The tactic of deer hunting from a treestand has exploded in popularity over the last few decades. And for good reason. Treestands provide you with three distinct advantages: they give you a better view of the surrounding area, they get you out of the deers' normal line of sight, and they can reduce the amount of human scent lingering on the ground. In this article, we'll cover how to choose the right location for your treestand, how to place your stand, and how not to get yourself injured while deer hunting from a tree stand.
The first and most important decision in treestand deer hunting is where to place your stand. The only way to properly determine this is to put in your scouting time to understand the movements of the deer in your area. Because so many factors can change from year to year, always base your stand location on current scouting information. Just because you found a killer location last year, that doesn't mean it will be as productive this year.
Keep your distance from deer core areas. A good rule of thumb is to never set your stand up closer than 100 yards to a core area -- it's too risky that the deer will smell you setting up your stand or hear you climbing into it.
Also, determine the effective shooting range of your weapon, whether you're using a rifle, shotgun, bow, muzzleloader, pistol, or crossbow. Your stand should be set up slightly inside of that range. You want to be as far away as you can be from the area you expect to see deer while still staying within comfortable shooting range.
One of the biggest factors in determing the ideal location for your deer hunting treestand is wind direction. Pick a location that is either downwind (ideal) or crosswind from the direction you expect the deer will be coming from.
In areas with steeper topography such as hills, drainages, or mountains, you'll need to consider thermal currents. In general, thermals rise in the morning and fall in the late afternoon or evening, so, depending on the direction you expect to see deer, your stand may only be huntable during certain times of the day. A great trick to gauge subtle wind direction or to determine the presence of thermals is to toss a tiny bit of down or talcum powder into the air and see which way it goes (windchecker devices, such as spray bottles filled with unscented talcum powder, are handy for this).
One thing that may be easy to overlook, but is crucial to selecting the right treestand location, is the route you will take to get to it. Make sure you have multiple routes you can use depending on the wind direction and time of day, and make sure they are relatively easy routes so you don't sweat too much or make too much noise. One great way to hide your scent is to use a water route like a stream or slough to get to your stand.
Once you're determined the general location of your treestand, then it's time to figure out the exact placement of the stand to maximize your ambush potential. You don't want deer to spot your silhouette against the skyline, so try to pick a spot with a hill or dense vegetation behind you, or choose a thick tree with lots of large branches to break up your silhouette. It can also be a major advantage to place your stand so that the sun is shining toward the deer and not in your face.
Another factor to think about is whether or not your stand will have wide enough shooting lanes. If not, you could consider cutting brush to open up the lanes. And, for extra credit, weave some of the cut branches and vegetation into the frame of your stand to make the form melt into the tree.
But keep in mind that removing too much vegetation could easily alert the deer to the presence of your stand. Few things shout "danger" to a deer more than the bright white tips of recently cut shrubs. If you end up doing some pruning, try rubbing dirt on the cut tips to dull the white.
So, how high off the ground should you place your treestand? This depends a lot on the terrain and conditions of your hunting area. In general, the higher you go, the better the chance the wind and thermals may keep your scent above the ground and out of range of deer noses. However, it's a tradeoff because the higher you go, the smaller the visible kill zone on the deer. In some locations, 10 feet may be plenty high, while other spots may call for a 20-foot or higher stand.
Consider carefully the frequency with which you hunt the same stand. Daily is probably too often -- in fact, in most situations, more than two or three times a week would be too much. However, during the rut, all bets are off, and you could potentially hunt the same stand every day without a problem.
If you feel like you may have made too much noise getting to your stand and up into the tree, sometimes using a soft fawn bleat call will put nearby deer at ease.
In order to remain quiet and motionless, you'll need to make sure you're wearing warm, comfortable clothing appropriate to the time of year you're hunting. And choose a treestand that is comfortable to sit or stand in so you don't fidget and spook deer.
The use of treestands for deer hunting has increased dramatically in recent years, and so have tree stand-related accidents. Treestand accidents are no joke -- they can cause serious injuries, including broken hips and legs, brain damage, spinal fractures, and even death.
Think it can't happen to you? One study found that more than one third of hunters who use treestands will fall from their stand at some point in their hunting careers.
But, the good news is, you don't have to be part of that one third because studies have also shown that most treestand accidents are totally preventable. 75% of treestand accidents happen while the hunter is climbing up or down, and most hunters who are injured are not wearing safety harnesses.
Always use a modern, full body climbing harness while scaling the tree to get to your stand and while sitting in your stand. Stay attached from the second you leave the ground until the second you step back down to the ground.
(By the way, there's no longer any excuse for not having a harness because of the new Harnesses for Hunters program created by The Will to Hunt. If you don't have the means to buy a harness, just send Will an email, and he'll get you a brand new, generic harness donated by another hunter.)
Make sure the tree you intend to use is a large enough diameter to hold both your treestand and you. Also, inspect the tree for any signs of rot, cracks, or splits, and knock your hand on the trunk to make sure it doesn't sound hollow.
Never attempt to carry your bow or firearm up the tree with you. Instead, always leave your weapon on the ground while you climb, and, once you are secure in your stand, use a rope or cord to carefully haul it up.
Hunt only from your own treestand -- never from a stranger's. Besides being unethical, it is also dangerous because you have no idea if it was erected securely.
If you follow these basic safety precautions, you're sure to enjoy the advantages of deer hunting from a treestand for many years to come.