|Nine Rules for Treestand Success|
Many hunters have questions about treestand placement. "How high do you go in the tree?" is one of the most asked questions on the topic. Every situation is different and there aren’t any rules where there aren’t exceptions. However, over the years, I’ve learned some general practices that will help in most situations when placing a treestand.
1) Play the wind and thermal.
Once you have your general area selected, pay heed to the wind and thermal current in the area. You want to remain downwind or cross-wind of where you think the deer will be. That’s simple enough, but many hunters don’t consider a whitetail may not favor a specific area during the conditions they’ve set up to hunt it. My first thought about a spot is "under what conditions is a whitetail going to want to be in the area?" A deer is not going to spend a great deal of time in an area where it can’t use its nose efficiently. I want a whitetail to be comfortable with the site and the conditions I want to hunt that site. Then, I’ll set up downwind or cross-wind. I guess what I’m trying to say – "you need to play how a whitetail plays the wind."
Because a whitetail can’t read this article, be prepared in case he does swing downwind. Just when you think you’ve got him figured out he’ll do the opposite. I’m a big advocate of Wildlife Research Center’s Scent Killer system. I’ve seen these products fool a mature buck’s nose time and time again, and I feel it protects me from mistakes and from the unexpected. Can you get "totally scent free"? I don’t think that’s possible to a sense of smell as sophisticated as a whitetail’s. However, I am positive you can reduce odors to diminutive "trace levels" that even mature bucks will tolerate in close proximity. A simple way to put it–if he does smell you, the buck thinks you’re at 300 yards rather than 30 yards.
2) Place your stand high.
As said, every situation is different. But, in most situations, I like to place my stand as high as I can go in a tree without limiting my shot opportunities. If you’re uncomfortable with heights, go as high as you dare. Getting up the tree higher usually lets you see further, makes it harder for the deer to see you and, most importantly, your scent isn’t concentrated at their "nose level." If I had to pick a height, I would have to say most of my stands are around 20 feet high. But, that’s a realistic 20 feet. Some hunters say their stands are 20 feet high, then you actually see the site they’re talking about and you can almost jump up and touch the bottom of their platform.
3) Use the available cover.
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with treestand height. In bald trees, I’m more likely to go higher than I do in trees with good cover. Look for trees that lose their foliage late, clusters of trees or trees with a "Y" in the trunk for concealment. A less than perfect treestand tree with minimal cover in a good spot is better than the perfect treestand tree in a mediocre spot.
4) Use the sun.
Determine where the sun will be when you want to hunt the site. Do you like to look into the sun? Neither does a deer. In fact, we have a UV filter over our eyes, a whitetail doesn’t. This makes it even more difficult for them to see while looking towards the sun. In my opinion wind direction and cover are more important, but, if you have a choice, position yourself "up-sun" from where you think the deer will be.
5) Pick a tree that will be easy to climb or make it easy to climb the tree.
If you have a great spot, but you alert every deer within 400 yards by making a commotion while climbing your stand, your great spot will go for not. For some reason, I can never find a perfectly straight tree with no limbs on it where I want to hunt. This is one reason I don’t use a lot of climbing stands. I prefer climbing sticks or treesteps and a portable stand. I can make this combo work in most situations. Use enough treesteps or climbing sticks so you can scale the tree easily, safely and quietly. And the older I get, the more I warm-up to ladder stands. These can be placed and concealed in some cases where a regular portable stand cannot and they’re very easy to climb.
6) Use a safety strap.
What treestand article would be complete without mentioning the safety strap? Do I really use one? Always. Has it saved me? Maybe…maybe not, but it has enabled me to make some shots I probably wouldn’t have made without it. While wearing a safety strap I feel comfortable enough to lean out away from the platform. This gives me a much wider window to shoot around brush or other obstacles.
7) Practice from a stand or elevated platform.
If you’re going to hunt from a treestand, practice from a treestand! The higher you get, the more drastic your shot angles decrease. The only way to know for sure is to practice from a treestand. 3-D targets help dearly to learn shot angles.
8) Prepare the site to make the shot.
So you have a good spot, you have a stand in the perfect ambush tree, but, if a deer walks through, there’s no way you can take a shot. (I’m obviously talking about when using archery tackle). Take the time to trim some shooting lanes or "windows" where you can sneak an arrow through. Often you can do everything right and the buck passes within easy range, but you can’t get a clear shot. On the other hand, a mature buck can notice a lot of cutting and things that are out of place. I always wear clean rubber boots and trapper’s gloves when trimming lanes to reduce scent transfer and I carefully pick up the trimmed branches and pile them out of the way.
9) Visualize the "moment of truth."
I can’t tell you how many monster buck encounters I’ve had…in my mind. I believe visualizing big bucks approaching your site in your "mind’s eye" helps you to react much more fastidiously when the real thing arrives. No matter where I’m hunting, from the ground or from a treestand, I like to envision big bucks approaching my site. I find, when a record-book buck is closing the distance, it helps me to react more crisp and clear. When my leg is shaking and my heart is about to explode out of my chest from excitement, it makes it much easier to get the job done and "put the puck in the net."
Remember, there’s also nothing wrong with a good ground blind. But with whitetail you’ll need to set the blind well in advance of the hunt or you’ll need to "brush it in" well and camouflage the blind to blend in with the surroundings. A turkey will walk right up to a blind out in the middle of an open field; a whitetail is much more leery. Blinds have some advantages treestands don’t; there aren’t any severe shooting angles out of a ground blind, your scent stays somewhat confined in the blind and you can use one pretty much anywhere.
More whitetails are harvested by archers using treestands than by any other method. If you choose a stand you feel safe in and use these basic treestand placement rules, you’ll be on your way to harvesting more deer, bigger bucks and maybe that trophy of a lifetime.
Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.