Preplanning your route will pay high dividends when you take the first ride to your deer spot on opening day. The last thing you need when trying to sneak through the forest before sunrise is the sound of snapping branches and dragging fenders. There are more people in the woods on opening day of deer season than any other time of the year, and it doesn’t take a mature buck long to figure out where the humans are. By quietly sneaking in and out of the woods, you’ll have a better chance of keeping big bucks in the area for a longer period of time. 

So, here are a few tips for getting the course laid out during the offseason to insure a quiet and safe ride to your stand or blind once the season starts.

1. Trim Low Branches: Pack a small pair of pruning shears in your ATV toolbox. When you go out riding or scouting take time to clear away any branches at head-height (or a little above your seated position height on the ATV) so you don’t get stuck with a stick in the dark.

2. Know Your Gear: Figure out just how much gear hangs out beyond the fenders of your ATV and make sure you’ll fit down the trail. Also, if you get a new stand or blind, figure out the best way to strap it to your quad (to minimize overall width) well before opening morning.

3. Mark the Trail: Adding a small yet noticeable trail marker can be key. Using reflective thumb tacks on the left and right of the trail keeps you headed in the right direction. Colored surveyors tape also works well in moderation.

4. Be Sure it Fits: The footprint or overall size of your ATV can be very important when negotiating tight trails. Be careful when adding fender flares as they can become hung up on bark and branches. Also, your tires will grab at trees as you pass if they stick out beyond the fenders, so keep that in mind.

5. Turning Radius: Make sure you can make tight turns along the trail without scraping against trees or rocks and creating noise or damage to your quad. Clear away any taller rocks on the trail that might grind against your skid plate.

Be sure to ride your path in each direction to find out if you can negotiate the path without any issues. Remember, planning is key to any hunting adventure and getting your trail cleared early in the season will make for a better hunt.