How to Get To and From Deer Hunting Stands, Undetected
Deer hunting would seem to be a simple affair – find out where they're bedding, where they're eating and pick an ambush spot between Point A and B. But given the eyesight and olfactory abilities of mature bucks, it isn't always quite that easy in the woods
Walking into a deer stand before a fall hunt, trying to keep the wind right while avoiding the crunch of my boots on fallen leaves and acorns, it doesn't take much to imagine that I hear music.
Specifically, the famed Beach Boys crooning somewhere in the distance one of their all-time great songs...I get around, get around round round I get around...well, you know the tune.
Except it's not from town to town I seek to get around to, it's from hunting stand to hunting stand as the season's deer hunting action begins to pick up a step or two in both intensity and necessary strategy.
Truth be told, when it comes to the successful hunting of Mr. Big each fall, success or failure is often determined by how well a hunter can pick his or her entrance and exit routes into and out of a favored stand.
Even if the stand happens to be situated in an all but perfect spot, it might not matter if you can't get into and out of that location without spooking any nearby whitetails.
Just ask David Holder of Raised Hunting, the wonderful show on Outdoor Channel where the Holder family chases big Midwestern whitetails in and around their Iowa home.
"Last year, (my son) Warren used to hunt a stand on the edge of a food plot," said papa Holder. "We knew it would be a good spot. But the problem was that it was really tough to get in and out of."
"Warren and (my other son) Easton blew about 20 or 25 deer out of the field trying to get out of the stand on the first night that they hunted it," said David. "Two of those deer were big mature bucks and one of those, we never saw him again last season."
Added Holder: "We knew it was a gamble. You were either going to kill the buck or kill the spot. We killed the spot unfortunately and ended up having to pull the stand and move it some 90 to 100 yards away. No matter how good a stand is, it doesn't really matter if you can't get in and out without being detected."
Holder indicates wind direction is critical not only when a hunter is perched up in a tree itself, but also as the hunter is going to and from that tree.
It might be perfect once the hunter is actually up in the stand, but if the wind is blowing a moving hunter's scent into a bedding area, out over a food plot or into a travel route or funnel, then it's no good.
A second key to all of this is to utilize natural features that help a hunter enter and exit a stand location. Those features can help break up the flow of wind driven scent and/or aid in a hunter getting into and out of a spot without being visually detected by deer.
"If I've got some sort of barrier, then they have trouble seeing or smelling me as I go to and from a stand site," said Holder.
"In fact, I just hung a stand (recently) that borders a creek and a food plot," he added. "The stand is positioned so that I can travel east or west down the creek bed as the wind dictates, climb up into my stand and hunt, then climb down the backside of the tree and sneak out through the creek bed again."
A third key is to utilize man-made options to get into and out of a stand location.
In the Midwest, where corn fields are often king, this can literally mean cutting down stalks to form entrance and exit routes into and out of a corn patch hiding a ground blind.
See Don and Kandi Kisky's excellent discussion about this tactic.
Another way to use vegetation to help aid a hunter's entrance and exit into a stand site is to plant something for that specific purpose.
"One of our sponsors, Arrow Seed, they have an annual seed mix called Green Screen," said Holder. "You can plant this stuff in rows and it grows to nearly 15 feet tall. You can (literally) use it to (grow a wall of vegetation that allows you to) walk undetected just about anywhere you want to."
When used properly, a pick-up truck can actually be one of hunting's most useful tools for getting into and out of a stand site location. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
If using planted food or vegetative barriers is one way to help a hunter get into and out of a stand site, then another man-made method is to use a vehicle of some sort, even if that seems a bit counterintuitive at first.
"One of my favorite tactics for getting into and out of a spot, especially when it comes to hunting over food early in the season, is to have someone in a vehicle drive into the field that you're hunting after dark," said David Blanton, co-host of Realtree Outdoors on Outdoor Channel.
But Blanton doesn't just stop there, fine-tuning his entrance and exit route strategy even more when it comes to utilizing a motorized vehicle.
"I tell them don't turn the truck off, don't turn the headlights off, leave it running," said Blanton, a longtime member of Team Realtree. "I want to get down out of the tree, get in the truck and drive off."
Why is that?
"Because it spooks the deer less," said Blanton.
If you doubt that, simply consider the dozens of big whitetails Blanton has tagged with a bow, a muzzleloader or a rifle over the years using such tactics.
For Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo, of Archer's Choice and The Choice on Outdoor Channel, the use of some sort of vehicle also is a part of their strategy for hunting big deer.
Since the sound of motorized vehicles are familiar to whitetails in many parts of farming and ranching country, Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo have found ATV and UTV vehicles to be an effective means of accessing and exiting deer stand locations. (Photo courtesy of Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo)
"Anything you can do to lessen the impact on your hunting areas, that will help," said Vicki. "And for us, using our Rambo bikes and our Yamaha UTVs is one way that we do that."
She acknowledges some might question the use of a motorized UTV – or ATV – when hunting normally shy deer, but she also quickly points out that farmers, ranchers, waterfowl hunters and others regularly use such machinery throughout deer country.
In other words, deer are pretty much used to such vehicle usage in a lot of places. And over time, Vicki notes deer actually figure out that things like tractors, combines and farm machinery, like ATVs and/or UTVs, aren't a threat.
Once deer associate certain sounds as a normal part of the landscape upon which they live, they are far less likely to react negatively.
Especially if a hunter keeps the speed and the RPMs of a machine down and stays consistent with the way such vehicles are utilized by farmers throughout the year.
"(Over time), they become less and less disenchanted by (such) familiar sounds and that allows you to go in and out (of) your hunting spot with less impact on them," she said.
"Make it a routine and the animals will get more (and more) comfortable with it," she added.
"We used to think that going electric was the way to go but you can (actually) get them accustomed to (hearing) any vehicle sound. And gas (powered vehicles) is the way to go to eliminate all the power and charging issues especially for those longer hauls or (trips in) cold weather seasons."
While it might seem counterintuitive at first, whitetails actually get used to the presence of vehicles and machinery. Hunters who are careful can actually use such tactics to enhance their ability to get into and out of a stand site undetected. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
If a hunter can't get past the idea of such noise and exhaust invading their hunting location, Vicki offers up something else she and her husband Ralph are starting to use more and more.
And that's the use of a fat-tire mountain bike with pedal power to get into and out of an area.
"Our bikes are awesome," she said. "You can sneak into areas leaving almost no scent (behind like you do when walking) and (you can) get in further if that is needed in certain areas."
While a bike might not appeal to some, it's just another ace up the sleeve of a fall bowhunter hoping to get around in the woods.
Without Mr. Big becoming any wiser about it all.