Once you’ve picked the right area, how do you choose the best tree? Here are five treestand tips to make sure your chosen tree works for you, not against you.
Whitetail hunters all over the country have spent months planning and prepping for this year’s deer season. Trail cameras have been set, food plots have been planted, mineral sights established, big bucks patterned and stand sights have been selected accordingly. The last step, then, is choosing a tree to hunt from.
As hunters we know that deer hunting is a year long pursuit, yet all too often many hunters forget to consider this crucial step in ensuring a successful hunt. Selecting a tree in which to place a stand is not a simple task, and not all trees are created equal. Simply being in the right place—downwind of a bedding area, next to a major food source, at a good funnel or pinch point—isn’t enough to make a tree a “killing tree.” When choosing your next stand location, consider these five things to make sure your tree works for you and not against you.
1. Wind Direction
While this may sound like deer hunting 101, many hunters will hunt a marginal wind just because of a tree’s proximity to a desirable area.
Don’t give in to the temptation! Even if you’ve walked two miles into your hunting area carrying 40 pounds of gear, fight the “this spot is as good as any” urge. It shouldn’t matter if the tree is dropping acorns, downwind of a bedding area or if it is along a funnel leading to an ag field. If the wind isn’t right, pick a different tree.
You should also keep a close eye on the forecast—bad wind today doesn’t necessarily mean bad wind tomorrow.
2. Entry/Exit Routes
Having a good route in and out of your chosen tree is almost as important as having a favorable wind. Many a good honey hole has been ruined by not paying careful attention to how a stand can be accessed.
When trying to select good entry and exit routes, consider not only wind direction but also prevailing deer patterns. Try to stay off heavily used trails, avoid field edges whenever deer may be in the field, don’t walk through feeding areas at night or bedding areas ever, and pay close attention to wind direction. You may have selected a killer spot, but if you bump every deer out of the area getting to it, your hunt will go south quickly.
Aerial and topographic maps are great assets when trying to establish a good entry/exit route. Creeks and ditches can be used to access areas that would be un-huntable otherwise, and thick bedding areas often stand out on aerial maps that were photographed in the winter. A path into an area that looks easy for you probably looks easy for deer as well, so try to use the terrain to your advantage.
While it may reduce your overall number of stand locations, pay close attention to your entry and exit routes. The extra work that comes from walking in rocky creeks and climbing up steep hillsides could pay off in more meat for your freezer or more antler on your wall.
Another important consideration when choosing a good tree for a stand is how much cover it offers. It can be in an absolutely killer location, but if it doesn’t offer the right amount of concealment, then it may be hurting your chances.
Staying invisible to a deer’s eye is all about layers. If a deer looks up and sees a tree with a big brown blob (or a slender blob, depending on your body type) sticking off the front, it will know, at a minimum, that something is up.
If, however, there is some cover (branches, leaves, brush, other trees, etc.) between you and the deer, this adds “layers” to their field of vision, making it harder for them to distinguish between a blowing limb and an excited hunter.
Too much cover, like many other things in life, can also be a bad thing. If a tree is so thick that it offers 100% concealment, chances are that your ability to shoot out of that tree will be almost zero. Try to choose a tree that offers a good level of concealment as well as several shooting lanes.
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The height from which you’ll be hunting is another important consideration when choosing a tree to hang a stand in.
Many hunters choose trees that allow them to be extremely high off the ground; 20 to 25 feet is not unheard off. The idea behind such a strategy is that it lifts you out of a deer’s normal field of vision, and in the right conditions can also lead to less scent drifting down towards a deer’s nose.
Simply hanging a stand as high as you can go, however, is not always wise. Going so high as to be above the surrounding foliage can make you more visible, and the shot angles that are required from being so far off the ground can be quite challenging.
When deciding how high to hang your stand, choose a height that keeps you concealed and is within your skill limit. It doesn’t matter if the buck of a lifetime walks underneath your stand; if you’re outside of your ability to execute a perfect shot, then you’ve wasted your time.
Many hunters in high-pressure areas also believe that many deer have been conditioned to look up for sources of danger, so it may be more beneficial than you think to hunt lower.
5. Position on tree
The last step in choosing a great tree for your stand is deciding how you want to hang it, but choosing the right spot on the tree could be one of the most important considerations.
This is another area where stand type dictates stand placement. Many hunters using hang-on stands will actually place them on the opposite side of the tree from which they expect to see deer; this approach adds another layer of concealment. Hanging a stand in this manner does require more movement, however (as well as restricting your field of view dramatically), and hunters who use ladder stands or climbing stands may not have this freedom.
Like the other factors, this is one where the benefits must outweigh the costs. Choose the right orientation in a tree that offers concealment, but doesn’t require too much movement or restrict your field of fire too drastically. Placing your stand at a right angle to a deer’s travel path (such as a field edge), for example, may offer great concealment, but not knowing a deer is in the area until it’s directly underneath you can be counterproductive.
Choose wisely, and the seemingly insignificant factor of a tree for your treestand can pay off big time.
Of course, the number one principle that guides all of our outdoor efforts, especially in selecting a tree to hunt from, should be safety. Never hunt outside of your limits, and always make coming home at night your number one priority.
Most hunting accidents involve falling from tree stands, and almost every person involved probably thought that it would never happen to them. Always wear the proper safety gear, and never compromise safety for what seems like a better shot opportunity. All the big bucks in the world just aren’t worth it.
Deer season begins across the country, and in many states the pre-rut is already firing up. Once you’ve selected a spot, use these tips to ensure that you pick the best tree possible.