Brandon Butler: Do the work now for a rewarding deer season

Deer hunting is a year-round operation for those who take it seriously. There are food plots to develop, stands to set, cameras to monitor, equipment to maintain and trails to clear. The peak of summer may not be the preferred time to complete many of these tasks, but since the season starts in early fall, there really is no time like the present.

Venturing into the woods during the later parts of summer can be more like torture than enjoyment. Bugs sting, weeds make you itch, humidity makes you sweat, and thorns make you bleed. These elements combined are enough to deter the sane from exploring their hunting grounds during this time of year. But then there are those of us crazy enough about deer hunting to know that now is the time to be in the woods clearing lanes.

Summer is when vegetation is at its thickest, so if you go into your hunting areas now to clear the lanes you need to travel and shoot this fall, then chances are you will not have to make any more trimming efforts once the season starts. Tools to carry with you on clearing missions are a chain saw, weed eater, pole saw, hedge shears and a rake. Also bring a gallon of water; staying hydrated is no joke.

I recently bought my first tractor — a small John Deere combat with a belly mower, bucket, and the ability to attach many implements to the rear PTO. The mower is the key to managing my hunting land. I use the bucket and a bush hog, along with a gas powered pole saw, to move fallen trees and clear my shooting lands.

You’ve probably read numerous articles covering the important topic of clearing shooting lanes, yet it seems much rarer to read an article talking about clearing a path to your stand. This is something you should do each year. Begin where you enter the woods and start walking towards your stand site. Along the way, chop weeds and clip small limbs and saplings with hedge shears. Once you’ve cleared the path of vegetation, go back and start again with the rake, removing all of the dead sticks, leaves and other debris.

Clearing your walking path makes traveling to and from your stand much easier. So much easier, in fact, that deer may start traveling your easy-to-navigate highway. They’re smart animals, so there’s no reason to think they’ll avoid the path of least resistance. Because of this, you don’t want your path to lead right to the base of your tree. Design your path to lead into your prime shooting lane, and then do nothing to make the route to your tree obvious. Remove any dead sticks or obstacles that could give you away as you tip-toe the last 15 yards from your path to your tree.

Wearing the right clothes while in the woods during the summer is extremely important to keep bugs and weeds off of you, while also protecting yourself from the sun. Wearing a long sleeve shirt, long pants, knee-high boots, a hat and gloves sure sounds hot, but being hot for a while is a lot better than dealing with poison ivy and dozens of mosquito bites. Make sure you spray down with strong insect repellent. Spray thoroughly around your waist, the tops of your boots, and neck to help prevent ticks from crawling inside your clothes.

Clearing your shooting lanes and walking paths during the dog days of summer may not sound like fun, but come hunting season, it’ll be rewarding. Wear the right clothes and protect yourself with bug spray, and the process will end up being much less torturous.

See you down the trail …

Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on or anywhere podcasts are streamed. Send comments to [email protected].