Everyone knows that hunting from a treestand can increase your odds of harvesting a deer. But if you want to set yourself up to take a mature buck, there’s much more to it that finding a straight, sturdy tree. Here are some strategies, tips and considerations to help you improve your odds of success.buck in trees

Deer Trails & Travel Corridors:
Just because you can easily see a deer trail, doesn’t mean it is a good spot to hunt. In fact, most mature bucks avoid the “super-highway”, primary deer trails, and prefer the paths less traveled. (If they didn’t, they’d probably never have become mature bucks.) Many hunters on the other hand hunt the most obvious trails. Let them have those spots. Their loss will be your gain.

When you find secondary trails, scout them to see if they have any fresh scrapes or rubs, and dense cover nearby. If they do, they’re probably a good place to start your stand location search. Next, try to find “pinch-points” or bottlenecks somewhere along that trail. Pinch points areas that tend to funnel deer into a more defined and predictable area, and can be created by both natural and man-made structure. For example, wooded fence lines can create pinch points. Thin strips of cover that connect two larger areas of cover can create good pinch points. Natural barriers like ponds and steep ravines can create pinch points. Look for all of the above and more along secondary deer trails and you’re well on your way to finding a good spot to hang a stand.

Food Sources:
Fields filled with a food source like corn, alfalfa, turnips, clover or today’s fancy food plot mixtures can be highly effective at attracting whitetails. When hunting food source fields look for the quietest, most distant corner and set up just inside the woods near that corner. Since the biggest bucks often wait until dark to enter a field, you can sometimes ambush them before dark in their staging areas inside the wood line on a field’s perimeter.

Water Sources:
Small ponds, water holes and woodland streams can be good places to ambush deer at mid-day. If you’re hunting over water sources, check the edges for tracks in the soft earth. Doing so can help you hone in on the most used sections, and will help you pick the best tree in which to set your stand.

Prevailing Winds:
No matter your thoughts about scent blocking clothing, cover scents, special breath control chewing gums, or any of the other products available to aid with scent control, do not think you can forget about wind direction. You can’t. A mature bucks nose will beat you almost every time. That said, when choosing your stand locations, make sure you know the direction of the prevailing winds in that area and choose your tree accordingly. Always place your stand on the downwind side of the expected travel path of the deer.

When hunting mountains or hill country, you also need to keep thermal winds in mind. Thermal winds change throughout the day as the air heats and cools – typically moving air uphill in the morning as the temperatures rise and back downhill in the evening as it cools.

Stand height:
Hunters have differing opinions about this, but some basic rules of thumb are; try to get to a height where you have tree limbs, leaves or other cover behind you to break up your outline. Also, the higher the amount of hunting pressure, the higher you should set your stand. A fairly standard height for stands is 15 feet at the footrest. Personally I like to be a good 20 feet in the tree where I hunt, but the conditions in your area might be different and require less or more height. Keep your weapon and expected shot range in mind also. You don’t want to put yourself so high that your expected shot with a bow is at too steep an angle and limits your ability to get a double lung or heart shot.

Give Yourself Options – Set Multiple Stands:
Even your favorite “honey hole” isn’t always going to be the best spot to hunt. Wind direction, foliage, food supply and breeding conditions are constantly changing throughout the deer season. That’s why the most successful hunters will set multiple stands and give themselves several places to hunt – so they can choose the best ambush location on any give day, based on the conditions they face.

Be Prepared To Be Mobile:
Last season I had what I thought was a great stand location set. As it turned out, it was a great stand for seeing traveling bucks – the only problem was the path they were traveling by that point in the season was 100 yards out of bow range. But there was good news…from where I was, I could tell that several bucks were following this same network of secondary paths that I hadn’t seen during my summer scouting trips. So, that following November morning I took my Summit Viper climbing stand into the woods well before daylight and set up where that network trails converged. It worked like a charm and I arrowed a nice buck at 25 yards –right where I expected him to be. The lesson here is be prepared to be flexible, and consider adding a climbing or quick setting mobile stand to your arsenal for just this type of occasion.

If you have other tips and ideas to share about treestand placement, please do so in the comments section below. Doing so helps us all get smarter and more strategic about how we hunt the whitetail woods.

DuckBuckGoose – May 3, 2008 – Cincinnati, OH