Every treestand hunter knows that not all trees are created equal. Some of us will spend as much time hunting for the perfect tree during our time out in the woods as we will hunting for deer.
There is a reason for this: the perfect tree--with its straight trunk, abundance of cover, easy climb-ability, and perfect location in relation to well-traveled deer paths--can make or break a hunting trip. However, hunters also need to understand that endless wanderings in the woods, looking for a flawless tree, are every bit as damaging to your chances of landing a dream buck.
In some ways, the "perfect hunting tree" is a bit of a false construct, a fantasy that hunters conjure up in their minds to help themselves envision the perfect day out in the field. In the vast majority of cases, there will be something wrong with an otherwise viable hunting tree. You might find a straight, strong pine that is easy to climb and feels safe and sturdy enough to house you and/or your portable treestand. The only problem is that an abundance of surrounding trees, bushes, and other undergrowth are blocking your sightlines. In another situation, you may find a crooked tree that meets all of your location and cover standards, but just doesn't seem like the kind of place you can set up your treestand safely and comfortably.
For many of us, the above conundrums will repeat themselves tenfold in any given day of hunting. The key then, in finding the perfect hunting tree, is often to either stop looking for it or to relax your standards a bit.
Locating a great tree and setting up camp there can be a euphoric feeling, but don't let it distract from what you are actually in the woods to do. You came to hunt deer: get to work and let the tree thing figure itself out.
Check out our related post on What to Look for in a Tree Stand
As a rule of thumb, if you can't find the perfect tree for your portable stand within about 10 minutes--or frankly, if you haven't scouted a location for your treestand ahead of time--then it's time to formulate a Plan B. In many cases, this can involve giving the portable stand a rest for a day and building a makeshift stand in a crooked tree.
Quite simply, trees grow weirdly in the wild, and not all of them are going to be a perfect match for your climbing treestands or ladder stands.
The most important thing about finding the "perfect" hunting tree is finding a tree that is located downwind of numerous frequently-traveled deer paths, preferably with a good vantage point and range (at least 20 yards is good) that will net you plentiful golden shot opportunities.
If the tree that meets these criteria is a perfect match with your portable treestand, great. If not, don't let that fact disqualify an otherwise great shooting tree. If you've spent more than a few days out in the woods hunting, you probably know how to improvise. Take this opportunity to test your ingenuity.