Security Routes Are the Key To Whitetail Success
By Ricky Kinder
When talking about tree stand placement I often get the question; “What is the most important part to having a good tree stand location?” The no brainer answer would be where there is the most sign of deer on the property. Since that is the obvious answer, and any hunter worth his salt would look to place stands at high activity locations I am going to give a completely different answer.
When placing stands I believe the most important thing to consider is the ability to get to and from your stands unnoticed by deer. Why is this my most important component when it comes to stand placement? That is simple, you can place a stand along the busiest deer highway in the world, but if you continually are busting or spooking deer when you are walking to and from your stand that area is useless and doing more harm than good. Simply put, if you want to see deer and hopefully shoot deer from a stand location you will greatly increase your odds if you have solid entrance and exit routes…or as I call them security routes.
It’s funny and maybe it is just me, but when I first started bowhunting here in Iowa this concept of entrance and exit routes really wasn’t talked about or written about. You simply parked your truck and made a beeline towards your stand. Nowadays the notion seems to get more press time and rightfully so, as I firmly believe that in order to have continued success you must have properly planned security routes to your stands.
Before you ever place a stand you need to have a plan in place for that location. Your mentality needs to revolve around “Will this area allow me to get in and out undetected?” It is a question you need to ask yourself every time you hang a stand or hunt a preexisting stand. If you answer no and are constantly busting deer then I would highly consider finding a new place to hang or move a stand that allows you to sneak in unnoticed.
In all reality it isn’t that difficult to establish good security routes, if you just take the time to plan things out and commit to your efforts. The first thing you need to do is find those areas where you want to hang stands. Then you need to work backwards from your stand to your parking area while trying to find the most hidden route. The best way to do this is to get out and actually walk the property. Park your vehicle, and then start your trek to your stand site. Take your time and note the “true wind” (what the wind actually does when you are present and not what the weatherman says it is doing). Look around to see if you can see the area where deer will most likely be. If you can’t see the area then they can’t see you either.
Also don’t take the easy route, there are special terrain or agricultural features that can aide in getting you to and from. Sometimes this might require the road less traveled, but it will be worth it if it allows you to hunt a dynamite spot!
What makes a good security route? The short answer is anything you can find that gets you there and back undetected. A more specific answer is: Deer beat us with the Three S’s “Scent, Sight, Sound”. The best security routes should protect you against each one of these senses. The following all make great security route highways: creek beds, ravines, ditches, cornfields, and ridges.
These are my favorite security routes to take because most of the time they will take you wherever you want to go, you are completely out of sight, and your scent is mitigated somewhat by the creek banks. The other good thing about creek beds is they make a great spot to hang stands nearby as deer love to use them as a natural travel corridor. This is good because you don’t really ever have to venture too far from the security of the creek then. Easy in and easy out!
The only thing bad about creek beds is they hold water, to what extent is up to Mother Nature and the geography of the area. A little water and you are still fine, but if the water is over your shin line then it becomes a hassle. I usually try to avoid creeks with that much water. If it is a wide creek bed with a gentle bank you may still be able to navigate it rather easily.
Cornfields are often over looked, but they are great for security routes. They are vast and will usually get you from one end of the property to the other without being seen. The downside to cornfields is they can be noisy, confusing, and temporary as they will be harvested eventually (keep that in mind for later in the season). On the noisy side I wouldn’t worry too much though, deer seem to be more tolerant of noise coming from a cornfield. If it bothers you too much you can do a few things to reduce the noise. If you are in good standing with the farmer or it is your own land simply remove one row of corn as far as you want to. This will give most anyone a shoulders width of room to walk in. If you want to leave the stalks intact you can also simply remove the leaves on the stalks. It won’t give you as much room but it will cut down on the noise.
Remember these are temporary security routes so you will need to find an alternate route to your stand once the corn has been harvested.
Ditches and Ravines are tried and true routes to get to and from on your property. These areas tend to be a bit quieter as they reduce noise related to crunching leaves and sticks. What is even better is deer don’t really like to spend much time in the bottom of a deep ravine or even a ditch so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about being seen when walking through one of these. These features are also easily spotted from an aerial photograph so it makes finding them ahead of time really easy.
In the past I have used a thin line of dense evergreens to get me to where I needed to go. I have also used a tall field of CRP to cover my entrance/exit….this worked for a while but I started busting deer that would bed there when the wind picked up. The bottom line is you need to find whatever works for your location. There isn’t one feature that makes the best security route…use and find whatever you can and as long as it gets you there and back undetected you are in good shape.
No matter what you are using as your security route I believe some maintenance to reduce noise is needed. This maintenance can be as simple as picking up sticks or raking leaves off to the side. Or as I mentioned above removing some corn stalks or leaves. It can also be as cumbersome as cutting down or removing branches or trees to clear an easy path without obstruction. Some people even go as far as spraying weeds to make a pristine dirt trail. While I don’t think you have to take it that far it is important to reduce the noise as much as possible.
My goodness, we have gotten this far in the article and haven’t talked about wind yet? Well I think it goes without saying that every time you walk to your stand the wind should be in your favor. Paying attention to the wind is just as important when walking to the stand as it is when you are actually sitting in the stand. So when you start locating entrance routes make sure the predominant winds in the area don’t blow your scent in the direction of the deer. If there is a day when your scent will be cast into the area the deer are, then you should hunt elsewhere.
Time Of Day
It is important to note that whatever time of day it is may alter your plans and what routes you chose to use. Hunting in the morning usually means the deer will be up on their feet and feeding….making it really tough to get to your stand undetected. Then on the way back from a morning hunt the deer will be bedded. Making it more difficult to hunt timber and thick cover due to any bedding areas in the area.
On the flipside when you hunt in the afternoon deer will be bedded down first and then in the fields feeding late….it is a vicious cycle.
This is important to note because the route you took in may not be the best route to take out. So having two separate routes for a stand might need to happen. The best case scenario is to find a spot that provides a route that can be used both morning, evening, and night. The features I listed above usually tend to be good anytime routes.
I have talked a lot about finding new spots to hang stands that have good security routes, but this also applies to existing stands too. It is good idea to take a look at your current stands and devise a route to and from them if need be. The best way to do this is to get back out there on foot and walk from your parking point to the stand, again paying attention to the wind and if you can be seen by where the deer most likely are. If you feel you will spook deer come season, then time to relocate that stand.
This whole concept of security routes isn’t rocket science, we all know that in order to be more successful we need to get from point A to point B and back to point A without being detected. Especially if we want to have sustained success year after year. It sounds easy, but it does take some planning and commitment. It is really easy to get lazy and say “to the heck with that extra 800 yard walk, I am going to cut through the field this morning”. You may get lucky a few times but keep playing with fire and you will get burnt. Start looking for good security routes to your stands now and you will reap the rewards this year and the years to follow!