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How To Leave Your Treestand Without Spooking Deer

How To Leave Your Treestand Without Spooking Deer

The number one strategy for hunting deer during the month of October revolves around food sources. It could be the back corner of a hayfield, a food plot or even a grove of oak trees dropping acorns. If you find the food, you find the deer — especially right now.

Finding them is easy enough, but hunting them in these sensitiveareas is another matter altogether. It is tough to hunt near feeding areas without quickly alerting most of the deer that they are being hunted. The hardest part of the hunt is getting away at the end of legal shooting time without spooking any deer. Getting out cleanly is a true art form.

The Big Spook

Obviously, educating a buck you’d like to shoot is a big mistake, but it may be tempting to just climb down and spook the deer if they are just does. It would seem harmless enough, but it’s not.

Suppose you spook a doe as you climb down. She will identify that tree with danger. She’ll be wary every time she comes into that area for several days, and that body language will quickly spread to the other deer.

Soon, your corner of the big field will be the source of daily snorting and hoof stomping. Those old does are relentless in their quest to find and announce any sign of danger. They will come looking for you. I have seen it happen several times — and it is maddeningly hard to fix, short of killing the doe.

Spook them even once, and you may have to deal with the consequences for an entire season. To keep your stand sites productive, you need to be able to get out cleanly. In this column, I am going to look at the options and hopefully come up with some creative solutions.

Do It Quick

When the end of legal shooting time arrives, get down and get out of the woods immediately. Some guys like to hang around to see what comes past or they take their time packing up their gear. Nothing is gained by waiting on stand one minute past the end of legal shooting time. As long as the coast is clear, get out and get out fast. By dilly-dallying at this point, you onlyincrease the odds of getting trapped and doing long-term damage to your stand location.

Shoot Your Way Out

When we had a ton of deer on the farm, this was my preferred exit strategy. I always had doe tags in my pocket and I needed to shoot a lot of them to bring the population into check. With so many deer, there was almost always at least one doe within bow range at the end of legal shooting time.

I would just shoot that doe and she would run off, taking the other deer with her. Surprisingly, this did less long-term damage to the deer movement around those stands than would have occurred had I climbed down and tried to sneak out. Even coming back an hour later with the four-wheeler or truck did little to keep the deer from coming back within the next day or two. In areas with lots of deer, and liberal doeseasons, this is a realistic option.

Wait Them Out

Waiting is one option. Just keep in mind that in some states you have to case your bow or padlock the cam or string to render it temporarily unusable at the end of legal shooting time. I know guys who will wait more than an hour for nearby deer to drift off before sneaking away. This is a good strategy when hunting in places deer only pass through, but a poor one when hunting where deer are likely to linger for hours.

Arrange A Distraction

The very best way to get away cleanly when hunting a larger feeding area (bigger than about an acre in size) is to have someone drive up to the field at the end of legal shooting time and bump the deer off. It works really well. I have done this often and have come back to hunt the same field the next evening only to have the same deer come out at the same times. They don’t seem to even consider this a threat.

Spook Them Naturally

I know guys who use coyote howlers to spook the deer off. I am sure the deer will run, but they will associate the scare with your blind or stand. This is better than climbing down and spooking them that way, but it still leaves a lasting impression in the minds of at least some of the deer that your stand or blind is worth keeping an eye on. I don’t want that.

I once saw a rabbit clear the field I was hunting. It was in the grass along the edge and when a doe came up to it, unexpectedly, the rabbit ran out into the plot, startling the deer. The deer ran and took all the others with it. This gave me an idea that I have not tested yet because I am not sure it is legal.

The idea is to put a remote-control monster truck in the weeds 40 yards from the stand. At the end of legal shooting time I would run it out into the field and chase the deer off before driving it over to the stand or blind so I can carry it home. That sounds like a lot of fun to me, but, like I said, I am not sure it is legal. If it is (check with your game warden specifically), that would be a very creative and effective way to duplicate the same affect the rabbit had when it bolted from the weeds.

A Better Way Out

You can sometimes set up a stand near a creek bank or a ditch or other obstacle that you can immediately slip into or behind. I have hunted several spots like this. In most cases, the blind or stand is right on the bank of a creek. If I can get to the ground without being seen or heard, I can get out cleanly. This works well, actually, but you have to have the right topography features near feeding areas to make it work.

I have also placed stands and blinds in brushy fence lines and then used the cover of the fence line to hide me from deer as I sneaked out. Sometimes nature will give you these screens, but sometimes you have to create them. I have planted cedar trees in a few places to help keep me hidden, and I have used standing cornfields as escape routes in other situations. That works surprisingly well too.

Use A Slingshot

I once had a stand right on the edge of a bedding area that I hunted often. Getting out at the end of morning hunts was always a problem. I finally started carrying a small slingshot and some round rocks in my fanny pack. I would shoot the closest deer with the slingshot when it was time to climb down. It would run off and the others would go too, not knowing for sure why they were running. I remember shooting the same small buck four mornings in a row one year. He never figured it out, always coming back to the same bed each morning!

Potentially, this would work on the edge of a feeding area too, but I don’t think it would work as well as it did in the bedding areas. Deer seem much less likely to run from things when the light is low (as it is at the end of legal shooting time). I could see them running just a few yards and then standing there for an hour trying to figure out what happened. You don’t need that.

Getting out cleanly is, without a doubt, the biggest challenge we face when hunting feeding areas during the early season. Spend twice as much time trying to figure out a clean exit strategy as you do deciding where to put your stand and you will have a much more productive October.

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