Last year we noticed a dramatic drop in buck sightings at one of our most productive blind locations. Three of my grandchildren hunt from Shadow Hunter blinds mounted on 8′ platforms so of course these blinds are not easily relocated. The problem? One of our most productive blinds which had produced several big bucks over the last few years became less productive when for no apparent reason the deer totally changed their travel pattern? In the past the deer used to cross in front of this blind for a short cut to one of our Imperial Whitetail Clover food plots. Alarmingly, the deer began to follow the trail for another 100 yards further before crossing over into the food plot. This would have been no problem for a gun hunter, but all three blinds happened to be situated in our “bow only zones”. Our first thought was to use obstructions to alter the deer’s travel route, but soon learned this tactic was unmanageable due to the unusual structure of the land. Now that our deer season was over we had plenty of time to figure out a solution. When we visited this farm in March to frost seed one of our clover fields there was enough snow on the ground to reveal that the deer were still using the far run. It was now apparent that the deer had no intentions of switching back without intervention from us. Although Greg and I are seminar speakers on both deer and turkey, and travel the country giving seminars, we don’t always have all of the answers. But we are humble enough to seek out professionals who do have the answers, such as wildlife biologists when questioning deer or turkey behavior, or in this instance we called on Steve Scott of the Whitetail Institute for his expertise because part of our plan called for a variety of fall plantings. We did know that deer can be very lazy at times and will always take the path of least resistance, such as a mowed trail. We had been using this tactic for many years, successfully I may add. We even mow trails leading to our tree stands (and blinds) for quiet entry. When the time came in late summer for our fall plantings the deer runs were completely covered by 3 feet of brush and weeds, you could faintly see that the deer runs were being somewhat in use. Our first order of business was to encourage the deer to use a mowed trail (riding mower) directly from the food plot crossing in front of the blind and all the way to the trail that the deer were traveling on. We then used chain saws to cut a path through the fallen trees and removed every single branch from the trail, we believe in spoiling our deer. Last, we made a mock scrape midway between the food plot and the main deer run and hung a dripper over the scrape. Deer are curious, they heard all of the commotion and now they will come at night to investigate what we were doing and they will also be attracted to our secret scent. This secret scent is not so secret anymore because I exposed it to the many readers of this magazine and at countless seminars, but for the few who don’t know, here it is. Since deer urines are useless during this time frame what other choices does a hunter have to attract deer in what is basically summer, you really don’t have a choice, so we invented a formulation, mix 1 cup ammonia, 1 cup kosher salt, and ¼ cup husk fiber (husk fiber could be found in the pharmacy section in WalMart, get their brand) in a gallon jug and fill with water. It makes gallons for about $10.00. Use a sprayer to spray either on a real scrape or a mock scrape along with the licking branch for your initial contact. Once the deer have responded position a dripper above the scrape, this should last for a few weeks before it needs a refill. But by that time deer will be conditioned to use that trail. Even though deer are unable to reason as we know it, they will know a short cut when they see one. We now turned our attention to our food plot to further entice/bribe the deer with a variety of three tender food sources found in one location. Since we wanted two fall plantings in a single food plot connecting with our existing clover field Steve recommended that we plant Imperial Whitetail Oats Plus and Imperial Whitetail Winter Peas Plus. Not only did Steve tell me what works best for our situation, he also advised us how to plant the seeds since each called for a different depth. We tilled a strip 25 yards wide and about 300 yards long through our Clover field in an overlapping manner in order to benefit one of the other blinds as well. We soon discovered that our strategy worked to perfection, the deer started using the trail in front of the blind on a regular basis to reach the tender shoots. The good old days were back. Michigan’s bow season kicks in on October 1st , Greg and I would start the hunt then, but we viewed it more as a scouting tool. Of course if a big buck stepped out we would take him, but we normally don’t get serious until the pre- rut/rut time frames. That’s also the time when we begin the hunt for the grand kids. Between school sports and activities none have much free time, so we try to utilize their limited time productively. As it turned out all three of them successfully shot deer with their crossbows, and all had great opportunities at bucks. Once the grand kids returned home our hunt began in earnest. Although we own or lease several farms in three Southern Michigan Counties with all having food plots this farm seemed to be most promising as witnessed by trail cameras and sightings. Greg decided to hunt the blind that we had resurrected from the dead because of the renewed strong activity in that area, would you believe Greg shot a beautiful buck on the first evening he hunted there when the buck nonchalantly came walking down the mowed trail heading toward the food plot. I spent a few days on another farm hunting a certain nocturnal buck, but to no avail. Soon after I had to head home to drive my wife to the airport and baby sit the kids. The kids are 4 dogs, three are rescue dogs and one of them was truly a rescued dog when we virtually rescued her by the skin of her teeth, she was to be euthanized within 24 hours when I found out about her, she’s 11 years old and she wanted to live. As I moped around the house for a few days a brilliant idea came to mind, why don’t I take the kids hunting? After reviewing several cameras on the different farms I decided the best course of action was to hunt the blind Greg had shot his buck in because of the unbelievable number of deer captured on camera crossing in front of that blind, drawn in like a magnet by that fantastic food plot no doubt. It didn’t take long before I lost count after 31 deer had passed by, that’s how many deer were using that run. A movement to my right caught my eye. It was an unusual animal who at first I thought was a goat. Astonishingly the realization came to me that it was a Piebald doe, the first I have seen in the wild after more than 50 years of hunting. She was sneaking behind me, what a thrilling moment this was as I took pictures of her. All of a sudden her ears shot forward, something had her full attention. I follow her gaze with my binoculars and was shocked to see a shooter buck standing broadside directly behind my blind at no more than 30 yards away. What a historic moment this was, here was a wonder of nature and she was telling me that a buck was sneaking behind me, how’s that for luck.
Fred and Greg Abbas are the owners of A-Way Hunting Products and A-Way Outdoors Invention Consulting and Submission Service.
Whitetail Institute of North America
Summit Outdoors, LLC