Thursday, August 20, 2009

Make the best of treestand hunting

© By Othmar Vohringer

Over ninety percent of hunters prefer to hunt from treestands and quite rightly so. Hunting from an elevated position will get the hunter above the sight and smell of deer. In addition hunting from a treestand, unlike other methods such as stalking and deer drives, is a low impact method which means that a hunter is less likely to get patterned by deer or alert them in other ways of his presence. However, to get the full benefit of treestand hunting a hunter has to pay close attention to details in locating stand sites, placement of the stand and the treestand model that suits the habitat hunted best (see “related articles” in footnotes). In this column I’ll provide tips of how to choose the perfect location and how to place a treestand for maximum effect.

Proper treestand location starts with scouting (see “related articles” in footnotes) the area that deer will be using during the times you hunt. Obviously scouting should start well ahead of hunting season. Once you found out where the deer will be you need to find the right tree to hang the stand on. The right tree may not necessary be a “nice” tree with easy access. In fact, most perfect trees are in the thick stuff, bent, twisted or gnarly. The tree you select should be close to a trail with lots of deer traffic within shooting range of your bow or gun.

The ideal tree should also allow you to travel to and from it without running the risk of deer detecting you by sound, sight or smell. The tree will be downwind of where you expect deer to be and should have other suitable trees close by to position alternative stands for times when the wind is switching on you. Never underestimate the nose of a whitetail, even if you think that you did all you can to control human odour. Once a deer know you have been in the area it will only be a matter of time until it detects your stand and will vacate the area.

That brings me to the next item on the list of choosing the perfect tree to hang your stand. The ideal stand tree will provide you with good background cover form surrounding trees and other vegetation. There should also be sufficient cover to your left or right, depending from what direction deer approach your stand. If the deer approach from the left side then that is where you want the cover to be. Side cover ensures that deer will not be able to see you getting ready for the shot while they are still some distance away. Remember traveling deer are keenly aware of every movement in the vicinity and despite what you may think deer do look up into the trees.

Some hunters think that if they climb high into a tree, like 30 or more feet off the ground, deer will not be able to see them. Big mistake. The higher you climb the more likely you’re to run out of cover and get skylighted. In other words you will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Remember, deer look up and they can see you against the sky from much lower heights then you think possible. What about climbing high to get away from deer’s nose. If you stay lower your scent will linger around the base of the tree and you still can get a shot at a deer that comes close enough. On the other hand if you climb higher your scent will be carried off 150 yards maybe even more before descending to the ground. If a deer can smell you 150 yards away it surely will not come any closer. Advocates of high treestand placement often say that they never had a deer spook because it caught a whiff of the hunter. What these hunters don’t say, because they don’t know, is how many deer they miss seeing because the deer could smell the hunter long before it came into visual range of the hunter.

In the almost 20 years of exclusively hunting from stands I never felt the need to climb much over 20 feet high. I would say on average my stands are never higher than 12-18 feet off the ground. I am more concerned with being clean, having good surrounding background cover, wearing good head to toe camouflage such as ASAT and wind directions than with how high the stand is off the ground.

When we found the perfect tree, or tress, and placed our stand we need to prepare the site. After installing the stand on the tree I usually sit in it and look all around me searching for possible shooting lanes. Once I found good shooting lanes I look for obstacles that could interfere with the flight path of the arrow or bullet. Trimming shooting lanes is a tricky business. You want to trim enough branches to give you a free shooting lane but not trim too much so that you loose important cover. The rule here is the less you cut out the better.

While I am in the treestand I also scrape off all lose bark where I will rest my back against the tree. This will solve the potential problem of making unwanted noise when deer move by my stand. I also measure shooting distance with my range finder form my stand to specific landmarks in my shooting lanes. Next I use my bow or firearm and try out different shooting positions to familiarize myself with the situations that could occur when I am hunting. Next I use my bow or firearm and try out different shooting positions form the stand to familiarize my self with the situations that could occur when I am hunting.

After all that I am ready to hunt with confidence and that often has made all the difference in my treestand hunting success. There is only one more caution I would like to add. Hunting from a treestand is the best way I know of to hunt whitetail deer but it is also a dangerous way if you’re not careful and take safety precautions. Before using and installing a treestand carefully read the owners manual that comes with your stand and strictly follow the instructions and recommendations. Never ever climb into your stand, hunt from it or climb down after the hunt without wearing a full body safety harness. For additional safety only use quality made products such as the ones offered by Gorilla Treestands

Related articles:
The four cornerstones of scouting.
Choosing the right treestand for the perfect ambush.

Othmar Vohringer Outdoors
Founding Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit

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Anonymous said...

Othmar, that is a very good post and one that is timed seasonably well I might say.

Caleb Pearce said...

vary good post Othmar, I would say that my average treestand hight is about 15 feet, I don,t really feel the need to go any higher.

Tree Stands For Hunting said...

By Othmar Vohringer Over ninety percent of hunters prefer to hunt from treestands and quite rightly so. Hunting from an elevated position will ...

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