A good deer stand is the edge we hunters need over the vastly superior senses of the whitetail.
The ideal stand makes you invisible to the deer and keeps him from hearing you. Placed downwind or crosswind of a place deer are sure to travel, that stand puts you in a perfect position for a shot.
And since deer do not generally know you are there, your shots are at a standing or slowly moving target. This may make stand hunting sound like a pushover, but experienced whitetail hunters know there is no such thing in this sport.
A successful stand-hunt for deer comes from an intimate knowledge of the animal and how the game is played, and from minding the small details that add up to success.
An Ideal Deer Stand
The perfect whitetail stand is among good sign, between a bedding and feeding area, and overlooks an escape route or a place where deer go when disturbed. That ideal stand has a field of view equal to the range you can accurately shoot, is elevated, and faces into the wind. It has a gun rest and few obstructions to bullets, arrows, or eyesight.
The stand helps hide you and keep you quiet. It is also somewhat sheltered, accessible in the dark, and a reasonable deer-drag from a place to park your vehicle. It is safe and comfortable. A deer stand with all these qualities is a real treasure; most hunters compromise and take a stand that is missing some of these elements.
But these stands do exist, and are found with thorough, conscientious scouting. Perhaps the best advantage to finding that perfect stand is that it gives you confidence. This confidence is assuring and keeps the fun of anticipation in the hunt. It keeps you seated through the long hours after your fellow hunters have become restless and started moving about — which is the best time to be on stand.
Selecting Stand Sites
Foremost in stand selection is finding a place where you have the best possible chance of getting a shot at deer — preferably bucks or maybe a certain buck. In cover, special attention must be given to the exact positioning of the treestand or blind; a few feet either way may make the difference in whether you get your deer.
As discussed previously, the best location is normally a funnel or bottleneck where deer concentrate during the times you plan to be on stand. These sites are in one of two places: They are among routine travel or loafing areas — usually trails running between bedding, feeding, and watering areas. Or they may be evasion travel routes, which whitetails take when alarmed by human activity.
The best routine routes speak for themselves through the deer sign that abounds there. These are usually the best stand locations for bowhunters, primitive-arms hunters, and opening-day gun hunters — in other words, for hunting deer that are not under heavy pressure.
An intersection of trails used currently and frequently is a good stand site on routine routes. So are the feeding, bedding, and watering sites themselves — any type of bottleneck is what you’re looking for. The problem with routine routes is that deer as often as not abandon them when they feel hunting pressure. Then whitetails take seemingly random evasion routes.
Evasion routes, of primary interest to most gun hunters, are not easily detectable. These routes are selected because of cover, terrain, and safety.
A Network Of Stands
You’ll probably want several good stands picked out, for several reasons, including:
1) You may spook your buck at your primary stand and he will probably avoid the area after that;
2) Someone else may move into your primary hunting area, and;
3) You may simply want a change of scenery after hunting a particular stand for several days.
Select various stand sites to give yourself a variety of options for the times of day, times of season, and types of hunting you are doing. But don’t set up stands carelessly just to have a bunch of stands. Pick each location as if it were your only one.
For many hunters, site selection is a simple matter of taking a stand that has traditionally produced deer. But most hunters don’t have this luxury; they must analyze deer movements and compare the various tradeoffs of different stand locations.
For example, you may find a stand location that is among very heavy deer sign, but which allows you to see only 20 yards in each direction. Another stand with good visibility may cover only marginal deer habitat, or it might be uncomfortable, or too close to livestock.
A deer hunter needs to have lots of options, weigh all the factors, and decide, which would be the best place on opening morning. Using your best knowledge of when and where deer concentrate, and the “ideal stand” characteristics we have discussed, start selecting stand sites well before season. Prepare them so you can hunt there on short notice. Keep monitoring deer patterns in the area you are hunting, and select your primary stand accordingly.
Please read more stand-hunting tips in Part 2.
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