circumstances, hunting from a treestand can be the most effective method of all,
especially in areas with relatively high game populations, dense cover and terrain
that's too flat to permit much glassing. Successful treestand hunting, however,
involves much more than simply buying a stand, randomly picking out a tree and
climbing up. It's a chess game, a dynamic process of moves and counter-moves;
where the hunter selects a tree for his stand, gives it a go and then, based on
his observations and changes in prevailing conditions, might choose to move the
stand to increase his chances at a high-percentage shot.
Your Odds Here are some guidelines that will help make you a more successful
You must scout to locate areas where animal sign is abundant before choosing a
stand site. For white-tailed deer, such areas can include preferred food sources
like acorns, corn fields, alfalfa fields and apple trees; active trails and trail
junctions; funnels, green field edges and fence lines; scrapes and rubs. Look
for fresh deer droppings, tracks and signs of feeding activity like fresh acorn
caps, half-chewed corncobs and places where the ends of browse like honeysuckle
have been nibbled on. As a general rule, the best treestand locations for
whitetails cover trails leading from food sources to bedding areas in the mornings
and are dose to preferred food sources in the afternoons.
Deer, Not Trees The right way to look for a place to hang a treestand
is to scout the woods, find hot sign and then set up within good shooting range
of that sign. The wrong way is to scout, find hot sign, then look for a nearby
tree that will accommodate your treestand. That's like the tail wagging the dog.
Never forget that the objective is to get a shot at your quarry. If your stand
won't work in a tree within range of the spot that you know will produce, it's
time to reevaluate your hunting technique and your stand.
The Wind Even if you're 20 feet off the ground, you still have to hunt
with the wind in your favor. Setting up so that game will approach upwind or crosswind
of your stand and walking to your stand with the wind in your face are important.
For example, when hunting a fresh scrape, it's better to set up 30 to 100 yards
downwind of the scrape and not right on it. just how far depends on the terrain
and thickness of the brush. A buck usually approaches a scrape on the downwind
side to scent-check it before approaching; you don't want him coming in downwind
Contrary to popular opinion, deer do look up! Erect your stands so that you have
as much cover around you as possible so that deer and other game won't spot your
movements or your silhouette. You should at least have a backdrop of leaves and
branches. Because most trees are bare by late season, place stands in small dumps
of trees so that the multiple trunks offer cover. Don't prune away too many branches
around your stand and on the ground to create shooting lanes or game will spot
Move Just because you're elevated and in full camo doesn't mean that game
can't spot your movements. They can! Control your fidgeting by bringing a book
to read while on stand. You can cut and stick branches in the floor of your stand
so that game can't see your feet shuffling. The less that you move, the more game
Of Hollows If you place your stand in a hollow, you must be aware that
deer might be moving on your level on the adjacent hillsides. This makes it easier
for them to spot you. I always erect MY stands either in the very bottom of a
hollow or the top of the ridge, but never on a hillside.
Height Choose your stand's height according to conditions. On flat, open
ground, 12 feet might be enough. In thickets, 20 to 25 feet up might be necessary.
Do what's necessary to achieve the optimum compromise between cover, visibility,
scent control and your height comfort level. I prefer stands set about 25 feet
up to prevent game from seeing me, and the added height helps keep my scent floating
Quiet Be as quiet as possible when setting up a stand, traveling to and
from the stand site and while sitting on stand. Unnatural noise is a red flag
to wary game. Secure all stand parts, like chains and exposed metal surfaces when
hauling the stand in. Before the season, lubricate squeaky areas to remove creaks
and groans. An old piece of carpet cut to fit makes a warm, quiet foot pad. Take
a few extra minutes to take care of details and you'll increase your odds of success.
Your Gear Some hunters aren't comfortable unless they pack the entire
Cabela's catalog gear selection with them on stand. Come on, you'll only be there
a few hours! The less that you bring, the less that will get in the way or fall
noisily to the ground. Everything that you need should fit into an average-sized
Flexible If you keep seeing game from your stand, but it's out of range,
be prepared to move the stand to the area where the game is moving. By mid-morning,
if there's no action where you are or if the area's been dead for days, climb
down and scout for hot sign. When you find it, move your stand and hunt it that
afternoon or the next morning.
Odor Game, especially whitetails, will smell where you've walked and will
avoid your stand site unless you take great pains to minimize the odor that you
leave on the ground. Wearing knee-high rubber boots is an important first step.
Avoid walking on trails that you think the deer will use to approach your stand.
Do not touch anything with your bare skin and wash hunting clothes in no-scent
detergent, store them in a clean plastic bag and put them on in the field.
More, The Merrier Like many experienced treestand hunters, I believe that
the first time that you hunt from a stand is your best chance to shoot an animal
from it, especially if your goal is a mature buck. So I try to place several different
stands each year, hunting specific sites only under perfect conditions. I also
love to scout on-the-go with a portable climber or lightweight fixed-position
stand, setting it up when I find hot sign and hunting from it that afternoon or
the following morning.
From Above In unfamiliar terrain, I like to take a day and place a treestand
in an area where I can overlook a lot of country. My main purpose is to try to
observe game movements in the surrounding countryside. If I see a mature animal
off in the distance that I want to hunt, I don't hesitate; if the wind's right,
I move a stand over to where I saw him and I start hunting.
Your Noggin The big advantage that hunters have over the game that we
pursue is our ability to out-think them. When selecting a specific tree to place
your stand in, put on your thinking cap and ask yourself, "Why this tree?"
Have a plan. Anticipate where the game will be traveling and at what angle the
stand should be set to your best advantage. Walk a 360degree circle around the
tree before erecting the stand. Decide beforehand how you'll enter and exit the
stand location, which branches and limbs to trim and which way the prevailing
wind is blowing. Set the stand on the downwind side of the trails that you think
the game will use.
Waiting Game In truth, I have a love/hate relationship with treestand
hunting. Like a chess game: scouting, trying to figure out what the animals are
doing and why, the move and countermove of finding a prime location, placing a
stand and anticipating what might walk by.
the other hand, sitting in treestands can be as boring as a slow day in church.
I was raised a spot and-stalk hunter, and unless I can go get 'em, I get a bad
case of the fidgets. More than once, after several days of sitting in a stand
that you knew was in a great spot and not seeing what you hoped to see, you've
questioned your sanity and sworn off treestands forever.
then here he'd come. The king of the woods - white-tailed buck, bull elk, big
boar bear or massive mulie - in all his splendor. In those first few seconds when
you see him, your heart tries to beat its way out of your chest, your palms drip
sweat, your knees are knocking and your entire body quivers. Your composure is
with permission from NORTH AMERICAN HUNTER September 2001 all rights reserved