Establishing An Ideal Entry/Exit Route For Your Deer Stand

What are some things you can do to ensure you've selected the best entry/exit route possible? Of course, you start by paying attention to wind direction and location of the deer. Here are some other useful tips:

Plan ahead. Always think about where to hang a deer stand and the best way(s) to enter them. Being intimately familiar with your hunting areas is an absolute must. I do the majority of my scouting during late winter and early spring, because the sign is still fresh then, and I can get a general idea of what they will do next fall in the same basic areas. I always plan on where to hang stands and the best way to approach and leave them based on the wind and what time of day the deer will most likely be in that area.

When I find the route that fits my setup best, I do a "walk-through" to feel it out. If it's a morning route, I'll walk to my stand before daylight; if it's an evening route, I'll walk out after night falls. This might sound like a lot of work, but believe me: Hard work pays off with mature bucks!

Have a backup plan. There are times when the wind direction will change on a given day, yet still workable for a particular stand site. This can affect the way you enter/exit your stand. To prevent a problem here, have an alternate entry/exit route that will allow you access to come/go with minimal disturbance.

Take advantage of aerial photos. These photos offer a tremendous edge to you as a hunter, not only for scouting but also for planning your trips to/from stand sites. Advantages to aerial photos include a distance scale that can help you to determine how far you'll be walking at any given time, as well as a different perspective of the property layout. Things look much different when viewed from above as compared to eye level, and this in turn can reveal potential routes you might have neglected to consider in the past.

Pay attention to the details. How often have you heard that the "little things" make a difference? It's true when planning how and when to approach a hunting location.

Most of the time, older bucks pick off hunters because of subtle differences in their stomping grounds. These deer are finely tuned survival machines, and they pick up on even the slightest variation in their turf. Strict odor control is crucial! You could have planned your entry route to exacting specifications, but if that buck you've hunted for two months crosses your track one time and smells something different, you can all but forget about seeing him again there -- especially if he's mature. Minimize your scent; using good hygiene and bacteria-destroying scent-free soaps and cover scents.

One of my better hunting areas has cattle in the immediate vicinity. The first thing I do when entering that area is seek out a cow patty and step right into it with both boots. It's an excellent way to cover your tracks!

Another point many hunters overlook is how they walk in the woods. Try to sound like a deer as you walk. Walk a few steps and listen, then walk a few more steps and stop again. Don't step onto deer trails or walk down them. And, if possible, take advantage of tree lines, shelterbelts and low spots when walking to/from your stand, to minimize the chances of deer actually seeing you.

Last season, on several occasions I was fortunate to see a buck my wife and I call "Little Joe." We've been lucky enough to pick up sheds from this deer since he was a yearling. (He's now a 160-class 10-pointer and 4 1/2 years old, so he's not so "little" any more!) While I was sitting at an observation point one evening, the brute appeared about 150 yards away. He closed the distance to 80 yards, and I knew legal shooting time would run out before he'd ever allow me the chance to cash in. I slowly sat down, turned over and belly-crawled 100 yards along a tree line, then walked an extra quarter-mile out to the road and around to my truck.

This was a lot of extra work, but such effort is worth it if I can see a buck again during shooting hours. As it turned out, I did see that buck again the next week, but he approached the same field from another direction, offering no shot. That was the last I saw of him all season. Oh well, that's why we call it hunting!

Remember the hunters I mentioned at the beginning of this article? I decided I wasn't finished with business there yet, so I changed my plan of attack. The property was 160 acres total, and I went around the backside to a natural travel corridor at a river bend. I hunted that stand three times and passed up 17 bucks! I ultimately missed a 190-plus-inch giant on a cold morning during peak rut.

I'm convinced those other guys never even saw this deer -- or the 200-pound 5x6 with a drop tine, the trophy I harvested the same day I missed that bigger one! Of course, had I not changed the way I entered the area, I most likely wouldn't have seen either buck myself.

If you've done your homework in scouting your hunting areas for the best stand sites, spend a little extra time in planning the best ways to approach and leave those spots. You might just be surprised at the dividends that effort will pay.

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