Stand Entry And Exit Tips

May 20th, 2011 / Posted by
Stand Entry And Exit Tips

Struggling through the mud I finally got across the murky, waist-deep creek and then edged carefully under the cut-bank right to the base of the tree. It was a course that was carefully designed to get me to my stand site without spooking a single deer. After clamoring up the bank in my chest waders I looked over cover that stretched in all directions in front of me: an abandoned 10 acre pasture partially grown up to plum thickets and oak saplings sandwiched between two larger blocks of brushy timber comprised my primary window. But a small crop field lay just beyond the old pasture, with miles of tall CRP grass and wild plum thickets dotting the far hills just out of sight. It was a big-buck haven.

The author took this buck in October from a stand located along the bank of a creek. In addition to funneling deer travel, the creek provided the perfect low-impact access for the stand.

The stand went up and I cleared a narrow shooting lane out to the pasture. I’d hunt a different creek that evening and wait for the wind to switch to the west before coming back – which my weather radio reported would happen sometime overnight. I got out of there without leaving any more scent than was necessary.

It was late October and a cool west wind blew gently in my face as I approached the creek early the next morning, slipped on my waders and carefully retraced my tracks to the base of the tree. I traded the waders for a pair of insulated boots and climbed into the stand. Because of the remoteness of the wheat field, deer fed late into the morning before drifting back into the timber to bed. I sat for at least two hours, questioning my choices, before a big, old doe led the parade.

Once they started coming it seemed like a river of deer. During the next half-hour, seven bucks and at least as many does crossed the old pasture in front of me, but only one was close enough for a shot. But, one’s enough when he’s the biggest! The arrow hit him a little far back as he walked slowly past, so I stayed on stand for a couple of hours before climbing down to head back to my vehicle and then to town for help in tracking. I was so focused on each careful step as I side-hilled back to the creek’s only wadable crossing that I nearly stepped on the buck before I saw him. He lay stone dead right at the edge of my crossing.

I’m sure that stand will produce big buck sightings every year. The creek eliminates all ground scent while keeping me out of sight at the same time. And when the wind is from the west, southwest or northwest it takes my scent out over the creek and away from all the deer using the cover on the inside bend. It’s a great stand, but not because it covers a well used trail – a lot of stands do that. It’s a great stand because you can hunt it day after day without the fear of spooking a single deer.

Most hunters never realize how many deer see them, smell them or hear them as they go to and from their stands. And then there’s the ground scent that continues to alert deer long after the hunter leaves the woods. When deer find evidence of human activity they start looking for other places to live, or at the least, they’ll change their patterns in the area. Either way, the easy pickings are over: you’re looking at some tough hunting. Think about it. You’d take it seriously too if you found a stranger walking through your living room.

This season, remember that regardless of how much sign it overlooks, a stand is not a great stand (or even a good stand) if you can’t get to and from it without being detected.

It doesn't matter how much sign your stand overlooks, or how deeply the trails have been pounded into the ground, if you can't get to and from the area without spooking deer it is not a great stand location.

The All-Important Element Of Surprise
Have you ever wondered why the first time you hunt a stand is almost always the best time for seeing lots of deer? It’s because you’re going into a fresh set-up. Stands in seemingly good spots go cold primarily for one reason: you’ve educated the deer using the area most likely through poorly planned entry and exit routes.

Where deer find our scent is also a significant factor in how much impact we have on their behavior. In the fringes of their core areas they have come to accept human scent, and don’t react as negatively to it. If your scent shows up in these places it will be noted, but the deer aren’t nearly as prone to change their patterns as a result. On the other hand, sign of human activity found right in their “living room” is another story. When deer smell our scent close to the center of their core areas, they don’t tolerate it. In short order they’ll move on, or become extremely cautious – both of which will make them much harder to tag.

In my experience, the real chess match in hunting trophy whitetails is not what scrape or what funnel you’ll watch. Unless you have a particular buck patterned, one travel funnel is basically as good as the next. The real chess match is planning how you’ll get to and from your stands without ruining them.

Beat the deer at their own game. We’ve all seen big bucks traveling. They take advantage of terrain and cover to keep out of sight as much as possible. Do the same thing as you enter and leave your stands. Take advantage of anything possible to keep you from being sky-lined. Even in the dark, deer can see a sky-lined hunter.

Look for ravines, deep ditches, folds in the terrain, draws and fence lines to keep you out of sight. If you plan to hunt the stand again, the exit route is just as important as the entry route so don’t overlook this important element of the hunt. And, when considering deer movement, the exit route will often be completely different from the entry route.

I’ve started relying heavily on creeks to gain access to my hunting areas. In fact, last season I took three nice whitetails and creeks factored heavily into each successful hunt. I’ll go out of my way to find stands near wadable creeks not only because they tend to be good travel routes, but also because they cover my scent and noise and keep me out of sight while enroute.

The elite 10% of the hunters that take 90% of the trophies have learned one lesson very well: the route you take to and from your stand is more important than the stand location itself. If there is a secret in whitetail hunting, this is it.

Winke set up stand just off a wheat field which the deer traveled through. By keeping his scent down, Winke kept the deer confident and was thus able to arrow a beautiful buck.

Remember that regardless of how much sign it overlooks, a stand is not a great stand (or even a good stand) if you can’t get to and from it without being detected.

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