The prevalence of host-seeking ticks along animal trails has been taken for granted. In 1996 and 1997, we evaluated the effects of active animal trails on the spatial distribution of Ixodes scapularis Say and Amblyomma americanum (L.) under field conditions by comparing numbers of all postembryonic stages of both species collected along the center of and adjacent to known white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus (Zimmermann), trails with numbers collected along randomly placed transects. Because of the difficulty in quantifying animal activity and replicating a consistent clustering response along deer trails, animal activity was artificially increased by establishing and maintaining ‘4-poster’ bait stations with corresponding control plots during 1998–2000. Sampling was performed three times during the peak activity period of each active stage of both species in forested habitats of central New Jersey, USA. Tick distribution varied significantly among habitats, both between years and for each active stage. Sampling along deer trails and around 4-posters failed to demonstrate a consistent association between increased host activity and higher tick densities, suggesting that tick distribution patterns may be influenced by factors other than or in addition to host activity.