There’s no better way to see whitetail deer than from a tree stand regularly. When you’re in a tree stand, you’re out of the deer’s line of sight, which lets you see what’s happening on the ground. By getting into a tree stand, you can draw undetected and even control how your scent spreads.
Here are a few tips on using a tree stand as a technique for hunting.
How High is High Enough?
Archery hunters are constantly debating how high to hang their tree stands. It depends first on your comfort level with heights, then on the terrain and covers you’re hunting. You won’t feel comfortable in a tree stand if you’re uncomfortable with heights.
I have a friend who regularly reaches heights over 20 feet in a tree stand. By contrast, the rope I use to raise my bow to the stand goes up to 18 feet. We both have success, but I have to hunt a bit differently to compensate for the lower height of my stands, which are sometimes just 12 feet off the ground. In my case, I look for the trees with better cover or spots where I can use the rising or setting sun to my advantage to keep deer from spotting me.
My friend, whose height is much greater, does not have to worry about deer until he overcomes the obstacles I face by getting higher in the tree.
A good tree stand location is more than just finding a pinch point or creek crossing. It means that after you find that spot, select the right stand location on the spot. You should have at least a few trees within the bow range of the trail.
Wherever you position your tree stand, make sure you know the direction of the wind and how it changes during morning and evening.
I start by thinking about the deer’s direction of travel and look for trees downwind from where the deer will approach. In addition, I look for a good-sized tree because I feel more secure in a thick tree, and I can better hide behind it or against it based on how the deer is approaching.
I like trees at least 3/4 as wide as me. Then I look for trees in a stand of other trees for some cover behind me. One of my favorite tree stand sites is a gnarled old tree with five main trunks coming out of one stump.
There’s an old roadbed below it. The first few feet are tough, but once I hook my climbing tree stand lower platform, I can pull myself up and continue. I can only climb up 10 feet in this tree, but the deer generally approach from the roadbed, which adds another 4-8 feet to my height.
Once I’m in my tree stand, the other trunks also provide excellent cover. You can also use the sun to your advantage by positioning the stand so that the sun will be at your back when it rises in the morning.
Through the glare from the sun, deer won’t see you. Watch the sun setting if you’re having an evening stand.
I can’t say enough about safety in a tree stand. Manufacturers are starting to include a safety harness with their stands. It’s okay if you prefer a different style of safety harness. Still, there are so many options now that you shouldn’t have any excuse to complain about it being inconvenient.
It’s a good idea to fasten yourself to the tree when you’re climbing it and when you’re in the tree stand. It might save your life. Every season, I read the news about hunters killed when tree stands fail or they fall.
For the first eight years, I hunted from the ground and saw a lot of deer. The majority of them were spooked or at least somewhat aware of my presence, and in some cases, I had trouble hunting effectively. As soon as I switched to a tree stand, I saw more deer, and ironically, the best stand sites were those I’d gone through for years.
With still hunting, I could constantly scout while hunting, and the information I gathered on deer movements translated into great stand locations once I had the right tools and figured out what to do.
What to Look for in a Treestand
You’ll want a tree stand that’s quiet, easy to get in and out of the woods, and flexible about where to put it. It is useless to use climbing stands if every tree in your area is covered with branches right to the ground.
In the same vein, if all the trees are tall and straight in your area and there are not many branches coming from other trees 20 feet up, a ladder stand will not be handy since you can only reach up about 15 feet.
I would love to hear any feedback or ideas to implement into my tree stand hunting strategy.