Trails made by mature whitetail bucks are almost non-existent. Most trails they use in traditional wintering areas were created by whitetails 50–100 years earlier, Being loners that do not travel much outside of their 1–3 acre bedding areas while growing antlers during spring and summer, most trails they use in that vicinity will hardly catch a hunter’s eye unless also regularly used by a doe trailed by one or more fawns and one or more yearlings (a small herd). When mature bucks finally begin traveling regularly throughout their 250–1000 acres home ranges in September, thereafter having an abiding interest in mature and yearling does, rather than create and regularly use trails of their own, almost all of their travels are restricted to major deer trails created and used by does and their young within in doe home ranges.
Except in open areas, deer trails are more than paths partly or mostly free of vegetation because they are frequently trampled by multiple deer with sharp-edged hooves. In forest habitat deer trails are actually tunnels through cover, bored open and kept free of green and woody vegetation by frequent passages of deer for months, years and even decades. Mature does and their young being the principle trail-makers of whitetails, at best the tunnels they create are only tall and wide enough to allow mature-doe-sized animals to travel through them with relative silence. Fully mature bucks are much larger animals, weighing up to twice as much as mature does. This makes it difficult mature bucks to move quietly enough through doe tunnels to avoid being readily heard by nearby predators or hunters. If they have antlers wider than their bodies, it’s often impossible. For this reason, except while making or renewing ground scrapes adjacent to major doe trails within does home ranges, while hunters are known to be afoot, bucks 3-1/2 years of age or older travel 50% or more off-trail. Add to this the fact that the mazes of trails typically found in doe home ranges provide a dozen or more ways for whitetails to travel to any destination such as a feeding area or watering spot, it becomes difficult indeed to predict which route a mature buck will use on any morning or evening of a hunting season.
Next blog: Using the above knowledge to your advantage while hunting.