It’s common knowledge that using a tree stand, raising yourself above the line of sight of the deer and keeping your scent above the ground, can greatly increase your chances of a successful hunt.
But to borrow a real estate adage, location is everything. Here are 12 tips to help you find the best tree stand locations, and develop a placement strategy so your stand is set up in a productive spot.
1. When to Hang a Deer Stand
The answer to this question will change depending on your situation. Generally, you want to avoid setting up a stand during the hunt to avoid spooking the deer and driving them out of the area, though sometimes it’s a necessity.
It’s best if you can set the stand up early, say a month ahead of opening day, and leave it there all season. Many hunters leave them out all year, but then you’re taking the chance of it being stolen.
2. Best Types of Trees for Deer Stands
Obviously, you want to choose a tree that your climber can negotiate easily, with few protruding knots and limbs as possible. A small hand saw can be handy. But you should also take cover into consideration.
Try to choose one that has a few branches to break up your outline, but not so many that it interferes with being able to see and shoot. Beech and tulip trees are often good choices.
3. Minimum Tree Stand Height For Bow Hunting
There’s a comfort factor involved in this, but most bowhunters should set stands up at least 15-20 feet off the ground if you want to keep your scent up in the air and keep the deer from seeing you. After all, you might as well be on the ground if you’re not that high.
However, a good argument can be made that you should go even higher, 25 feet or more. The angle of your shots becomes steeper the higher you climb. It’s worth plenty of target practice if you want high stand height success.
4. Where to Hang a Tree Stand
There are a lot of factors that go into effective tree stand placement, which we’ll take a closer look at below. Most of them should be determined by your pre-season scouting efforts. But you might also consider convenience. Most hunters don’t want to walk miles through heavy brush in the dark. And can you find it easily? Can you get to it quietly?
5. Bedding and Feeding Area
Where deer are eating and sleeping will determine the corridors and trails they’ll be using to move between the two most important spots in their daily lives. Where these places depend on your local conditions, but whitetail will move between those two areas mostly in mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Only returning to their beds in the morning and heading out to feed later on. Be aware that these areas can change with hunting pressure.
6. Find Watering Holes
Deer will drink from wherever they can find water, even muddy puddles, and ditches, and they get much of what they need from the foods they eat. But if there’s a little pond available they’ll certainly use it. Look for deer sign around a hole, and bear in mind deer like to have a clear view of their surroundings. Many hunters build their own watering hole.
7. Prevailing Wind Directions
This is one of the most important considerations for deer hunters. Deer are constantly checking the wind for odors that might mean danger. And every hunting area has its own prevailing winds.
Wind direction changes all the time of course, and a check of the weather forecast before heading out is a must. But groves of trees, land contours and even buildings will affect it for a given area. Make a habit of being aware of wind direction while you’re scouting and hunting and you’ll soon learn which way the wind blows around your stand.
8. Find the Times Deer Visit
Modern technology has made tracking deer movement patterns a lot easier than it used to be with the introduction of trail cameras. Cover as much of your hunting area with cams as possible, and focus on placing them around obvious trails, feeding, and bedding areas. You can even set your property up with cellular trail cameras that send you pictures as they are taken via your mobile phone service.
You can move the cameras around to get a bigger picture. Once you’ve spotted a buck you’d like to harvest, take note of where and how often he shows up, and at what times. Deer are creatures of habit until hunting pressure makes them change.
9. Old Signs of Deer Rubs
Rubs on trees are the most obvious signs a buck is in the area. Bucks start rubbing in late September in preparation for the rut season. This marks their territory and helps to get rid of mating aggression.
They make these on their way between bedding and feeding areas, so rubs give you an excellent indication of where the bucks are moving. During rut season though, they’ll move in a wider range looking for a doe.
10. Visualize Funnels
No matter where you’re hunting, there will be areas where deer will be more likely to move through simply because of their surroundings. The topography of an area, as well as bodies of water, thick brush, and man-made obstacles, will set up natural funnels.
You can eyeball an area and get a pretty good feel for the funnel areas, but checking a topographical map is a great idea, especially if you’re hunting in a new area.
11. When to Get in Your Tree Stand
The most important thing about getting into your tree stand is that you don’t want to scare the deer away while you’re accessing it. Having a good idea of when the deer are moving in your area helps greatly, but keep in mind most move in the middle of the morning and the afternoon. Most hunters like to be in their stand, ready to go, well before the crack of dawn so things can quiet down before the deer really start moving.
12. Choosing Your Tree Stand Sweet Spot
Putting all of these factors together will help you find the optimal location. However, don’t be afraid to move if the situation warrants it. Adapting your hunting tactics to whatever the deer are doing is a sure way to hunting success.