Last November I hung a portable stand in a peninsula of high woods that jutted into a cattail slough. During the first sit I noticed a single red osier dogwood that blocked a 20-yard shot to the best trail through the sawgrass. As soon as I called it quits I snuck out to the dogwood, snipped it clean and left.
The following evening I sat the stand again and readied myself to fill an antlerless tag as a doe noisily walked through the slough. When she hit the spot I had trimmed, her eyes bugged out and she back-peddled. She offered no shot as she walked stiff-legged back into the cattails. Nearly 30 hours had passed since I’d handled that brush with gloved hands, yet it was more than enough to turn the doe inside out.
The memory, though bittersweet, is a good reminder to do as much trimming as I can now; not this summer, and certainly not this coming fall. If you’ve done a bit of spring scouting, I suggest you do the same, whether you’re looking to trim a shooting lane, or carve out a route to your stand.
Taking care of these details right now gives the deer a chance to get used to the changes you make in their home territory and also allows Mother Nature the chance to soften the edges of your intrusion through time. A shooting lane, trimmed judiciously in April will look like nothing more than a natural opening come September. Ditto for the well-seasoned exit route cut through the bush.
Most of the trimming you do now, provided you’re not too conservative with your saw-work, will suffice throughout the hunting season. This is good news if you’re concerned about any deer, let alone mature bucks, knowing you’re in the area. However, due to unchecked weed growth, some of the trimming you do now might need a touch-up in August. Because of this, I typically mark all of my entrance and exit trails with biodegradable flagging tape or reflective markers so I don’t waste any time looking for my earlier handiwork. Before a rain shower, I’ll don my rubber boots and take a midday stroll just to make sure that my lanes and trails haven’t grown over too much. Ideally, I’ll do very little work on these return trips, and whatever intrusive olfactory clues I’ve left behind will wash away during the predicated rain.
Little details make a big difference in the whitetail woods. Cutting trails and shooting lanes early can allow an encounter to transition from the adrenaline-pumping first sighting to getting the deer within shooting range.