Deer Funnels | Changing Deer Behavior with a Bush Hog
If you have your own little piece of hunting land, you probably want to make the most of it, right? That’s one of the perks of being a landowner in the first place – you have the ability to change your property to the way it suits you. The problem is that most landowners don’t know what kinds of habitat projects they should do. Luckily, just about any hunting property has something that could be improved to make the deer herd healthier or make deer hunting easier. Creating deer funnels on your land is one easy way to reliably direct deer traffic within range of your tree stands so you can put your Hoyt® to work. Here are several deer funnel examples you can create and the gear you’ll need to do it.
Using Farm Implements for Deer Funnels
If your hunting land consists of an existing or retired farm, it might seem strange to talk about creating deer funnels with all the open land around. But wide open fields can actually be bad news when it comes to deer travel routes. Without any constraints, a deer might wander in any single direction, making it really hard for you to know where you should hang a stand. It’s your job to direct the deer where you’d like them to go.
In the case of fallow fields, overgrown pastures, native grasses, and light shrubs (up to 3 ½” in diameter), you can simply use a Bush Hog® to make the best deer funnels around. Attach a rotary cutter to the back of your farm tractor and mow a single path through the field to wherever you want the deer to move. Though whitetails like traveling in secure cover, they will also take the path of least resistance more often than not. So if you can cut a lane through a tangled mess of tall grasses and perennial weeds or forbs, you can almost guarantee that deer will use it to get from point A to point B. If you are lacking a Bush Hog or any big implements you can get away with creating these mowed trails with either your lawnmower or zero turn mower, or even a weedeater. It might take more work but you can still end up with a deer funnel.
Connecting the Dots
Focus your deer funnels on connecting feeding and bedding areas. Here replace underlined with: For example, a food plot or Big & J chum pile might be the best destination feeding opportunities for the deer on your property. Meanwhile, a thick ridgetop, pine thicket, or clearcut might act as bedding areas for the deer you hunt. Cut a somewhat meandering path with the rotary cutter through an overgrown field to connect the two, and you can be sure that deer will use it. Make sure you bring this path within range of a tree stand site, though, or you will have to use a ground blind to hunt it effectively.
Proof of Concept: Mason Waddell’s Opening Day Georgia Buck
Last year in August (2017) Michael, Edwin, and Mason saw an opportunity on a large overgrown field. The field was at the bottom of several hardwood ridges and bedding areas. Naturally the overgrown old field habitat was filled with native grasses and forbs, briars, and saplings making it an ideal staging area and link between the bedding areas on the ridge. Realizing this, Michael and Edwin worked to bush hogged lanes through the thicket and funnel the deer to one centralized point leading out of field and into the largest bedding area on the ridges. The funnel through the field was then enhanced with a Big & J Deadly Dust™ and BB2 Granular™. When opening day arrived Mason climbed his ladder stand just 20 yards from this funnel and scored an opening day Georgia buck!
Small-Scale Deer Funnels for the Woods
If you’ve been lucky enough to find natural big woods deer funnels on public land, you know how well they work. When you’re hunting in densely wooded areas or thick brush country, making deer funnels takes a bit more work (i.e., sweat equity). The payback is that the deer funnels are usually extremely effective and reliable. If you hunt in a good area, but you just don’t ever seem to get deer within bow range of the only tree you can hunt in, here’s how a deer funnel can help.
Sharpen the Chainsaw
Find a commonly used deer trail that is typically out of range of your tree stand. Sometime during the middle of the summer, drop a few trees across this trail with a chainsaw and make it truly impassable for even the most stubborn deer. Then cut a trail that veers towards your tree stand (within range) and reconnects to the old deer trail around the obstacles. Hinge-cutting trees away from the trail you’re cutting can be a good way to really encourage deer to use your trail. If they venture off the trail, they would have to jump other downed trees to move in the direction they want. But at the same time, it still allows them an easy escape route off the trail, which makes them feel safer from predators.
If you have old logging roads or four wheeler trails that you continually cut for access you can enhance these with a chainsaw. Try clearing some trees on either side of the trail to allow more light to reach the trail. In thick habitat this opening of light and growth with a clear travel route can be a highway for deer and a great place to put a stand.
If you want to encourage deer to use this trail during the hunting season, try creating some mock scrapes within shooting range of your tree stand. This will also require them to slow down or stop at the scrape site, giving you more time to make the shot count. Or if it’s legal where you hunt, set up a mineral site or dump some Big & J® deer attractant on the ground. That will definitely make them stop long enough for a shot!
Enhancing Natural Deer Funnels
If you’re used to deer hunting in steep terrain, (e.g., ridges with steep ravines, deep streambeds, etc.), you know that topography changes can be the best deer funnels and pinch points you can find. Again, if you study deer travel patterns, you’ll see that deer don’t usually like to scale straight up a steep embankment. Rather, they will skirt around it, find a shallower incline or saddle, or move laterally uphill. If you have one of these areas on your property, here’s how you can make it even better. Or if you’re not sure how to hunt deer funnels in this category, this is a good example.
Isolate Your Location
Let’s imagine that your tree stand is in one of several fingers leading to a ridgetop sitting above a food plot or ag field. You know that deer bed on the ridgetop and feed in the valley below. They use the gently-sloping fingers to travel between the two areas, and avoid the steeper inclines. By creating obstacles on all but the shallowest incline (where you hunt), you can force the deer to travel right by you every time. You can accomplish that a few different ways.
One way is to use your chainsaw again to drop a few trees in crisscross pattern across the width of the other fingers. Another method is to install a 3- to 5-strand barbed-wire fence across the width of the other fingers. Deer tend to avoid fences if possible, especially if they would have to jump uphill to cross one. This can be enough of a deterrent that they exclusively use your deer hunting pinch point instead. Just make sure you only hunt it on the perfect wind though, or you could really affect the deer travel in your area.
Planting a Deer Funnel
While most of the above examples focus on removing something to create a deer funnel, here’s how you can add something to your landscape to make one. Planting trees or shrubs is a long-term approach to creating a natural funnel or pinch point – it takes a long time to see the results, but it works well.
Building a Bridge
Deer are usually pretty reluctant to cross a large agricultural field during the day (remember the first point above?). And if they do, there’s really no way to pinpoint where they will do it. But if you plant a strip of shrubs (e.g., dogwoods, willows, etc.) or conifers (e.g., spruce, cedars, etc.) across the field, it provides a bridge for them to cross the open expanse relatively safely. This is especially true if you plant multiple rows so they can travel between them without being noticed. Then you can set up on either side of this deer bridge to get a shot when they leave the field.
Start Creating Deer Funnels
If you didn’t know before, now you should know how to make a deer funnel. While some of these practices can result in deer using the funnels right away, some take more time. Either way, it will take a while for deer to get used to their new travel paths, so the sooner you start, the sooner you can reap the benefits – in the form of a venison steak on the grill.