I have tons of them. The birds love them, I hate them. They bite, and bite hard. When I cleared the acre for my foot plot I left 15-20 of them and there are many more growing around the edges. I may start removing some of them to make room for more apples. I don't see much of a benefit for deer. They don't browse them and the birds appear to get all the fruit. They would make a great thicket, you wouldn't want to walk through them.
I planted a lot of them in Rusk County Wisconsin and they all died. I have some naturally growing in SE MN and they form a nice thicket similar to plums, but I haven't seen anything eating the fruit. They're not very common around here, so I'll keep them for variety but I think there are better options if you're looking for something to plant. I would go with plums, crabapples, etc.
I think a plum thicket would be tough to beat for a bedding area. I like plums because they'll send suckers out from the main tree which allows them to form dense thickets. I don't know if hawthorns spread the same way, on my land in SE MN they're randomly scattered along the edges so I don't think they do.
I've posted in favor of hawthorns. We have a thicket of them at my camp - Washington hawthorn. They have small ( 3/8" to 1/2" ) red fruit/berries. They last well into the winter. They drop the berries which hatch into seedlings. Those can be transplanted to other locations or left go to form a thicket. Grouse LOVE the berries, as do pheasants, turkeys and many other birds. The dense, thorny branches are super nesting cover for a variety of birds ( which help keep insects out of your apple, crab, plum trees! ). As for deer bedding - some of the best deer bedding cover I've ever seen here in Pa. was in hawthorn thickets. In high pressure areas in the northern AG zones of Pa., you could bet on kicking out deer AND grouse from those haw thickets. Easy to grow, not fussy, deer browse the young, tender end shoots that have no thorns. We LOVE THEM !!!
If you want a thicket you can walk thru, just space 'em out so they're not crowding each other. When they start to produce berries and you get seedlings, yank 'em, spray 'em, or transplant 'em. Ours are about 19 yrs. in the ground, and they're around 15 to 18 ft. tall and 10 to 12 ft. wide. I'm not familiar with the cockspur or the sweet-fruited ones Stu has.
I should have stated I am also a fan. I love the ones I left, I am just out of room for apples. I am going to try to move them to the edge with the backhoe. I could see if you had a big enough thicket the deer would never leave.