Nicole McClain: The Front and Back Door of Deer Hunting

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By Nicole McClain

Nicole McClain. Warrior. Survivor. Deer Hunter.

Successful deer hunting requires more than just good shooting. Well-planned entry and exit strategies to your stands is key to ambushing bucks on a consistent basis. (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

It’s dark. You stand facing south and the wind is breezing past your tired eyes. There’s a soybean field to your left and could be used as a cut-through, which is 50 yards east of your closest stand. There is also the straight and narrow path through the center of the property leading to treestands way in the back. And to the west, you have hunting neighbors that think nine stands in an area of 3 acres isn’t overkill.

Which way do you enter?

Nicole McClain. Warrior. Survivor. Deer Hunter.

Your treestand placement plans should always include how you’ll access each stand. Deer movement, wind, weather, time of the season are important factors to keep in mind. Don’t forget – our canine pals love preseason scouting too! (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

In my opinion, the route you walk to your treestand could change frequently – not haphazardly or by the flip of a coin, but rather a best-guess based on weather, time of season, time of day, location of treestands, and deer traffic patterns on your property.

Befool the senses of the deer – or try to

Going down the center path might seem easier, faster, and give you the opportunity to reach any area of the property – but you also risk disturbing everything camped out in or passing through the center. Cutting through the soybeans on the far left leaves the center area undisturbed, but if it’s still feeding season, you just ruined mealtime – and your hunt. You could navigate around the deer beds completely by walking the far outside edge of the soybean field, but that adds about 20 minutes to your trek. Entering from the west seems like an all-around stupid idea.


Don’t just hunt the property – know the property

So what’s the final answer? The answer is to know your property well enough that depending on the wind direction and time of season, you can enter through the “front door” or “back door” to your treestands. If that means a longer trek, so be it. If it means taking the anything-but-direct route to your stand, it shall be done. Deer have a hide-or-flight mentality, most often flight is the choice they make so you’re entry route has to be undetectable.


Follow along as Nicole scouts her hunting property!


The hunt starts from the truck
Then comes the question of how do you enter?

Nicole McClain. Warrior. Survivor. Deer Hunter.

A squeaky, rusty, wobbly treestand can ruin a hunt just as fast as anything. Give your stands a thorough check-up every season. (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

I’ve hunted with a few folks that tell me all kinds of stories as we walk out through the trees. Here’s the deal. The hunt starts from the truck – not from the point at which you see your stand 20 yards ahead. Gear up and lip-zip at the tailgate. Sure, we can whisper a bit here and there, but all that marching and hollering is like a foghorn wailing, “We’re here!”

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Walk like God gave you four legs

It’s time to start thinking and acting like your game – and occasionally practice quadrupedalism.

Learn the behaviors of the game you are hunting and implement them into your walkout routine. Deer have the ability to equally disperse their weight over a larger area than us bipeds. They walk softly, with uneven steps, sometimes taking a 1-3-2 step pattern, stopping and scanning, advancing slowly, stopping, then trotting off. They frequently stop completely to survey the environment.

Nicole McClain. Warrior. Survivor. Deer Hunter.

Carefully observe a deer’s behavior whenever you have the chance and learn how they stay quiet and aware at all times. (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

Next time a too-tiny-to-shoot deer saunters within range, take advantage of the situation – watch and learn its behaviors.  Pretty soon you’ll be a champion tiptoer with the wind in your face – and I might just suspect you for a deer.

Curse words in the cold air

Circumnavigating and entry/exit strategies are not foolproof. At some point you’re going to spook a deer and your curse words will appear as white vapors in the cold air. So what do you do if your chatty cousin spends more time yapping than toe-touching and breaks a branch underfoot? During the pre-rut and rut keep your grunt and bleat handy and call out a few grunts or an estrus bleat. It just might soothe that fleeing buck enough to think he is running away from his closest chance to getting some… and eventually return to the area after you’ve already moved through.

And if your cousin can’t keep quiet, you have two options: find a new hunting partner, or use the camo duct tape you bought last season without a purpose in mind.

Nicole McClain. Warrior. Survivor. Deer Hunter.

Putting together a complete stand placement and entry and exit strategy will only up your odds of tagging out this season, and those to come. (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

Moisture, fog, wind and light rains are also your friends. Moisture softens the grass and vegetation underfoot so you don’t sound like King Kong stepping on Frito Lays. The fog can also mask your invasion – and that’s exactly what this is – an invasion into the land of all-things-nonbiped. The wind and rain will dampen your sound and possibly some of your scent.


7 tips for the lead foot Chatty Cathy

Here are some quick takeaways to chew on as you complete your next covert mission:

• Stop walking like a damn human
• Stop talking like a damn human
• Walk slow and light without a 1-2-1-2 pattern
• Pay attention to branches, leaves and uneven terrain
• Stop occasionally to survey your environment
• Keep your grunt and bleat handy
• Know the direction of the wind – and keep it in your face

If you start thinking of your walkouts as covert missions to breach security unbeknownst to the rebel side, you’ll be more successful at making it to whichever side of the woods you have a hankering for, virtually undetected. Or so says Dad, the Vietnam Vet.

And remember, your exit route should be undetectable too.

Have an opinion or tip to share? Grunt at me on Facebook or chirp me a tweet @McClainTweets.

Nicole is connected with brands and foundations like Pink Arrow Project, Lumenok, CAMX Crossbows, Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine, 20th Century Fox, Fight Like a Girl!, J.C. Penney, TGI Fridays, Kellogg’s, Coldwater Creek, Susan G. Komen, U.S. Elite, Pickle Press Comics, Grange Insurance, and

Read Nicole’s Expanded “I’m A Deer Hunter” Feature Now For More Insights!

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