Jul 20, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
This is the time of the year we start thinking about putting out stands and blinds for the deer seasons that are a few months away. To the uninitiated, it might seem early, but we want to give those deer every opportunity to get used to those new pieces of furniture in their living rooms and bedrooms. Placed now, they will be taking them for granted by the time we’re out sitting in them … and that’s exactly what we want.
Tons of planning goes into stand placement. Maps, scouting and thought all go into it. But, too often, we focus exclusively on figuring out intercepting the deer we’re after, and getting a clear shot. That’s short-sighted. Think about it. Even in the best stand, the success will represent a single encounter. There are inevitably going to be many more days when we aren’t successful from that stand than days we are.
Most frequently, especially when hunting feeding areas (natural or planted) there are going to be deer in front of you when the day ends. The big one your after is probably in the area, but just hasn’t moved into the field with the rest. If you just clumsily climb down from the stand and bust all the deer in front of you, you’re likely going to alert the big one, too. At the least it’s going to temporarily put him off that pattern you worked so hard to figure out, and it could even mean you’ll never see him again all season. At worst, he could go off to another property or another stand and be taken by another hunter, then you have to start over.
Making successful getaways that don’t spook deer relies on preplanning to defeat scent, sight and sound.
The importance of understanding prevailing winds is common knowledge among whitetail hunters. It’s why we put up so many stands and blinds to allow options for all possible wind directions, but too often we don’t apply the same amount of thought to the Great Escape. Neglecting this element can instantly negate all of your efforts and expense to control scent, but in this case for the whole hunting season. The key is to plan multiple exit strategies from each individual stand. It does no good to have a stand that correctly plays the wind if you can’t get to it or, more importantly, exit it without pushing your scent directly to the game.
There are techno-aids to help in planning a scent-shielded escape from your stand. The smartphone app ScoutLook shows you wind conditions 24/7 at each stand location you program into it. A quick check of your phone before you leave your stand will allow you to confirm your escape plan.
Getting as far away from the field as quickly as possible while remaining hidden is key to a successful getaway. Moving down the rows of a standing cornfield is the perfect example. A trail cut through cattails or phragmites can also provide a natural plant tunnel through which to escape undetected.
Consider how you can use the existing terrain to make Great Escapes from likely stand locations around the proposed plot. Gullies, creeks with flowing water, existing logging roads and farm trails, corn fields can all be used to mask your escape from deer in the field.
It’s a common strategy to place stands back in that staging area in the effort to ambush the buck with good shooting light. These stand locations are also good early morning spots if you can get to them before the deer leave the fields in the morning. These “off the field” stands also offer advantages in making undetected escapes, because the moment you leave, you’re already hidden in sight-blocking cover. If you’ve done a good job of preplanning, you’ll have cut and cleaned out easily navigated trails to make your escape silent as well as hidden.
If the wind is in your favor and you’ve made it to sight-blocking cover you can get away with some mistakes when it comes to sound, but why risk it? The cleaner the path you can create on which to make your escape the less chance you’ll alert deer in the field by something they hear. And, frankly, the more pleasant your walk back to the truck will be.
The other precautions against alerting deer with foreign sounds during your escape are the same you take while entering and sitting in your stand – things like maintenance; silenced ladders, hinges and seats; familiarity with your equipment; keeping things organized, soft-finished clothing, and all the rest.
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