Article by Josh Honeycutt
Bowhunting from an elevated position offers an excellent advantage. Being able to hunt from above allows hunters to get away with a little more movement, it opens shot opportunities, and it can make the difference in filling a tag or not. Still, there’s a lot to consider when using treestands and it takes some logic and lessons learned to realize their full potential.
Five Key Factors
Most Whitetail behavior—including where, when, and how they maneuver the landscape— revolves around five primary factors. These include:
- Daytime security bedding
- The rut (or lack thereof) and
Of course, other elements can impact behavior too, such as weather and temperature. But, at its root, most deer behavior is influenced by these five primary factors, plus local terrain, and topography have a direct impact as well. Being able to read these three categories and property attributes is important for identifying good treestand locations. Some treestand locations are more productive in either morning or afternoon. Fewer are good treestand locations for both times. Even less are good all-day locations. Still, being able to determine the peak times for use of a particular treestand is an important part of learning a property. Few stand locations are good all season long. Those that perform well throughout an entire season are rare. I call these unicorns. When you find one, cherish it. They don’t appear often. Instead, most of the time, the best spot in a given area changes throughout the year.
Every Property Has an ‘X’
You can select a large number of treestand locations on any given property and likely see deer. But if you’re hoping to consistently arrow mature bucks, there may be only one or two surefire, killer stand locations. Finding these areas might take a season or two to decipher. If you’re dealing with a very small property, and it doesn’t seem to have an “X” or two, you might have to create these. There are many ways to do this, starting with offering high-quality bedding areas. These come in the form of thick, impenetrable habitat that deer prefer to bed in during daylight hours.
Entry and Exit is Everything
A treestand location is only as good as its entry and exit route. If you can’t get to the spot without spooking your target deer (or bumping deer that in turn jump it), it isn’t a good stand location. Ultimately, if you can’t get to a stand location without pressuring your target, it’s good for zero hunts. If you can get there, but can’t get back out without spooking deer, it’s only good for one hunt. If a stand location has a good entry route but not a great exit, you might consider methods of extraction that soften the impact. For example, having someone pick you up with a truck, tractor, or ATV is much better than spooking deer via your direct human form. Also, when that isn’t possible, softly barking like a dog or howling like a coyote can clear the area of deer. They’re much more likely to tolerate that than seeing, hearing, or smelling you. A quiet approach to the stand is important. One way to do this is by clearing out all leaves, sticks, and other debris so you have a silent, boots-on-soil walk to the tree. It’s also good to move or trim anything you might have to step over or brush up against. This reduces sound, scent and noise.
Proper Heights Vary
Contrary to common debate, there is no perfect treestand height. Of course, higher is better for concealment and scent minimalization, while lower is generally better for shot opportunities. I prefer about 18-20 feet as a happy medium, although trees themselves often dictate what you can do. Higher treestand heights can minimize shot opportunities. If the tree canopy is thick, being higher can shorten shot opportunities. Also, the higher you are, the smaller the kill zone on a deer becomes. In contrast, the closer to eye level, the bigger the kill zone.
Some Locations Need Cover
A good treestand location offers the cover a hunter needs to remain concealed. A good-sized tree trunk gives you the cover needed. So does having plenty of nearby trees beyond it. Good limb and leaf cover on the tree does, too. To determine if it’s good enough, get down and walk along deer trails around the stand. Look from the deer’s perspective back up at the stand. If you’re skylit, or won’t be able to move, pick another tree. A good treestand location also offers plenty of shade. If you get blasted with sunlight, deer will pick you off much easier than if you’re back in the shadows. This is part of remaining concealed. The right time to cut shooting lanes is whenever you’re hanging the treestand. However, doing so with leaves on can remove too much cover. This can leave you with less cover than you need once the foliage dries up and drops to the ground. You shouldn’t leave stands up permanently. It’s good to pull them every year and do maintenance checks and safety repairs. That said, when situations allow, it’s also good to get stands hung back up a couple of months before it’s time to hunt them. This gives deer more than enough time to move back into the area after the disturbance.
Orientation is Vital
Once you’ve selected the right tree, make sure the treestand is pointing in the right direction. There are several things to consider. First, if the stand is located close to bedded deer, you want to climb up the backside of the tree for cover. Also, point the treestand in a manner that allows you to take the shot off your strong side. For example, if you’re a right-handed shooter, you’re much better off shooting straight in front, or off to the left side. This minimizes your movement, allows you to shoot sitting down, and makes it easier to maintain good shooting form. Other aspects of your treestand setup are important, too. It’s important to position your bow and gear hangers in exactly the right spot to keep them within easy reach, but out of the way come time to shoot.
Ground Blinds Instead?
If you must force a stand location, it might not be worth it. Instead, that spot could be better suited as a ground blind spot only. Never sacrifice safety to increase the odds of success. Also, make sure you don’t overlook a ground blind if that would improve the likelihood of filling tags over a treestand.
Know the History
Lastly, reflect on what you already know. Understanding what deer do and how they historically use the property is valuable information. Things can change from season to season, but this knowledge bank gives you a starting point each year.
Falling from a treestand is the Number One cause of injury and death in bowhunting. However, most of these unfortunate, avoidable events are the result of not wearing a harness and not using a lineman’s belt or lifeline that keeps hunters tied the entire time they are off the ground. This is true for both hunting and hanging stands. Always wear a harness, use a tie-in system, and ensure your treestand equipment is in safe working order. Use it according to the product manual.
GREAT TREESTAND OPTIONS
Every hunting situation is different, and the specific scenario at hand can impact what type of treestand you use. In some instances, a climbing treestand is best. With others, it might be a ladder or hang-on option. With that in mind, here are several new models to consider.
Climbing Treestand: Summit:
Viper Pro SD
Anyone who’s ever hunted from a Summit understands just how comfortable these things are. But they’re also very quiet, especially the latest offering—the Viper Pro SD. It is very quiet, and those who want a quiet climber need as many of the metal contact points covered as possible. This product addresses that concern and doesn’t just put padding at intermittent points. Rather, the entire railing is covered. It also features Dead Metal sound dampening technology that decreases the sound in case something does bump against metal. It weighs 22 pounds and has a 300-pound weight capacity.
X-Stand The Duke
One of the drawbacks of ladder treestands is the shortened height. The 20-feet-tall Duke by X-Stand kills that problem, though. This stand puts you at the optimum level. It also has a shooting rail for gun hunters or for those who just want to feel more secure. It comes with an 18-inch by 26- inch platform and 22-inch by 16-inch seat. The treestand weighs 79 pounds and has a 300-pound weight capacity.
Summit Dual Axis
Those who prefer hang-on (lock-on) treestands will likely love the Summit Dual Axis. It has a patented seat design that silently locks into a seated or standing position. Furthermore, its dual-post design spreads cables out for more room on its large, 34-inch-by-24-inch platform. This treestand will attach to trees that are 8-20 inches in diameter. It weighs 16 pounds and has a 300-pound weight capacity.
Those who are looking for a more budget-minded hang- on might look to The Boss by Muddy. It features a flip-up seat, silent straps, and no metal-on-metal contact. It has a 24-inch by 30-inch platform. The treestand weighs 17 pounds and has a 300-pound weight rating.
Article by Josh Honeycutt