to us or other predators. Several times, I’ve witnessed mature bucks travel in dried up or shallow creek beds. All you could see was the tips of their antlers as they passed by.

When examining deer trails, you need to remember that some deer don’t use the trails as often as others. In my opinion, you also have to catch them in the right “mode” for them to use, and stick to the trails. Sometimes deer are in “travel mode,” sometimes they’re in “browse-aimlessly mode.” In “travel mode” they want to get from point A to point B relatively fast. Then, I believe they stick to the trails a tiny bit more. Deer have possibly been using these same trails for generations, and through time they become well worn. When they are in ‘browse-aimlessly mode” they seem to act like elk or other ungulates and just meander randomly along. They are still using the wind to their advantage, but rather than a clear cut path to travel they just have a general direction or heading.

Whitetail will normally use cover to their advantage while traveling. They will take the easiest, safest, most direct and most inconspicuous route between two points that they can find, always using the wind and their superior sense of smell to their advantage.  
Funnels are the first thing I look for in a new area and the spots that I hunt the hardest throughout the season. With agricultural terrain and more populated areas, funnels are easier located because of the sections and man-made dividers. Big timber will have them too – it could be created by two swamps, or a ridge-side and a river. The point is to find the spots along their travel routes that confine their movement to a smaller zone.

Around my BioLogic plots I push dozer pilings or fall trees to create funnels. I will actually pick out my treestand trees before I decide where to create these bottlenecks, always keeping into consideration prevailing wind currents.

Common sense and the conditions play a large role in predicting deer movement. During a forty mile-an-hour wind, a whitetail will normally use travel routes that keep them protected from the gale. During very warm days, whitetail will more than likely stick to the shade while moving. In fact, even in much colder temperatures, as long as it’s “mostly sunny” whitetail seem to stick to the shade. A lot of ground can be eliminated by using your brain and paying attention to the conditions.

When looking over an area, I like to imagine it without any trees or brush. If you try and foretell their travel patterns this way first, when you add the trees and brush back to the picture, it can sometimes seem obvious where they will go. Look for the points, terrain breaks, edges and turns that will force or encourage the animal to go one way over another.

We can actually influence whitetail to travel where we want. During the beginning of August I will sometimes go out and create my own trails, using a pruner through brush, and a weed whacker through the tall grass and weeds. Mature bucks can many times be found in the thickest, nastiest brush you can find. BUT, when traveling through the thick stuff, they will almost always, unless spooked, travel the easiest route they can find – the path of least resistance.

You can aid them in becoming accustomed to your man-made trail by adding some scent. I use Wildlife Research Center’s Select Doe Urine and create a trail with it. Periodically, I stop and make a scent-post with Coon Urine and some of the Select Doe Urine. I don’t mix them, I’ll pour some directly on the ground or on the base of a tree, two to four feet apart, near or directly on the trail. Many of the animals in the whitetail’s world mark their territories in a similar manner. Just like the fox, coon, cats, elk or moose, a whitetail will mark territory with urine and with other visual and scent oriented stimuli. It’s a sign to the other animals saying “hey, I live here too.” I’ve watched whitetail approach a sign-post created a couple days prior, sniff the ground, and urinate close to, or in a couple cases directly over, where I poured the scent.

When someone mentions the word structure, fishing pops into my mind. Both fish and/or the bait they feed on, usually relate to some form of structure. You want to find the “spot on the spot” – the “something different” – that will attract the fish. For whitetail it’s somewhat the same. You need to find the “spot on the spot” and learn to read the structure. Identify the areas whitetail frequent, and then discover the reason whitetail favor that spot and you’ll start putting more notches in your bow.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.