A mature whitetail buck is in a class of its own and if you expect to consistently slip an arrow through his chest, your game plan must be as sharp as his keen nose. Although there are many aspects to a successful whitetail game plan, one of the most critical is getting in and out of your treestand without letting him know that you are even in the woods. Once he knows that he is being hunted, he turns into a completely different adversary, making him much more difficult to kill. Going to and from a treestand when hunting whitetail can be difficult. Following the rules below will help you have a more successful hunt.
Rule Number 1: If you can’t get to and from your stand when hunting whitetail without spooking them in the process, then it’s really not worth hunting in the first place. One of the biggest mistakes I made as a rookie bowhunter nearly two decades ago was choosing the treestand location itself before my approach to and from it planned out in detail. At the time, I thought I was doing everything right when I climbed into the tree and settled in for the hunt; I had the wind right, I was well-hidden, I kept my movements to a minimum, and I even had a human scent management system that was second to none. However, after several hunts and fewer and fewer deer sighted each time, I soon realized that my approach to and from the stand was spooking far more deer than I had come into range.
With the use of aerial photos and mapping, study travel routes to and from possible stand locations before you even consider hanging a stand. If there is no fool proof way to access or exit it without being detected, move on to the next one. Creeks, ditches, and thick ribbons of cover are excellent terrain features to look for when determining your best travel plans. Not only do these features hide your approach well, but just as important, they also give you an optimal exit plan when it’s time to call it a day.
Keep in mind also that using ditches and creeks as your travel route may require some preseason preparation. Often times these areas are prone to heavy lay-downs, log jams, and thick brush that will need to be removed before the season begins. Not only will this keep unwanted noise to a minimum, but it will also provide a safe way to get to and from your stand in the dark. It’s also a good idea to clean a path directly to your stand whenever possible. Dried leaves and sticks on the ground seem to echo through the woods in those quiet early morning hours, and limbs rubbing against your clothing can also give you away. Take a little extra time to trim limbs and rake a path when possible. Remember, consistent success with mature whitetail bucks requires being unseen, unheard, and ultimately unnoticed.
Rule Number 2: The wind is just as important to consider as you approach your stand as it is when you are bowhunting from it. For example, if your planned travel route blows your scent into a known bedding or feeding area as you travel through the woods, especially if you are close to your stand location, you’ve increased your human scent footprint. This may be okay once, maybe even twice, but once a mature buck smells your presence consistently, he will alter his travel plans and habits and potentially avoid the area.
Rule Number 3: Develop a human scent management system that is not only effective in your treestand, but also as you walk to and from your stand. I don’t think you can ever be completely scent-free, but you can minimize it significantly, which will ultimately enhance your abilities to approach and exit your stand locations more effectively. Regardless of how hidden your travel routes are, eventually a sharp-nosed buck is going to cross your scent trail. Take advantage of scent eliminating sprays, soaps, and scent absorbing clothing and boots, and keep your boots and clothing stored in scent-free containers. Even take the extra effort to don and doff your clothing when you arrive at the property you’re hunting instead of wearing it in the truck. This may seem overly cautious, but it will go a long way in keeping your scent footprint as small as possible when you are hunting.
Rule Number 4: Lastly, be mindful of the creaks and groans your treestand and climbing sticks make when using them; they could alert a leery whitetail to your presence. These are odd sounds to whitetails and they always seem to echo louder during those cold early morning hours when you’re trying to be extremely quiet. Grease hinges and other connection points when setting stands up, and if it’s ultra cold, consider hanging your stand when you arrive in the morning if you have a quick attach system already in place. A cold stand always makes more noise than one that hasn’t been hung in colder temperatures for an extended period of time.
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