with Dr. Mark Timney
Stealthy Stand Entries & Exits
The more you hunt a particular stand in a single season the worse your chances of taking a deer from it. In fact, many expert bowhunters believe that tree stands and ground blinds can easily be "burnt out" in just a few hunts. The truth is deer are far better able to pattern us than we are them. I believe this is often so because we're careless when traveling to and from our stands. Do a better job of getting to and from your stand undetected and it's likely to stay fresher longer.
Masking movement to and from a stand site isn't usually difficult. Keep the following in mind and you'll "practically" up the odds in your favor this fall. Scouting is Critical
You must have a good idea of how the deer in your hunting area go about their day to be consistently successful at slipping in and out of a particular stand undetected. If you don't, you'll soon stumble into deer and worsen your chances at tagging out.
You should have most of the information you need from pre-season scouting. If not, carefully scout a little more to find out the local herd's behavior patterns. In particular, you'll need to know where the regular bedding and feeding areas are, as well as the location of the travel corridors that link these areas. Once you have this info it will be much easier to plan your route. Always travel so the wind blows your scent away from where the deer are. Some stands may require that you have significantly different entry and exits routes because of deer movement at different times of the day.
Never Walk on a Deer Trail & Cross as Few as Possible.
Don't depend upon rubber-bottom boots to hide your `ground scent.' While rubber boots can help, they often fail to fool a deer's sensitive nose. And even knee-high boots do little to prevent other parts of your clothing from rubbing up against brush or vegetation and. leaving scent behind.
Also, it helps to wear a Scent-Lok suit and use odor eliminating sprays/soaps (like the cover D-Scent Odor Elimination System mentioned in my last column) while traveling your route. You want to be "invisible" the whole time you're afield, not just while you're in a stand.
Go With the Flow of the Terrain
Sometimes it's possible to use topography to hide your entry and exit. Look for natural and manmade terrain features that can help you get where you need to go unobserved. This can mean a longer and/or more difficult walk, but the extra effort is worthwhile.
Drainage ditches, ones that allow you to walk below the skyline, are great for sneaking through fields and other open areas. Steep hillsides and ravines can also hide your movement. "Topo" maps are a great way to locate hidden entry/exit routes.
Prune Your Route
Being quiet while getting to or from a stand can be nearly impossible if you have to plow through heavy brush or dense vegetation. Wearing quiet clothing, like fleece or wool, can help, but pruning your travel route is a good idea too. This not only reduces noise, but also limits the amount of scent you leave behind because you won't be rubbing up against brush.
It's a good idea to prune in advance of the season, ideally when you hang your stand. This gives the deer plenty of time to forget your invasion of their area they happen to discover it.
Stalk Your Stand
You'll unlikely to take a deer if the local herd begins to associate the area around your stand with human presence. It's critical that you escape detection at any time you're in your hunting area.
Think of the 200 yard area around your stand as a mine field.... one you have to sneak through at all costs. Remember, one false move at this point and your hunting site is pretty- much dead.
Also, during early morning entries and late night exits it's probably not a good idea to use a flashlight close to the stand. It seems to me that this is a sure way to tip deer off to your presence. Use some judgement here, however. There's no sense in falling and getting hurt, or in being mistaken for a animal by an idiot who'll shoot at a shadow.
Cover Up Entry/Exit Sounds
Sneaking into a stand can be difficult, especially in the dark when there are a lot of dry leaves on the ground. One way to fool nearby ears is to break up the cadence of your walk. Try to sound like a four-legged creature wandering through the area, rather than a two-legged one.
I also employ game calls to fool deer when I can't keep things quiet. A few yelps from a turkey call makes it sound like a couple of hens are causing all the ruckus. If I'm caught by a deer and it snorts at me, I immediately grunt or bleat back. (See my past columns on deer calling to hear these sounds.) This often calms the deer enough that it won't snort any more.
If you've alarmed a particularly suspicious doe you know the type: one that snorts at you every 50 yards or so as it slowly moves away try snorting back. Make sure you answer with a "Question Snort," not a "Danger Snort." The two sounds are similar, but mean different things.
Don't worry! You probably won't frighten deer away by using a "question snort." At the very least, you won't be any worse off than you were before. Here are examples of the two:
DANGER SNORT HERE : danger.wav This short, sharp blast of air is given as a warning to other deer that there is danger present. QUESTION SNORT HERE: question.wav This slightly longer blast of air, which rises in pitch in the middle, sounds a note of "caution," rather than one of immediate danger. It can often be used to silence another deer's snorts without worry of scaring other deer away.
If you find that it's impossible to get to a particular stand without being detected, then it's probably time to scrap that site completely. It may be located in the most perfect place in the world, but it's a worthless stand if you've alerted every nearby deer in the area while getting to it.
And remember, no matter how good you get at stealthy entries and exits you'll still "burn out" stands. The necessity of having to move around on the ground almost always makes it inevitable that the local deer will catch on to you. If you're lucky though, they may not get wise to you until you've filled your freezer.