© By Othmar Vohringer
As mentioned in another column here on Whitetail Deer Passion, there is no denying that the invention of the treestand is the single biggest advantage for deer hunters. However, to use the advantages of hunting from treestands to its fullest potential we have to make sure to set them up correctly. It is here were many hunters make blunders that cost them “deerly”.
Here are some of the mistakes hunters make and how to avoid them.
Going too high
The height of the treestand from the ground is determined by the surrounding cover. If the surrounding cover is optimal at 8 feet off the ground then that is where you should hang the stand. Hang the stand any higher and you risk to be sky lighted, deer will spot you from a mile away…and no they will not come any closer to see what that bulging blob on the side of the tree is. In my humble opinion the biggest myth ever perpetrated on hunters is that philosophy of climbing high up into the tree tops to avoid deer smelling you. To avoid deer from smelling me I rely on a good shower and a set of fresh clean under and over garments before every hunt and to make sure the wind is right for the stand I am hunting, if the wind is not right I will not hunt that particular stand and go elsewhere where the wind is in my favor. Tests have shown that no matter how high you climb deer will detect your scent. The tests have shown that when you go high, around 30 to 40 feet off the ground, the air current will carry your scent maybe 100 to 150 yards before it descends to ground level. Do you believe deer that smell a hunter 100 to 150 yards away will come closer to have a look where the smell of human is exactly coming from? Neither do I! On the other hand the same tests, done with smoke cartridges placed at various heights, showed that when the stand hangs lower, around 10 to 16 feet off the ground, the scent seems to linger around the base of the tree. In that scenario with the immediate surroundings of your stand site contaminated with human scent, you still stand a chance of getting deer within shooting range, even with a bow.
Another myth perpetrated by the “climb as high as you can” advocates is that the higher you climb the less likely deer will see you. Wrong! As I stated at the beginning, if you run out of surrounding cover you will stick out like the proverbial thumb against the sky. As much advantage as treestands have, hunting from them has also educated deer to look up into the treetops for danger. In areas where hunters predominantly hunt from treestands deer always will look up first before they look ahead and around. The popularity of hunting from treestands has taught generations of deer to look up for danger.
Hanging treestands at the wrong time
Hanging deer stands a few day or even weeks before the deer season opens is a sure recipe to spoil opening day hunting success. If you do your scouting right you should know what areas deer use on opening day, long before the deer move to that area. I hang my stands at the very least one to two months ahead of hunting season. That way the area can settle down and deer get used to the "new growth" on the tree. No matter how carful you are hanging stands it is noisy and the area is heavily contaminated with human scent. If you hunt on public land where it is not logical (stands do get stolen) or legal to hang treestands months in advance you can at the very least locate potential stand sites and do any necessary trimming and preparations. That way on opening day you can move in and carefully place your stand with low impact to the area. Having said that, I find it personally very important to practice setting up stands with the same commitment as shooting your gun or bow… and I will tell you why.
Practicing setting up stands makes it safer to use them because you're familiar with the procedure, but also there are times when a stand needs to be moved during the hunting season because deer travel patterns change. In these cases I move my stands during midday hours when the deer are resting in their bedding areas away from the travel corridors, trail intersections and feeding areas. Such stand location changes have to happen quickly and quietly. This is only possible to do if you are intimately familiar with setting up stands and that means practice and practice again until you have every move ingrained in your brain. I can take down a hang-on stand and set it up again safely in less than ten minutes. Of course, when you relocate a stand during hunting season you want to do so at the time of day when deer are bedded down.
Where possible a climbing treestand is much better suited for quick in season changes than a hang-on stand. To make changing stand locations quick and easy I select as many trees as I can and prepare them well before the hunting season opens. However, it must be said that climbing treestand models needing a lot of assembling are not well suited. The best models are those that only need an adjustment of the climbing cables, such as the Summit Climbers.
Ignoring the lay of the land and wind directions
The weather forecast predicts north easterly winds but don’t bet your farm on it that this holds true for your stand locations too. The topography of the land with its hills, valleys, gullies and slopes among many other features can and often do affect wind direction. In addition local thermals further affect where your scent will carry. The solution to this problem is to make sure where the wind and air currents drift. To determine that I always carry a used nasal-spray bottle filled with unscented red snap-line marking powder with me. When I squeeze the bottle I can see the red powder cloud for a long distance flowing with the breeze. This provides me with accurate information of what the wind and thermals are doing.
On that note, where ever possible I set up two stands in the same general location that way I can keep hunting by just going to the next stand when the wind or current changes. If you’re sold on scent eliminating products and clothing don’t think for a minute that deer will not smell you, because they will. I used to be fanatical about scent control, showered in scent eliminating products before every hunt, washed my clothing in scent eliminating laundry detergent, air dried and stored clothing in scent free vacuum sealing bags and wore a scent free coverall on the drive to the hunting area and used scent eliminating spray to treat my hunting gear after I left the truck, including hands head and boots. In addition I spent a fortune on scent eliminating lined camouflage garments and boots. Then one day I learned a very educational lesson that brought me back to reality about scent eliminating products. A buck came in from downwind, stuck his nose high in the air and took a deep breath, then he bolted away never to be seen again. The wind is not your friend, it is your enemy and you should always pay close attention to it.
Getting to and from your stand
How many hunters give any thought to stand entry and exit routes when they scout? My experience is that there are not many. It is a mistake that can you cost deer. It doesn’t take a degree is deer science to know that whitetails are very aware at all times what’s going on around them. The only way to outsmart the deer is to be very meticulous when scouting. Don’t just look for deer sings and a good place to hang a stand, also scout for your own entry and exit routes. The result of that consideration should be that you can enter and exit your stand site without letting the deer on what you’re doing, sometimes that means that the entry route is not the same as the exit route, or that you have to change the routes as the season goes by.
To close for comfort
Another mistake some hunters make in stand placement is that they go too close to deer feeding areas, food plots and bait. First of all it can be a very hard task to kill a deer at the feeding site and second, as studies have shown, as the season goes on deer avoid the food source more and more. No matter how careful you are in approaching or leaving the stand, eventually deer will catch on to you. The deer might not be aware of you but the minute changes and sign you leave behind each time you visit a stand site are often enough for deer to become wary and avoid the feeding area during legal shooting times. It is much better to place the stand back from the food source, preferably on intersecting trails where you will encounter much more deer traffic. Especially if you're after a buck it pays to hang the stand back from the food source. Mature bucks are notorious for hanging up in the woods and wait until nightfall before they enter the fields and food plots.
Hunting from the same stand every other day is a sure way to let it get “cold” in a hurry. My experience is that a stand should not be hunted more than two day per any given week, with at least two days rest in between. An old but very true saying among experienced deer hunters is; “The best chance to kill a deer from a treestand is the very first day you hunt from it.
So there you have it. I hope these tips will help you to become a better deer hunter. Feel free provide additional treestand hunting mistakes that you know or learned the hard way about it in our comment section.