How many times have you gotten down from a tree stand only to hear a deer blowing at you sounding a snorting alarm? This sound shouldn’t just alert other nearby deer, it should alert you too. You can have the most comfortable stand on intensively managed land, but if you are startling deer every time you hunt you are setting yourself up for a letdown. Every year hunters set up tree stands with the best of intentions but unfortunately their access routes will kill any chances of hunting these stands with success repeatedly. Your entry and exit routes are the most critical, and the most overlooked, aspect of setting up your tree stands.
Of course any stands can produce great hunting with a little luck, but in order to hunt an area frequently without pressuring deer you must have a strategic entry and exit plan. If you are hunting the edge of a soybean field, ideally you wouldn’t have to cross the field on foot where you plan on seeing the deer. In other words you should be not crossing the areas where you expect the deer to show up. This also applies to hunting forested areas. If you are set up over a funnel or travel route, you shouldn’t access your stand via the deer trail. Your residual scent will come back to haunt you when a buck or a group of does are slipping down the trail. Deer live and die by their olfactory senses and your lingering scent will be a red flag to any nearby deer. In the inserted side picture, you will see a field that was planted with soybeans this past year. The deer routinely browsed around the northeast and eastern (top right and right) sides of the field and bedded in the dense forest adjacent to the field. Notice that I accessed my stand from the trail marked in white, through an area where deer didn’t usually bed. This allowed a quiet entry, regardless if it was morning or evening, without spooking the deer browsing in the field. The trail marked by red is the path of least resistance, despite being a longer walk, but it also subjects you to spooking deer. I used this trail in the past and was commonly busted by multiple deer as they spotted me exiting my stand. When using the trial marked by white I rarely notified the deer of my presence and harvested a nice buck in late December. It was a relatively simple modification that paid huge dividends in the end.
Rarely is walking in a straight line to your stand the best method. Also, your entry route may be different than your exit route. Keep in mind that deer usually have you patterned long before you have them patterned. In most cases this results in you accessing your stands in an indirect fashion. When you are setting up your stands this year take time to plan entry and exit routes. You won’t regret it and the results will surely be noticeable. Even if your stands are already erected, you can still modify how you reach your stands. When planned out properly, you will get more mileage from a stand with a thorough ingress/egress plan.