Often a hunting property in laid out in a way that the cabin or residence is located in such that it makes accessing the property in an undetected fashion incredibly difficult. On our property in New York, the cabin is situated at the center of the property overlooking a large open field. The public road runs through the center of the property along the edge of the field. This situation is less than ideal for a number of reasons, but back when the property was purchased we didn’t consider things like road frontage and dwelling location to be a liability to our hunting efforts.
The first and most obvious problem with a large amount of road frontage along an open food source is the risk of poaching. Certainly we aren’t immune to this, but I don’t think a whole lot of it occurs in our immediate area. Maybe its naivety on my part, but our ground is visible to a trusted neighbor and it would be bold for someone to be shooting deer from the road at this location, much less retrieving them. If you have an open field along the road that is completely out of sight of any neighbors and your frequency to the property is limited, or pattern-able by poachers, you may want to consider methods to hide these food sources from public view.
A more often overlooked problem with road frontage, or a less than ideal cabin location, is the access routes you must use to go to and from your treestand. If a deer is feeding in an adjacent alfalfa field early in the morning as you attempt to leave the cabin en route to your favorite stand, you have a high likelihood of bumping that deer off the food source and pressuring your deer herd before you ever get the chance to hunt them. Depending where you are going and where you are pushing the deer to, you may very well be spooking the deer you are trying to hunt before it is even shooting light.
Access routes through timber can often be strategically planned in order to avoid deer dense areas. You may be able to access a stand early in the morning before most deer have returned to their bedding areas within the cover or you may be able to wait until well after dark to leave you stand, when the deer have moved out into the destination food sources. The problem arises when you are attempting to access an area that is either extremely close to bedding or requires you to traverse an open area before you are able to get to the stand location you want to hunt which may further into the cover. This is where screening cover can be a game changer.
Food plot and field screens can allow you to skirt open areas while remaining undetected by deer that are in relatively close proximity to your travel route. Like side cover in a thick bedding area, screens can make a small property hunt bigger by allowing you to access more of the property without applying pressure to the deer herd you are trying to hunt. When accessing your stands it is important to avoid detection from sight, sound and smell. If the quiet, downwind approach to your best travel corridor leading to a micro food plot requires you to traverse an open field that is overlooked by a bedding ridge, the deer you want to intercept during your hunt have likely seen you and moved out of the area before you have a chance to set foot in your stand. However, by planting a ten foot wide screen of Egyptian wheat that may grow to 10 or 12 feet, you can potentially give yourself the hidden access you need to get in and out of more sensitive stand locations.
Egyptian wheat is an annual that grows to full height in just a few months. Late May to mid June plantings work best for most areas. Perennial grasses or shrubs, like switchgrass of evergreen trees, take longer to establish but can often be planted in layers with Egyptian wheat so that you have a screen while your perennials mature. Deer also do not eat Egyptian wheat which is a benefit to establishing an adequate stand. Having a screen that attracts deer to it is the opposite of productive and if you have a high deer density, you screening cover can be eaten, leaving you with an exposed access route once again. Because Egyptian wheat is cheap and the seed goes a long way, it is also a good economical alternative for roadside screens to cut down on poaching or even pressure from legal shining. Screens can give the added benefit of providing deer with security to feed in small plots during daylight hours. Instead of providing a wide open field which requires a deer to commit to exposing themselves for hundreds of yards, small food plots can be secluded through the use of plot screens and you can capitalize on deer movement patterns which are influenced in part by the added sense of security this visual barrier provides.
One of your number one objectives should be defining low pressure stand access routes on your hunting properties. If you have the ability to make alterations to the property, screens along food plot and food source edges can be a vital tool in accomplishing low impact sits this fall. The less unwanted encounters with deer on the way to and from the stand the better. This serves to keep the local herd in an undisturbed food to bed pattern and allows you to potentially enjoy more daylight mature buck movement on your properties.
Have you tried planting plot screens to aid in your stand access? Email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: You can find Egyptian Wheat seed at www.northwoodswhitetails.com