Tips & Tactics

Build Whitetails’ Tolerance for ATVs

Build Whitetails’ Tolerance for ATVs

By Al Zwick

One characteristic I’ve noticed among white-tailed deer is, when given proper conditioning, they will develop a comfort level with ATVs, farm machinery and motorized vehicles.

Knowing this trait has helped make my life easier, and I use it to gain an edge when hunting season rolls around.

Through conditioning, I’m now able to drive directly to my treestand and hunt without having to walk in. This gives me several advantages over parking a long way off and walking in.

On cold mornings, I haven’t built up odor-causing sweat from having to hike while wearing a thick jacket.

This means I don’t leave a long trail of human scent leading to my stand. This is one of the top reasons deer get spooked in the first place. Often, our scent trails alert deer to a hunter’s presence before the hunt even gets started.

Driving all the way to my stand cuts away the big chunk of time it used to take to hike to my stands. This means I can leave my house later and get to my stands earlier.

My parking tactic is to drive directly to the base of my stand, stepping on the ground as little as possible. I prefer to step directly from the ATV seat onto the first tree step or ladder rung.

Many times, I have witnessed deer walk right up to the ATV parked by my stand and pay it no attention whatsoever. There is no human scent on the ground to alert them.

But this type of tolerance does not happen overnight! There are several key things you must do.

Build Whitetails’ Tolerance for ATVsFirst, you have to use your ATV all year long to condition the deer herd to its presence. Using my ATV to scout, check game cameras, fill feeders and work on stands helps me cover all the seasons.

Secondly, you must build the deer’s level of trust and NEVER allow them to associate a vehicle with danger.

I never chase or worry the deer when I encounter them on my hunting property. In fact, I don’t even stop when I see them. When I cruise by casually, they don’t even run anymore. The deer simply watch me go by, give their tails a toss and continue grazing.

– Editor’s Note by Tim H. Martin

Although the idea of parking my ATV as far as possible from my stand is firmly engrained into my inner hunter, I have a couple of reasons for believing Al Zwick’s tactic probably works well.

My father has led photo safaris in East Africa for the past 18 years, and he says animals think of vehicles as another animal. But this only happens if they don’t associate Land Rovers with humans. That’s one reason tourists are forbidden from getting out. Well, that and the likelihood of being eaten by a lion.

I’ve been on many hunts in farm country where animals view vehicles as part of the daily routine. Indeed, whitetails and other big game species will pay 4-wheelers little mind if they don’t associate them with danger.

– Photo Courtesy Al Zwick

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