Two of the most asked questions I get besides what food plot seed should I plant, actually both get the same answer out of me.
What is the thing or trait you feel most consistent mature buck killers do or have in common?
What is the biggest mistake you think folks make in their hunting?
The answer in my opinion to both: entrance and exit trails.
Just the other week I had three separate conversations with folks that emailed or messaged me trying to figure out why they simply weren’t having the success even in seeing the deer they wish they could. The odd thing was as I began questioning them about their properties it became clear the most likely issue which is the case nearly every time, lack of proper early successional habitat, wasn’t the issue.
However, it was in those moments I instantly began discussing entrance and exit routes. Stressing to them I didn’t want them to think about their stand locations with certain winds, but what their entrance or exit routes to those stands were doing to their properties and relaying to the deer they pursued.
You see, to be honest you could have the greatest habitat imaginable and destroy your hunting odds with poorly designed and used entrance and exit trails. Every single time you enter your property it is a fact that you are leaving behind signs of your presence; the ground scent from your steps, the twigs your arm brushed up against and as always the air scent you are dispersing the entire time.
Are you paying attention to this, especially from September onward?
We all know to pay attention to the wind for stand selections…and many of us practice great scent regiments, but where more hunters fail than I care to guess is not being cognizant of the impact their entrance/exit trails are doing to the deer.
From a personal example, there is a tree stand I hung the very first year I took ownership of my land. It is an incredible location overlooking a transitional soft edge/staging area between bedding and food with a secondary bedding location to its west. To top it off the preferred travel crossing onto my property from the creek bottom bedding off my property is 40 yards south of this stand location. Incredible spot really, too bad I’ll never hunt it. Why? There is not a single good entrance and exit to that stand.
Many would say just slip in 2 even 3 hours before light and plan an all-day sit. However, why would I want to educate by leaving any ground scent and air dispersal the entire way to this spot, as no short access or low deer impact approach exists? Why would I want to potentially educate deer with my exit that night, situated that close to the bedding area in a prime spot on my property?
You see my entrance and exit trails play almost an even bigger role in my hunting approach than stand selection does. If I cannot access the stand without educating the deer I’m just not going to do it, especially on high buck quality properties. Many of my favorite stand locations have extremely short thought out entrances OR are insanely out of the way and double or triple the “easiest” route to the stand but are the smarter ways to access.
All of this said because the story we leave for deer to read and decipher every time we access the property whether in or out of hunting season is something we must be cognizant of. Deer, especially does and most in the off season will tolerate our planned intrusions…but if we desire to create the crucial aspect for success that is security, we MUST be willing to go the extra mile and possibly say no to hunting some of our best spots at times.