I have listened to plenty of hunters express a general level of frustration when it comes to hunting areas with heavily used walking trails. Discouraged at the sight of “extreme” outdoor enthusiasts power walking past a heavily beat up deer run that we were banking on for some hunting success. Although these everyday humans are trampling our suburban hunting paradise, when approached at the correct angle they actual pose a huge advantage for hunting walking trails.
Suburban and urban deer have a certain level of tolerance for human traffic in their woods. That all steaming from the fascinating process of classic conditioning, the subject at the fundamental core of my book ‘The Urban Deer Complex’. Whitetail’s recognize and process the difference between threatening and non-threatening human behavior.
That being said, plenty of us have experienced witnessed deer from a treestand watch the “extreme” outdoor enthusiasts walk by with just a casual alertness to their presence. I have written a lot on the topic of hunting walking trails, as a method of modern still hunting, urban camouflage and in the series ‘The Science of Fear- Flight Distances’. What I care to concern ourselves in this article is using walking trails as a non-invasive method of treestand access.
There are a couple things to consider with using heavily used walking trails for treestand access. The first major advantage is wind direction, or more lack a lack of having to worry about wind directions during walks to and from stand locations. Whitetail deer, (even mature bucks) have come to expect that scent blowing off the walking trail maybe a 100 yards off their bedding sanctuary. In fact, they take a level of comfort in knowing where we are.
I try to position my treestand with least amount of invasive assess to “virgin” ground. That virgin ground is the soil one step off the walking trail, where our behavior (in the eyes of a Whitetail) turns from “extreme” outdoor enthusiast to predator. If I have to walk an extra half mile around walking trails- so be it. At that point all we are to a Whitetail is the next spandex wearing circus for entertainment while chewing on some acorns.
The second thing to remember with these heavily used walking trails is how much they actually do not impact a Whitetails movement. Yes, they will stop to the let the human walk by, and stay still from detection, but they will still in fact cross the trail and continue on their way.
As a bow hunter, more than once the people walking on trails have made it possible for me to draw back on my prey. That distraction is one more unique weapon in the arsenal of the suburban hunter, one that can in fact make the difference between harvesting our buck of a lifetime.
Although we all understand the slight frustration from people on walking trails breaking the silence of a calm wilderness, remember outside ruining that serene moment there are benefits to hunting walking trails. We need to consider them an advantage with treestand setups, distractions for drawing our bows, and as mentioned in my book and other articles, a vicious cover for aggressive still hunting tactics.