August 16, 2011
From Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Picking the right entry and exit route to your treestand or ground blind might be more important to success in deer hunting than where you actually hunt.
“I’d much rather hunt a marginal stand location, where bucks don’t know they’re being hunted,” said Bill Winke, who gave a deer hunting seminar at the recent Quality Deer Management Association national convention in Louisville. “I’m scouting for hidden access routes. Good deer sign is easy to find.”
Winke believes traveling undetected when entering and exiting a hunting area is the real secret to whitetail success. He’s deer hunted an average of 60 days a season for the past 20 years and manages 1,200 acres in south-central Iowa.
He also goes to extreme measures to stay hidden from the keen eyes, ears and noses of deer. “If a big buck knows he’s being hunted, you can forget it,” Winke said. “Chances are you’ll never see him again during the season from that stand.”
The strategies he outlined will work anywhere during both archery and firearms deer seasons.
“I like to get in fast and quiet,” said Winke, a columnist for Petersen’s Bowhunting magazine and publisher of MidwestWhitetail.Com. “If deer don’t know you’re there, you’ve got a good chance at getting a shot.”
Winke strives to emulate the old saying, “the first time you hunt a treestand is the best” every time he hunts. This is true regardless of the number of times he’s used a particular treestand.
He uses gullies, creeks, standing corn and fencerows to shield his movement.
“I don’t like to go in (to a stand) in the dark,” said Winke. “I want it to be just light enough to see my feet so I won’t step on sticks and make too much noise.”
If downed timber or brush clutters a route, he often goes in before the season and clears the way with a chainsaw. However, Winke cautions that mowing paths to treestands with a tractor can cause problems.
“Deer will sometimes adopt a mowed path as a trail,” he said, “and catch your scent on the ground where you’ve been walking.”
Stands should be approached from down wind, or cross wind, as long as the hunter’s scent is not being blown in the direction deer are expected to approach.
“I like to hunt on windy days, especially when I’m going through standing corn to get to my tree,” said Winke. “Standing corn screens your movement and the rustling covers the sounds of walking.”
He stays away from his best stands on calm days. “Deer can hear you approach from a long way off when it’s quiet in the woods.”
Winke resists the temptation to sneak around his hunting area before the season.
“You need to match normal human activity whenever possible, and park where deer expect vehicles to be parked,” said Winke. “Don’t park too close to where you are going to hunt. Park at a house or beside a barn and take the long way in to your treestand.”
He checks the trail cameras he positions on the edges of fields from a pickup truck. “I mount my trail cameras on metal fence posts,” Winke said. “That way I can drive right up to the camera, replace the memory card with a blank one, and drive off.”
Driving tractors and trucks around a hunting area mimics normal farm traffic, and doesn’t alert deer to danger, like a human on foot does.
He encourages hunters to set their stands and trim the trees well in advance of the season opening day.
An avid bow and muzzleloader hunter, Winke concentrates on does (antlerless deer) in October and bucks in November.
His favorite time to hunt is when the bucks are cruising, just prior to the onset of breeding. “That usually falls between Nov. 5 and Nov. 10, with Nov. 7 being my favorite day to be in my best treestand,” Winke said.
Pick a tree that provides good cover in a fenceline for your treestand, or a brushy area in the corner of the field for a ground blind. Early in the season the wind predominately blows from the west or southwest, but frequently shifts to the northwest with the advance of cool fronts.
Facing your stand northwest is the ideal positioning for hunting cool front. That way you’ll have the sun set over your left shoulder, and the wind in your face. Deer approaching from upwind won’t be able to smell you, and you’ll be hidden in the shadows as the sun moves to the western horizon.
Early in the season, concentrate on hunting in the late afternoons, especially during the first and last quarter moon periods. This is when the moon is a thin crescent and positioned at 12 o’clock in the sky at dusk. Deer are most likely to converge on feeding areas before dark during this time.
For other information on Kentucky’s 2010-2011 deer season, visit our website at: fw.ky.gov.
Art Lander Jr. has been writing about the outdoors in Kentucky since the 1970s. He is an information specialist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, visit our web site at fw.ky.gov.