Gaining undisturbed access to your treestand isn’t easy. Sometimes you have no option. The land you’re privileged to hunt just doesn’t have a ton of sanctuary cover. You’re just stuck hunting fields primarily.
Then again, maybe your deer hunting land does have some pockets of timber, but the issue is that you must navigate passing through fields to get to your treestand. And, that’s where a lot of us live: the risk is forever in literally getting to your stand undetected.
I began deer hunting in that very context. I had permission to hunt a few farms, and I swear it seemed every one of them had timber on the back half of property, and my biggest challenge was always treestand access. To get to my stand, I had to walk field edges in the dark.
It didn’t take long to realize that I was never, and I mean never, able to get to my tree without bumping at least one deer in the dark. And, of course, there would be 4 to 5 snorts to go along with it, leaving me to feel deflated before the sun ever breached the horizon. It was as if I had this unstoppable pre-dawn ritual where I’d bump a deer along the way, and it would bounce off snorting for the next 200 yards, seemingly announcing to whitetails within a 45 mile radius “Hey, gang, he’s back. He’s here. Heads up everybody!”
Then one day when I had a small, but life changing idea about approaching my stand. I have used it ever since, and it has won me more filled tags than I care to remember.
So here was my thought process about navigating fields . . .
Remember that I wasn’t bow hunting. I have some bow hunting roots, but I have forever been a gun hunter. Which meant that what I needed most was to see the deer before it saw me. That’s when my mentality changed 180 degrees.
And that meant that if I would wait until I could see 100 yards before leaving the truck, then I could see what was in these fields and get a visual. At least I had more of a chance of pulling the trigger than walking in the dark where there was no hope for a shot whatsoever.
I still remember the first morning I put this new worldview to the test. Yes, I didn’t have treestand access until 60 full minutes after sunrise, but guess what? No deer ever knew I was there. And that, friend, was a huge victory.
On that first morning there were some hay bales at the mouth of an access easement leading into the first of two fields between me and my stand. So, in the dark I made my way down to the hay bales and waited for the light to come. I saw a few does on the field edge feeding their way to a bedding area as they slowly walked away unaware of my presence.
I pushed quickly down the fence row and made to my next vantage point: a small field of about 10 acres. No deer present. Fine by me. I kept walking.
I knew that about 200 yards up from that was another field edge that was worth glassing on my way in, at the end of a roadbed just before the timber block started where my stand was located. I saw one small buck and a few does, but they never saw me.
That was 7 deer that were in fields in the pre-dawn light that normally would have heard me walking to my stand or surely been alerted to my presence, yet this time, it was the other way around. I saw them first.
The Bottom Line On Treestand Access . . .
Bill Winke of MidWest Whitetail once said, “I’d rather hunt a decent set up with bullet proof access than hunt a treestand that risks blowing out deer when I’m moving in or out.” And that’s why no hunter is better at consistently killing huge bucks every year than Bill Winke. He is calculated and disciplined. And he refuses to blow a hunt before he even gets to the tree.
The facts are, you have to decide.
There are no free lunches in life. Or, as the old cliché states, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” Something must give, and you must choose.
I knew that there would be the possibility of missing a cruising buck at my treestand if I were not there at daylight. Yet, for every one of those opportunities, I knew I was missing dozens of deer that were only being spooked by my pre-dawn entrances.
Again, I was gun hunting. All I needed was a small advantage, and that advantage came with waiting until I could see them before they could see me.
Once gun season rolls around, try it. I’m telling you, the number of encounters you have with bucks, and the numbers of filled tags you punch will likely increase quickly. It did for me.