What is tree stand access?
The simplest answer is the path that you as a hunter takes to get to and from your tree stand or hunting blind. Most hunters decide that taking the old logging road as close as they can and then making a straight B line for the tree stand is the best option. Sometimes it is, but most often the best entrance and exit routes will take some planning and preparation to be successful. The idea of tree stand access is something that hunters are just starting to really think about now that the focus is becoming more and more towards mature bucks. Unfortunately, it’s not like the old days where you saw grandpa killing a really nice mature deer while smoking his cigar wearing blue jeans. In this day in age we have had to adapt in order to continue to fool mature whitetails.
Is there a wrong way?
Many hunters don’t take their entry and exits routes in to consideration when they are choosing their next tree stand location. Unfortunately, this can end up ruining your hunt before it even begins. I will demonstrate with the map below of a newly added kill plot. The Kubota trail that is marked on the map is simply where I was going back and forth with supplies as I formed the plot. However, this would be the access that the average hunter would take to the stand because it’s simple and straight to the stand. There are a couple problems with using this as an entry to the tree stand. First off, the trail has not been cleared. Because of that, any hunter choosing to head in this way will be crunching leaves and breaking sticks all the way to the plot from the very first step in to the woods. The second problem is that when using the Kubota trail, the hunter is not taking advantage of the terrain and will be easily visible to the deer as they approach the plot. Clearly, with this stand there absolutely IS a wrong way to enter. One thing that the Kubota trail entry will have going for it (though it’s completely on accident) is that we are entering the stand from down wind, and expecting the deer to come from upwind of the stand. However, because of the location of this stand we are able to hunt the stand with almost any wind.
In this instance, there is a clear correct entry path to the stand. What you can’t quite see in the map above is a wet weather creek right there. Even though the creek rarely has any water in it, the wash out from hard rains has created a deep depression. I was able to rake a path straight from the entrance to the woods to the creek. Once entering the creek, I am no longer visible to anything in the woods. So long as I am able to step lightly along the rocks, I will be able to follow a silent path all the way to the base of my tree. When picking the actual tree, I first thought about how I was going to enter the stand. Since the creek was the obvious choice for best entry, I purposely chose a tree that was right on the creek bank. Having the tree right along the bank allows me to be invisible in the woods from the time I enter the creek all the way to the base of the stand. Another great perk is that I can slowly come around the bend in the creek to make sure the kill plot is empty before entering the tree. If there is a deer there, I made sure that I would be able to get a shot at it while still being somewhat hidden.
When it comes to the entry and exit routes to your tree stand, it’s definitely worth the effort to make a plan. With the above example, I was able to take an area that was previously very hard to hunt and make it work. I also have a plan to make that short walk to the creek a little more hidden as well, which will in turn increase the productivity of the area. With this stand location, the only thing that could be worse than using the Kubota trail is using the Kubota trail on a Northeast wind. Doing so would basically blow every deer out of the thicket in the opposite direction of the stand as well as our property. If you are trying to determine whether or not your tree stand entry and exit routes are hurting or helping you, the first thing to look at is the wind direction. nothing is more important than that. The second most important part is noise. If you have the ability to create a silent walk in by raking the trail, do it. If you have a walk that is a half mile long or more, you may choose to not rake the entire trail. I recommend you at least rake the last 100 – 200 yards. Remember, there isn’t much walking in the woods that is breaking twigs on almost every step. And anything that is making that much noise is a predator. The least important of the tips highlighted in this article is visibility. Some people just don’t have the ability to walk completely out of sight but I would urge you to try and figure out a way to do just that. If you are hunting in an area that has a lot of tractor or ATV traffic, then try and get someone to drop you off and pick you up from the tree stand. With the traffic being frequent, the deer will be far more likely to sit still and wait the vehicle to pass and then resume what they were doing. Conversely, walking in on that same trail could result in blowing deer out of the area because the noise of your feet is an unfamiliar and predatory sound in the woods. Hopefully this fall, one or more of you will take these tree stand access tips and apply them. It just might be the difference between taking a fawn or that nice big mature buck you caught on your trail camera all summer long.