Deer Hunting Tips: Placing Tree Stands
Stands Are an Important Part of Deer Hunting
If you’re experienced with whitetail deer hunting, I don’t have to tell you that perhaps the most important aspect of your hunting success is the proper placement of your tree stands. You can have the most expensive rifle in the world, the best hunting clothes and boots, and be drowned in buck lure, but if you’re not where the deer are, all of this is in vain. And even if you are where there’s a healthy population of whitetail deer, unless you spend some time on your hunting stands, the deer will steer clear of you…and your deer stand. To be effective and successful, you can’t just tromp into the woods and plop your deer stand any old place. You need to begin planning months before the season opens.
Scouting Locations for Stands
If you’re a seasoned hunter, you probably do a lot of scouting in the summer months. This is integral in deciding the location for your deer stand. Look for trails, rubs, and wallows – any evidence that the whitetail deer use the area frequently. The best places to look, of course, are near sources of food and water. Of course, deer tracks are obviously important, too.
Once you find such an area, don’t put your stand up in the middle of a well used trail. The deer will probably figure out its presence pretty quickly. Place it near the trail, where you’ll have chances for decent shots. Get in the stand and check your line of vision in all directions. You can never be sure exactly which way the whitetails will be coming from.
After you’ve chosen your location, view the stand from different vantage points. Be a deer for a little while, and try to view the world as a whitetail. Does the stand “stick out,” or does it blend in naturally with its surroundings?
Deer tracks can tell you a lot about an area. They can give you some idea about the number of deer, for one thing. If you check the direction of the tracks, they can also help point you to the feeding areas and where the deer are bedding down during non-feeding times. If you’re really good at tracking, you can also get a pretty good estimate of when the tracks were made.
Individual deer tracks can also give you information about specific deer, based on the size and shape of the tracks. Obviously, bigger deer make bigger tracks, and a mature buck steps a little differently than a mature doe walks. Trophy bucks, for example, generally have wider shoulders and chests than you’d find on even big does. The rear hooves of trophy bucks aren’t as widely set apart as those from a doe, in comparison to the width of the placement of the tracks from the front hooves. If you find a track that’s over five inches long, including the dewclaws, and the front tracks are set wider apart than the rear ones, it most likely indicates a big buck.
Deer Hunting Tips: Cameras
I’ve found that when choosing a location for a deer stand, the camera was one of my best friends. Back when I was hunting regularly, I always took several photos my deer stand or stands. Then I would take them home and study them. One problem with this is that if you set up your stand pre-season, the foliage is much different then that it will be in the fall of the year. The trees are greener, and there are a lot more leaves to cover and camouflage your stand.
So should you wait until autumn to set your stand? No! The stand needs to be in place weeks before hunting season begins in order for the deer to get used to its being there.
So what’s your best option? Employ a two-season improvement plan. Take photos of your stand this fall to use next fall. The foliage will typically be about the same from one year to the next for any given season, so use this to your advantage of planning ahead.
Tree Stands: Height
How tall or how high should tree stands be? So-called experts disagree on how high deer stands should be for whitetail hunting. I think it totally depends on the type of terrain and cover in which you’re hunting. For example, if you’re hunting in thick woods, the stand won’t have to be as high because the deer won’t have a long line of vision. On the other hand, if you’re hunting stand is near or adjacent to a clearing, the deer have a longer line of sight, so the deer stands need to be higher off the ground.
The placement of tree stands isn’t important just from the sight aspect. Being higher off the ground will also help with the smell aspect. There’s a good chance that your human scent will be above the “sniff range” of whitetail deer if your tree stand is high enough, giving you another advantage.
Climbing Tree Stands
There are several different types of deer hunting stands, including climbing tree stands, ladder stands, and permanent hunting stands and platforms. Which one is best? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, based on where you’re deer hunting and on your personal preferences. I always liked to use climbing tree stands, even though I have a terrible fear of heights. I prefer climbing tree stands because of their portability and their maneuverability. In other words, it’s easy to move a climbing tree stand from place to place, in order to follow the deer. It’s also easy to adjust the height of a climbing tree stand – something you obviously can’t do with some other types of hunting stands.
Many hunters prefer ladder stands. Ladder tree stands can be set in place and left behind, so you won’t have to drag it in and set it up every time you want to go whitetail deer hunting. If you’re hunting on your own land, or on land you’ve leased, and if you’ve found a productive spot, ladder tree stands might be your best bet. Many hunters also feel that a ladder stand is safer than a climbing tree stand, and there’s definitely some good reasons behind such an assertion. Another good thing about ladder stands is that the deer will gradually get used to their presence.
What’s the best way to camouflage your stand and make it fade into the surroundings? You can use paint, camouflaged covers, or buy stands that are already sporting a camo finish. Be choosy, however. I’m always amazed at inexperienced hunters with a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to camouflage patterns. If you’re hunting in tall pines, for example, the trees don’t usually have any branches on the lower section of the trunk. If your stand is done in fall-leaf camouflage, think how it’s going to stick out against bare gray pine bark. You might as well paint it neon pink.
Pine bark camouflage patterns can be effective when used in thick mixed foliage because it breaks up the pattern of the stand. Still, camouflage patterns in similar colors and configurations to those in which you’ll be hunting will prove superior. And when you’re engaging in whitetail deer hunting, you need to take advantage of everything you can, no matter how small and insignificant it might seem to you at the time. It could be a huge difference to that super-wary trophy buck you're hunting. He didn't get that big and that old by falling for the tricks of hunters.
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