Public Land Access Routes
Often overlooked, how you access your stand is potentially the most crucial aspect of your hunt. Without you even realizing it, improper access can ruin your hunt before it even gets started.
Pre-scouting an area can go a long way in determining proper access, but sticking to some basic tips can help stack the odds of the hunt in your favor when that option isn't available.
Taking into consideration just how different every scenario is, I feel it is best to stick to the basics of how to improve your access this hunting season. The first thing I always ask myself on my way into the woods is what role the thermals have in my entrance. Thermals themselves can be a topic that is covered all on their own, but for the purpose of this article, they can be summed up as the rising and falling of air currents in a certain area.
Generally speaking, thermals will move with the sun, rising in the morning, and setting in the evening. The way I correlate thermals to access is by trying to use them in combination with the wind to pull or push my air scent away from where I believe the deer are and where I anticipate them to come from.
Next, I look for any visual cover that can aid my entry. Common things that I tend to look for are elevation changes across the landscape and thick walls of cover in areas of the woods with a higher stem count. Anything that will stop the deer from being keyed in on my location is an added bonus.
Human Travel and Deer Travel
Established human travel routes such as trails into the timber from the parking lot and horse/hiking trails are creative ways I use to enter the woods trying to fool the deer. Generally, when hunting public land, you come across beaten down paths in the woods of past hunters who are accessing the same spots again and again.
These types of trails, paired with established horse/hiking trails are all things the deer that live in the area have adjusted to, and aren’t surprised when they see human traffic on these trails. I use this to my advantage for either quicker access to a setup deep in the timber, or to create a loop into my set-up until I can have the thermal and visual advantage that I need.
On top of keeping tabs on my air scent, I also try to make sure my ground scent isn’t going to blow any deer out of the area I am hunting. The best way I can do this is by avoiding deer travel routes at all costs. Sometimes it’s not possible to do this, but whenever I can, I try to avoid walking in areas I anticipate the deer to come from. This keeps the area in front of me fresh from any human scent and allows the deer to use the area more comfortably.
Working With the Land
Last, but certainly not least, is using compounding land features to tie everything together and create bulletproof access. One of my favorite features I seek out in the areas I hunt is creeks and drainage systems that work their way down in elevation. These work best when entering the woods later in the day when the thermals have begun to pull down.
I like to use these because they seem to hold very little deer movement, they pull my air scent away from where I am hunting, and they provide a good visual block from any deer that is up on the ridge system.
Just like anything else with hunting, you can continue to go down the rabbit hole on access routes as far as you would like to go. In my opinion and with the experience I’ve had bow hunting on public land the last few years, the more critical thinking done while in the woods, the more often you are going to put yourself in a situation to take the buck of a lifetime.