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Entering stands at grey light?
All of my life, I have been in my stand and settled in 30 minutes or more before legal light. I'm hunting a new spot that has a ag fields around it that I use to access my stands. Last year, I walked in really early and bumped a few deer off the field as I was walking into my stands. This year, I'm thinking about waiting until I can see if the field is clear of deer before walking across it. I know I will be 30-60 minutes late to my stand but I hopefully won't be blowing deer off the open fields.
My question is, is it better to bump deer in the dark and get in a stand or wait until the field is clear and miss some time in the timber at daybreak?
I hunt more open country but learned a number of years ago that it's better to stalk my setups when I can see something rather than blindly blowing it up. Can't remember all the times I've aborted my planned blind/stand where if I had gone in in the dark, I may have wrecked it. But so much depends on where you're hunting, wind direction, where they are feeding, etc.. that there is no "One size fits all".
Just watched a Bill Winke vid where he talks about entrance/exit issues. Wound up sleeping in a bivy sack at the base of his tree to kill a stud last year. So that’s an option I guess! :)
Some night vision or good light gathering binoculars might help?
It’s an age old dilemma but it’s better not to repeatedly spook deer vs spooking (captain obvious).
I have been getting into the stand a full hour and a half before legal shooting light. Even this early, I have deer moving around before light - if I arrived later, I would spook these animals. A week of super early mornings can be tough but the payoff - no spooked deer and a possible good buck - is worth it.
Been going in during light for a long time. Burned out many stands walking in the dark. Repeatedly bumping deer = not good for daylight sightings in the future.
Agree with Lou. A lot of my stands are in locations where deer can be anywhere along the way to my stand. I prefer to sneak in when I can see to avoid blowing any deer out. I absolutely hate hearing snorts in the dark that alarm every deer in the area.
An interesting topic. I don't mind if I bump deer going to the stand in the dark. On the other end.....I do not like getting caught in my stand on the evening hunt and can't depart without giving up my stand in the tree. I figure once the deer know where to look for your stand...the gig is up. So.....on the evening hunts, I will sneak out early if there are no deer around to bust me climbing out of the stand. I've been doing that for a few years and it seems to work as far as the deer not being able to figure out where you're at.
I've bumped deer in wooded areas and they have been killed my me as they wander back looking for me. You might leave the living room because your wife farts, but you'll be back.
JL, Bark and howl before you climb down and they will remain curious about that location.
GG and Lou x2 rather shoot on way in than blow out deer
I learned my lesson when I bumped a 200" class, 34" typical muley in the dark one morning. I had been watching him for several days and he was watering around 8 am enroute to bedding. I had a great downwind ground blind that would give me a 20 yard shot. Was just waiting for the right wind to go in for the ambush. Never saw him again.
IMO, you can get away with bumping does and young bucks, especially whitetails, but older mature bucks are most often a "one and done" deal.
I will often walk through our crop fields at first light to access stands. I spook way less deer this way, and at times I have no other options for getting in other than walking through the fields. Planning on using an ebike this year to see if that helps any too.
I once bumped a buck that was at my stand when I arrived at grey light. An hour later I rattled him and shot him.
As JL said I hate getting busted getting out of a tree. Like him if nothing is around the last few minutes of light I will climb down.
My theory is deer generally know where my tree stands are the first night after I set them from the scent I leave behind. But that doesn’t necessarily prevent them from coming back, because I think they can tell the difference between scent that’s a few hours old versus scent that presents an immediate danger.
On the other hand, if you blow deer in the dark, they know you’re in the area and they may not return for a day, or so. Blow them twice and they may avoid the area for the rest of the season.
My morning hunts became far more successful when I began stalking my stands at first light instead of blundering in under darkness and blowing the area out.
A lot of variables involved that’s for sure. Where you hunt, what time of year… (early, rut, late), where the deer feed primarily, travel routes, and your entrance are all variables. Also, how much you have hunted certain stands. If you’ve hunted them a lot, the deer know you are there.
Where I hunt, it’s big woods with creeks. For me, I hunt in SE Oklahoma, most of the available food is low browse, acorns, and grasses. That said, to get to some of my deeper sets, I like getting in early and letting the woods settle down. Also, I don’t hunt my deeper sets until the first couple weeks of November. Last season, I did a hang and hunt into the deepest region of our property which resulted in arrowing a 6.5 year old 8 point that showed up at 1:45 PM. I was at the tree I wanted to be in at “grey light”.
I think in certain regions, like you have described, getting in at grey light might be a better avenue.
Roger Rothar never used a flash light. He always snuck in Grey light. Yeah he killed a few.bucks.
GG and Lou x2 rather shoot on way in than blow out deer
When I was hunting deer on the wife's family farm in Michigan, I didn't have issues bumping deer going to my sit spot in the morning. I many times bumped deer on the way back to the house after dark.
We see most of our deer the first hour of legal shooting time. We do bump deer occasionally on the way in with a bright moon but i feel we'd bump more deer walking in at day break.
Just throwing it out there, but it sounds like both the entry and exit need some work/rethinking (if possible) if you're bumping deer coming and going with any regularity. I'd also have to ask when I do cross those areas in the AM, is it affecting the deer I plan on hunting?
In Michigan I am rarely more than a few hundred yards from other bowhunters. I would rather be in early! Areas where you are the only hunter on non pressured deer you can get away with walking in late. I almost never use a light to access my stands either. But I have been hunting the same family farm for 45 years.
I like going in about 30 to 40 minutes before shooting light going in with a green penlight. I especially like doing this when hunting a cornfield. Even when I hunt the big woods I still like to go early. Just yesterday I pushed about three does off a white oak where my stand was hung. I dont think they had a clue what I was because they came back thirty minutes later. In 2 more weeks these does that came back will bring a rutting buck to the same spot if my acorn supply holds out. The other way may work fine but I am a creature of habit I guess.
Personally I like walking in when I can just see the ground UNLESS I’m walking a path most of the way where I don’t need a light. I’ve had too many times bumbling in the dark breaking branches, getting turned around finding the stand. I find it more beneficial to have a quiet easy walk to the stand not to mention who here had a difficult spot in thick areas and by the time you found your stand you were sweating like crazy?
Spike, you make a good point. That is exactly why I don’t hunt my good stands until it gets cold and it’s the middle of the rut. If I tried today, I’d be a sweaty mess when I got to my stand. I also have used cat eyes when I’m navigating through thicker vegetation. This allows me to not get turned around or have to wave my light around. A lot of good points above.
Something I do...most all of the trails to my stands have cat eyes. I won't use a headlamp going to the stand. I hold a small dollar store light cupped in my hand such that it blocks most of the light. I'll let just enough light seep thru to see a cat eye when/if I need to. Cupping the light prevents the glare from going out to the side and focuses the light beam where I want it. In the late bow season, I don't use lights as I just follow my trail in the snow.
IMO....getting picked off getting out of your stand or blind is usually preventable. It took me a lot of years to learn it's better to sneak out early and protect the stand location. Old does and bucks are just too cagey.....and it seems like they don't forget.
Cat eyes are great Rick. Love em
It amazes me when hunters say it’s okay to walk across an ag field in the dark because deer can’t see you or don’t recognize what you are. WTF a buck can see a barb fence in pitch black dark.The entrance and exit plus the right wind is the key to being successful on mature bucks,along with being where they live.
Get yourself a thermal monocular.... end of problem. I use them for coyote hunting and since I have one I use it during archery season for entering and exiting my stands. I used to bump deer, not anymore. You can find a good used thermal in the $500 price range.
I always wait till pink light to get to my stand. I'd rather "bump " a deer with a visual then be on stand in the dark and have deer blowing I can't see
A deer that hears footsteps or sees a little movement in the dark is one thing. If they smell you that’s another story. With the number of hunters in Michigan I’m not walking in or out when it’s dark without a light.
I don’t like bumping deer but it’s nearly impossible not to do it. My woods is surrounded by large open ag fields and there are inevitably deer somewhere. I walk in usually 30 minutes before daylight and almost never use a flashlight. Going in in daylight would be a cardinal sin against the way I was taught, but maybe I should reconsider. I’ve thought about getting an e bike. Sure wish I could be air dropped in;)
Rocky D- your last statement is my weakness. I love hearing everything waking up or going to bed. I like pinpointing stars and planets and being amazed at how fast they cross the sky. Shooting stars happen quite frequently where I am. I like hearing barred owls last few hoots before going to bed. The leaves are so thick right now that going in quiet on a still morning is impossible. I have so many black bears in my area that I hope the deer just thinks its another bear passing by. My green penlight can not be seen from the side so I dont think too many are picking up my light.
Depends. I know guys who go in and sit 90' in the dark who consistently kill mature deer... And guys who go in gray light or even later than that. Heck, my most successful on mature deer buddy used to drop his kids at school and then go hunt.
Probably depends on the stand, situation, and frankly, what your life allows.
Either you're SUPER early and seated an hour and a half before ANY light, which means getting up at 3 am, or sneak in without a flashlight in the dim grey light and still hunting into a known stand. I could expound on these concepts with a whole lot of stories, but I'm guessing most guys on here have learned these lessons.
The worst is fumbling around, making noise, using a flashlight, making "artificial sounds" like metal clanging, zippers, velcro etc, right before grey light begins. That's a fire alarm for deer. They know where you are, what you are and what your intentions are. In my experience if I blow up a spot a half hour before light I have a sit with no action.
BTW I see most deer at 730, 930, 1130 and especially cruising bucks at 130 to 2 pm. It would be interesting to start a thread about the timing of most of your deer sightings.
Casually bumping them is less important during the rut too. So it depends on time of year. During rut, anytime you get in the stand could be the "right" time. In fact, I actually prefer mid morning/mid day over first light during rut.
I guess, I should have been more clear. I will be walking across an open ag field to reach my woods. My stands are in the woods 60-120 yards. I'm worried about the deer feeding in the hayfield.
Here's what I think. Take it however you want.
Deer running is common,everyday thing. I'd MUCH rather bump a deer that takes off running at a few minutes before legal light then get in a stand an hour before and have unseen deer blowing there heads off. It's a no brainer.
It's not the deer blowing at my while in stand that I'm worried about. It is the deer being bumped off the field as I walk to my property through the neighbor's hay field.
I think what is most important....
1. Avoid letting the deer know where your stand is at
2. Don't teach them to look up
I don’t use tacks much anymore instead I like to either lay down branches or stones on the trail or skim some bark off the tree with the folding saw. Nothing worse then shining a light a seeing tacks everywhere. Even worse are the damn orange ribbons. Lately my go to is mark an X on OnX and point a branch on the ground or lean a branch against a tree.
You can't apply one rule to every situation and that's the bottom line. There are times when it's best to be there before first light and there are times when it is better to go in grey light. If you need to cross through an area where deer will be, then you can not cross that area while they are there and need to pick a different time to go.
OR you just don't care and accept the fact that you prob won't shoot the biggest buck around. That is also a viable option for guys that don't care as much about antlers. Serious.
I quit walking across a dark field years ago. During the rut I'll do the gray light thing, but not before or after the rut. It's counterproductive imo. Busting a mature buck while fumbling in the dark ain't a good strategy. They can see just like it's daylight.
Pat Lefemine's Link
I worry if I'm NOT bumping deer. Deer near your hunting spot is a good thing.
I asked Don Higgins about this access question:
I have a spot on my buddy’s property that I can not get to without bumping deer. When the wind is right for that tree, I have my buddy give me a ride in on a four wheeler an hour to an hour and a half before light. The deer aren’t startled by the atv. They move out of the way. I drop off the back near my tree. My buddy heads to the end of the field, turns around and cruises past where he dropped me, giving me some time to run my climber up. Then I just try to be a hole in the woods while things return to normal and wake up. Works for me because it’s working farmland.
Have any of you noticed in some places, if you drive in on the access road to some of these fields, bump deer with the truck, sure they run but the truck caused it not you. Park, walk in, and deer show up later in the AM?
I prefer not to bump deer, but that scenario above works in a couple areas I have access to. Lets face it, if there are 4 properties that come together, and you only have access on one, from one direction, sometimes you have to deal with it. I think it is less damaging when you're hunting a corridors which I actually prefer when I can get on them.