By: Heath Wood
Whenever my coworkers and I would gather around reminiscing about past hunting adventures, the oldest of our group would be lingering around in the background, listening to our stories. He was an older man who worked a few days a week, only to have something to do. Yet, he was full of knowledge on football, baseball, and my favorite, deer hunting. After hearing our stories of past hunts, he would always chime in to give his opinion and tell us how people hunted in his earlier years. After the gentleman took me to his house one day to show off his trophy wall, I decided I should probably pay attention to his strategies, judging from the quality of deer displayed on his walls.
Out of ten plus years working with this gentleman before he sadly passed away, one of the best pieces of deer hunting advice that he shared was how he approached his stands in the mornings and left them when the hunt was over. It was unique in the way that he was sitting in his stand, ready to go, two hours before first light. His dedication and attention to detail paid off for him by harvesting multiple mature bucks in his lifetime.
One of the biggest mistakes made by hunters is pressuring deer away from their area hunting. When trying to harvest a mature buck, whether with a bow or rifle, the more painstaking effort one puts out, the more likely they will succeed. Three things can cause pressure. The deer see, smell, or hear something they do not like, alarming them enough to spook out away from the hunter. The older gentlemen that I had the privilege to work with spoke of stand approach often. He explained that he would sneak his way into his treestand two to three hours before daylight so that he didn’t push away any deer. He still had time for the woods to calm back down before legal shooting light when he performed this maneuver.
Approaching Your Stand
Approaching the stand correctly is vital to keep mature bucks in the area where you are hunting. Having an entrance and exit route that is the shortest distance isn’t always the most important. Instead, one must approach the stand with the wind direction in the face to prevent human scent from drifting into the area where deer will be approaching when hunting. Other factors for the proper entrance route are walking on a quieter surface, such as a road, creek bed, or bare dirt. The more the hunter can walk without being heard, the less likely deer will be alarmed, causing them to flee the area. When walking to my stand in the morning, I allow myself time to get there quietly. One factor in helping to go to the stand is knowing where to travel in the dark. I do not want to make unnecessary steps or noise because I don’t know exactly where I am going. I use the Muddy Outdoors Remote Beacon Illuminator to steer me in the right direction to prevent getting off course. The Remote Beacon Illuminator is a multidirectional green LED light that attaches to the treestand. With the aid of a compact remote, the hunter can signal a flashing light from up to three hundred yards to help locate their stand early in the morning.
In the ideal condition, I prefer my stand approach to come in on the backside. I try not to cross or walk in the areas where deer will be approaching my stand area when I am hunting. I attempt to keep the wind in my face and stay hidden from any deer in the area. Using the terrain and structure such as trees or brush helps to keep the hunter concealed and from being silhouetted by deer in the distance.
Planning Leads to Success
Planning out an entrance and exit route must start when hanging stands before the season. After scouting has been done and a stand sight has been selected, think about how you will enter and exit before hanging the stand.
A month before my home state of Missouri’s opening day of last year’s firearms season, I hung a Muddy Odyssey XTL ladder stand near the edge of a narrow pinch point that separated two large stands of timber. I found a grown-up fence row that led within a few feet of the tree where my stand was hung to make the set better. When the opening morning of the Missouri firearms began, I eased my way down the fence row to stay hidden and climbed into my stand approximately an hour before the first shooting light. When the light started to build across the open field, I caught a glimpse of a nice ten-pointer who was cruising across the open area in search of a hot doe. After a quick minute of watching the buck through my scope, I was able to squeeze the trigger and make a successful shot at a mere fifty yards. Within the first few minutes of legal hunting light, I had a mature southern Missouri whitetail buck on the ground.
Just as my late veteran co-worker had always told me, this was accomplished by easing to my stand quietly an hour before hunting.
Manage Your Scent
After a stand approach has been planned, stands are in place, and it is time to hunt. There is one last measure to take to ensure a smooth entrance. That step is to remain as scent-free as possible. As mentioned earlier, the approach must always be with the wind in the face when walking. However, as a bit of insurance, it is necessary to use scent elimination products as well. I wear carbon-based clothing that absorbs and prevents odors in conjunction with Scent A Way Laundry Detergent. After dressing in the field, I spray down my complete body, feet, and hunting gear with Scent A Way odorless spray. By spraying down last, I am confident I will not leave any odors along the path to my stand that could spook deer.
By paying attention to details such as where to hang stands, wind direction, subtleness, and scent control, you will have assembled the perfect combination to a practical stand approach. When all these factors are considered, deer feel less pressure, keeping them on their natural travel routes, making them easier to pattern when hunting.