By Mac Chilton
Without a doubt, one of the most over looked strategies in whitetail hunting is forming good entrance and exit routes to and from your tree stand or ground blind. Most hunters just don’t take the time to think about how they will get to their stand, and back, without bumping deer. Hunters often end up just utilizing the quickest route that they can find. However, if you spook all of the deer trying to get to your stand, there’s a good chance that you’ve ruined your hunt before it has even started. This simple, yet effective strategy, could be the difference between harvesting your target buck or eating tag soup over the winter.
So why should we worry about entry and exit routes? Well, we spend hours upon hours from late winter throughout the summer months trying to find and pattern certain mature deer. We supplement feed after the season closes, plant our food plots in the spring and summer, and scout for deer sign by way of shed hunting, running trail cameras, and searching for velvet bucks. If our work pays off we can usually figure out a deer’s tendencies, where he beds, where he feeds, and the trails that he takes to get back and forth. People are similar to deer, we have our own tendencies. Chances are you that have some sort of a daily routine, and I’m guessing that when it comes to hunting a certain stand, you park in the same spot and walk in, and out, the same way every time. This is a good thing as long as you’re not spooking deer and having the deer pattern your tendencies. If you are, you’re setting yourself up for short and long-term failure in the area.
Something to think about in late summer, when setting new stands, is how the land lays. You should use it your advantage as much as possible once fall comes around to avoid being noticed by deer. Creeks are probably the best way to go undetected while getting to your stand. When walking a creek, you are normally out of sight of any deer, it’s usually quieter than walking through the leaves, and it’s harder for deer to detect your scent. You can also use ridges and hillsides to conceal yourself from known high traffic deer areas. If you must walk through a field, try to use waterways or other areas of the field that are set down a little lower.
If you’re a fan of the whitetail hunting industry, I’m sure that you’ve heard Don Kisky’s name on more than one occasion. When it comes to killing big Iowa whitetails, Don is a well-oiled machine. One strategy that I have seen him use frequently over the years, is disguising ground blinds into a standing corn field that overlooks a cut corn field. There is a path through the standing corn to get in and out undetected. I think I’ve even seen him get into his blind while there are deer in the field. This is a strategy that we have used a few times over the years as well, but used a tower blind, rather than a ground blind. It has worked like a charm. Many hunters may not have the option to leave corn standing to do that, but if you’re able to plant another type of barrier, it can be just as deadly. Strips of Egyptian wheat can be a great option. It has a maximum height of around 13 feet, and in most cases, will get to at least 10 feet tall. It is mostly used to walk along field edges so that deer can’t see you come in. CRP is another good option. Always check your contract first, but you should be able mow parts of it, which can allow you to walk through a field unseen. If you have a food plot in the CRP, you can use it like the standing corn, with a blind disguised in it and a path out the back.
Things to Consider
If at all possible, try avoiding direct contact to known bedding and feeding areas. Stay on the outer edges of these areas and use some of the above strategies to get you there. Think about the best winds for each of your stands, and approach the stand from the downwind side as much as possible. Deer don’t need much of an excuse to get out of their bed, stare right at you, and then run off. Don’t give them that opportunity, use the wind and cover to your advantage. If you must walk through a lot of timber to get to your stand, cut some trails during the offseason so that your hike in and out is quick and efficient.
Entry and exit strategies can be just as crucial as stand placement, food plots, and wind direction. If used correctly they can be deadly, if not chances are you will spook deer out of the area, and have a tough time once on stand. The 2018 deer season is a few months away, but I’m hoping that these ideas will act as a foundation for your preseason strategies.