4 End-of-the-Day Exit Strategies for Whitetails

Bumping whitetails as you leave an afternoon stand is never a good thing. Here’s how to avoid this common mistake.

4 End-of-the-Day Exit Strategies for Whitetails

I’m an advocate of afternoon hunts. I love the ability to see my surroundings and place every footstep carefully as I head afield. However, there’s one problem with afternoon hunts: exiting your treestand in the dark. This is especially problematic if hunting a destination food source where you expect deer to be right before and after dark.

Let’s review four exit strategies that’ve worked for me.

1. Once while hunting in Nebraska with a muzzleloader, I had 13 deer within 100 yards of me as light faded. I removed the primer from the gun's breech plug, but I couldn’t leave. If I stood and started walking across the field, I’d alarm the deer and foul the field for at least a week. Deer snort all the time, and nearby deer don’t associate a snort with human presence unless they see or smell it. Deer snort at coyotes. Deer snort at turkeys. Deer snort at other deer. So, I opted to snort like a deer to move them away so I could exit. My ploy slowly nudged the deer away, meaning they were retreating only because they heard snorting. They didn’t know what the threat was, or if there even was one.

2. On another occasion when I had only does and fawns near me at dark, I barked like a dog. Again, deer hear this constantly, and I don’t believe it threatens them unless they’re actually being chased. It gently pushed the deer away so I could exit my stand without introducing human clues.

3. The best option when hunting fields or feeders is to arrange for someone to drive to your stand well after dark. In most areas, deer are accustomed to farm equipment and vehicles, and a vehicle’s presence generally doesn’t spook them. Instead, it gently nudges them away so you can exit the stand. I’ve seen this approach work very effectively.

4. Better than any of the exit strategies I’ve mentioned so far is to hunt between bedding cover and destination food sources. Once darkness falls, you’ll rarely, if ever, have deer near your stand once shooting light fades, and you can naturally climb down and leave the area. Make sure your exit route doesn’t lead to the destination food source, or you’ll clear the area.

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