Hunt Your Way Back to Your Stand
Always Assume Deer are Close By and Listening to You
Always assume deer are close by and listening to you. We've all spooked deer walking to our hunting stands. It is very deflating to hear or watch a deer (especially a big buck) run away before you have even got to your stand. Sometimes it can't be avoided...but there are tactics you can use to fool deer, perhaps get a shot if it's rifle season, and increase the odds of seeing those deer who heard you walking in. That's what this article is about.
Walk Like a Deer to Your Stand
How do deer walk? They often meander and pause, then take a few steps, then stop, then go. We humans tend to walk with a steady cadence. Don't walk like a human when you are going back to your stand! Assume deer can hear you, so walk like a deer. Especially when you get close to your stand, the last 75 yards, take a few steps, then pause, wait a few seconds, take a few more steps, then wait ten seconds before entering or climbing up into your stand. So many times I have had deer come out to my stand within minutes of my getting there because they thought they heard another deer and are curious. Imitate a deer as you walk to your stand.
To Walk Quietly in the Woods: Heel First, Toes Last
Heel firs,t toes last. When trying to get back to your stand quietly, step and let your heel hit the ground first. You have better control over your body that way. You can feel a stick or branch better through your heel, before you follow with the rest of your foot, and that way don't snap the branch and scare the deer away. Heels first in the woods, then toes. This is especially helpful on a dark morning when you can't see the ground in front of you.
Take Different Routes to Your Deer Stand
Remember to imitate a deer as you walk AND, if possible, take different routes and paths to your deer stand. We want to keep the deer from patterning us by the way we walk, the paths we take, our scent, and our timing. Yes, deer do actually pattern us...so take different ways to your stand. I have walked on county roads and taken long walks in order to get to my stand by different ways.
Also try to never walk across the deer path you will be hunting if you can help it. If you have to cross a deer path try to step or even jump over the deer trail. When you get real close, say the last 30 yards, then take big long steps near your stand so deer have less opportunity to get your scent.
Clear and Rake Trails to Your Deer Stand
If you have a stand that winds back into some woods consider clearing and raking the trail to your stand. Rake up twigs, sticks, acorns, or anything that will make noise if you step on it. Raking a trail to your stand will help you get there quietly. It's also easier to follow a raked trail in the dark of morning as you go in. If possible rake a couple of different routes to your stand so you can take different routes and determine what wind direction will be best to walk in by. It does take some time, but raking your trails will give you a greater chance of being quiet and seeing deer.
Be Prepared to Shoot Walking Back to Your Stand
Now with archery this would be nigh impossible, but if you are gun hunting and it's daylight, be prepared for the possibility that you may be able to shoot a deer on your way in.
A few years ago on a November afternoon I was doing all the things in this article, and I stopped ten yards from my stand, and saw, just over some bushes, a doe 35 yards away standing alert and looking my direction. My feet were already positioned for a shot and all I had to do was raise my muzzleloader and take the shot. It sure was nice to sit in the stand that night and wait for a buck knowing I already had a doe on the ground.
So walk quietly to your stand, imitate a deer, try and stay in the shadows, and if possible ease up next to a tree when you stop on your way back to your stand. And when you come to a stop, position your feet so all you have to do is raise your gun and shoot. For me, this means coming to a stop with my left foot forward and right back, so all I have to do is raise my gun, push it into my right shoulder, take aim, and squeeze the trigger.
Use Another Person as a Decoy
Have another person walk through the woods with you back to your stand. Walk quietly but don't bother trying to hide the fact you are human. Get set quietly in your stand and then your friend walks back out of the woods. This requires a good friend. My wife has been my decoy many times. A couple of years ago we did this and I was able to shoot a deer soon after she left. Several years ago I was hunting on a large property belonging to a friend, and this friend drove me to a stand in a golf cart. He told me to be ready as soon as he left on the golf cart. Sure enough I had deer coming by within ten minutes after he drove off. Get another person to act as a decoy.