Tree Stand Placement: Factors to Consider - By Scott Cole
Tree stand placement is a crucial part to being a successful hunter. There are many factors involved in choosing where and how you will place your stand. How to pick the right tree to beat the wind and stay concealed? How high should your stand be? What direction should I face? Where I should locate stands during the different phases of the deer season? These are some important topics that we will discuss and things to keep in mind when you are placing your tree stands.
First, we will go over the different phases of the deer season and important areas to be in when placing your stands. The first phase is the early season. Deer are focused on food. Placing your tree stands around food plots, agricultural lands, and mast producing woods are great areas to place your stand in the early season. Mature bucks will feed in the early morning hours and after sunset. Placing your stand near areas with small food sources between bedding areas and main food source with features like saddles or wood rows are great places. They will hang out in these areas until it is time to enter the food source. Your stand should be placed downwind and at a point where you can access with little or no disturbance. Trail cams should be set up in these areas so you can gather as much knowledge on the deer herd you will be hunting. The October lull is the next phase. Hunting stands near bedding areas and heavy mast are your best chances. Looking for the cold fronts and hunting these will also increase your chances. Avoid hunting stand locations in prime areas so much because you do not want to over hunt these areas so they are still good when the rut comes in. The third phase is the pre rut. This is my favorite phase. I see more bucks during this period than any other. The bucks start getting out and checking does. They begin to establish dominance. Stand locations along active scrape lines and ambush points for bucks working rub lines is a great choice. The rut is the next phase. This is when bucks are running does and their breeding time. Placing stands in major travel corridors where there is a great deal of doe movement will have the bucks following. The lock down is next and I feel that this phase is sometimes the most difficult phase to tag that trophy buck. Bucks will stay with a doe and “lock down” on here until she is bred. If a doe decides to lay down for a while, the buck will stay with her until she gets up and he will be right with her. Putting a stand near thick cover or doe bedding areas will increase your chances here. The post rut is the next phase. This can also be the time of the second rut. Does that were not bred in the main rut will come back in heat. Placing your stand near travel areas and funnels are great choices. Also from the main rut, bucks are worn down from chasing does and breeding so they will need to replenish their strength. Hunting your stands near food sources such as acorns and remaining agricultural fields is a good choice. And last, is the late season. I always tend to go back to hunting stands I hunted in the early season. I try to hunt the stands where I did not apply a great deal of pressure in. Hunting near food sources are excellent choices. These things I hope will help you understand the different phases of the deer season and deer movement as you consider stand placement.
Next, we will cover how to pick the right tree to beat the wind, stay concealed, which direction I should face, and how high. Looking for trees with natural cover such as branches and leaves will help you stay concealed. Anything to break up your silhouette, hide your presence, and protect you from the wind is a good choice. If you cannot find trees with these characteristics, you can add branches to your stand or use a tree stand blind, camo wrapping, or burlap. If you have a stand near branches to break up your outline, you may need to do some trimming. I always try to get at hip level when I am standing so I can shoot over them. Another factor in choosing a tree is you want to select a tree about as big around as your upper body. These trees are easy to climb and will provide you with enough concealment. When I find a tree I like, I like to place my stands on the back side of trees where I expect the deer to come from. If you are on a food source, place it on the side away from it. If on a trail, you will want to be on the side away from the trail. This will allow you to hide behind tree when deer are close. There are a few downsides to placing them on the back side of tree. You will need to stand up most of the time facing the tree. Also when an opportunity comes to harvest a deer, you will have to shoot around the tree. This will take time to get used to but decide ahead of time which side and angles you feel comfortable shooting from because the tree will block part of your field of fire. Last, you will need to decide how high you need to be. The higher you are the easier it is to keep your scent above deer downwind but your shot becomes more difficult especially when deer are close. The shooting angle for a deer’s vitals is much better from a lower height. I feel that 20 feet is a good compromise for a height to hunt at. It gives you a good angle for a double lung shot for a deer 10 yards away and it keeps you above the peripheral vision of deer within 20 yards.
How often should I hunt stands? This is a question I get asked often. I like to place several stands during the season. A rule I like to go by is to have 2 stands for every consecutive day I hunt. So if you hunt 5 consecutive days, you should have around 10 stands. This gives you several options for wind direction and easier to spread the pressure and keep sites reasonably fresh. Now I have had stands that I could hunt every day if the wind direction was in my favor. These are stands that are easy to enter and exit without being seen. Stands that are tough to get in and out without being seen can burn out quickly. If you think deer have figured it out, let those stands rest at least a week or two. These are some things you will have to observe and make the best possible decision based on what you have seen.
Finally, I will hit on some keys to success for tree stand placement. First, your entry route has to be undetectable. If they know you are there, they more than likely will not come past your stand. The same goes for your exit route. If they know you were there, the more they will be cautious in the future. Using drainage ditches, creek beds, or low lying areas are good examples for entry and exit routes. These will hide you and conceal you from deer nearby. Walk slow to your stand. Try not to crunch leaves or break sticks. If it takes you 30 minutes to walk 200 yards to your stand, then account for this time. Try not to use a flashlight as much. Flashlights spook deer. Get use to your routes and train your eyes for the darkness. An exception would be on public land or a dangerous terrain. Avoid bedding areas and feeding destinations when entering and exiting your stands. Play the wind! This is a very important factor. Always be aware regardless of what time of day it is that the wind is blowing. Hang your stands 20 yards off trails. The 20 yard shot is the bread and butter shot for a bow hunter. I never hang a stand right on a trail because the shorter shots can be just as challenging as the long shots, plus you are at risk of being seen or heard. Make sure to use your choice of scent protection. Be sure to be quiet and be still. When moving in stand, move slowly because you never know when that bruiser may show up.