I have heard plenty of hunters complain about hunting in areas with lots of active walking trails. They find it discouraging to have the deer they’ve followed run off because of some businessman’s power jog. It might seem like these people are trampling over our suburban hunting paradise. In reality, they’re a huge asset for anyone looking to hunt walking trails.
Suburban deer possess a tolerance for human traffic in their woods. This stems from the fascinating process of conditioning, a fundamental subject at the core of my book The Urban Deer Complex. Because of conditioning, whitetails can differentiate between threatening and nonthreatening human behavior.
Plenty of us have witnessed a deer from a tree stand be casually alerted to some outdoor enthusiast’s presence. I’ve written a lot on the topic of hunting on walking trails as a kind of modern still hunting adapted for urban camouflage. But in this article, we’ll look at walking trails as a non-invasive way of accessing tree stands.
There are a couple things you need to consider when using heavily-used walking trails for tree stand access. Not having to worry about wind directions during walking to and from stand locations is one of the major advantages. Whitetail deer, even mature bucks, have come to expect the scent that blows off walking trails. They even find some measure of comfort in knowing where we are.
I try to position my tree stand in a place with the least amount of invasive access to virgin ground. Virgin ground is the soil one step off the walking trail. In the eyes of a whitetail, any human here is seen as a predator and not a mere outdoorsman. So if I have to walk an extra half mile on walking trails, so be it. At that point, all I am to a whitetail is a member of the spandex-clad circus they get to watch as they chew on acorns.
Also remember that these heavily-used walking trails do not actually impact a whitetail’s movement like a road might. A whitetail will stop to let a human walk by, but eventually cross the trail and continue on their way.
More than once, people walking on trails have made it possible for me as a bowhunter to draw back on my prey. This distraction is one more unique weapon in the arsenal of the suburban hunter. It is one that can make the difference between harvesting the buck of a lifetime.
Yes, people who walk on trails can break the silence of a calm wilderness. But remember that outside of preventing a measure of serenity, there are benefits to hunting on walking trails. We should consider them an advantage for tree stand setups, distractions for drawing our bows, and a vicious cover for aggressive still hunting tactics.
A.J. DeRosa deer behavior featured getting started public land hunting suburban deer behavior suburban hunting treestand placement urban deer hunting urban hunting
Last modified: December 19, 2018
I’m buying the book this weekend…I’ve hunted ct for years and have killed my biggest bucks and most deer on public land near trails and people in some small acreage parcels. Can’t wait to read the book. Sounds just like me. I grew up hunting big woods in Maine and have hunted all over the place and the urban hunting in CT is second to none. Glad someone is revealing the secret in a big way. I always say I will give anyone the best hunting secrets and info and the best fishing spot etc. or your essentially possibly turning them awayfrom sport you claim to love the most.
Wow, I Couldn’t agree more,
As civilization progresses more and more animals are becoming comfortable with the idea of humans and are in fact moving into the suburbs. I grew up in franklin but live in the newton area now and you can even prove this fact with all the recent attacks from coyotes on people in the the surrounding area, they are extremely aware whats going on and no longer afraid, like humans they have adapted. Whitetail are no strangers to this either. As they will always take the path of least resistance its not uncommon to hear from a buddy or relative that they were in cruising through a suburban garden just the other morning feeding. Or bedding in between a few hemlocks in your backyard. Just last night on my way home from bass pro there was a beautiful 10 pointer on rt 1 standing not 6 feet from my truck as I drove by. I use to get pissed when I would hear someone coming through my area to walk their dog or just taking a morning bike ride through but these animals aren’t stupid they know whats going on more than we do most of the time.So to say that hunting right off of walking trails will yield issues is more of a false statement nowadays. As we know its really a concept that we mask over truth which is not wanting to share that space we’re using to hunt a very elusive prey . I think its fair to say we can lay that myth to rest.I really enjoyed this write up as I couldn’t agree more. Think I’ll buy myself a copy of your book , I’ll always support like minded hunters who understand that their is always a constant evolution in everything we do to not not only harvest whitetail but to become one with nature during our time spent in the woods. Awesome Job AJ
I clicked the link to buy your book on Amazon and the price said 199.99 is that correct?
The biggest issue is dropping the mindset of all these people are going to mess up my hunt.. I try and get a 100 yds or so off the trail so people can’t see me and hopefully I can’t see them either.