Are you having trouble making the shot when the opportunity presents itself? Does it seem like some little thing goes wrong every time? Hey, don’t give up. I’ve been there. I’ve missed and just plain blew a bunch of opportunities at whitetail deer. And I know from my own experience that these tips will make you a more deadly treestand hunter.
I’m going to assume that you have good equipment, which fits you well and that your bow is finely tuned. I’m further going to assume that you spend enough time practicing so that you can keep all of your arrows (with broadheads) in a paper plate at whatever you consider to be your maximum range. If this is not the case then you are wasting your time reading this article because what I have to share here will only help if you already are competent with your equipment. With that said, here are my tips for better shooting from treestands.
When shooting from an elevated stand you must bend at the waist to maintain the proper upper body form.
There also are lots of good, solid, well-constructed stands on the market. For the past two seasons I’ve relied heavily upon climbing stands and fixed position stands from Ol’ Man Treestands and as yet I have not experienced a single problem with noise or movement. Find a stand you like and stick with it.
I am going to assume that you will position your stand within range of where you expect deer to present themselves and that the stand location is one, which affords a good chance of deer passing by. I want to concentrate on the stand placement particulars that affect your ability to make the shot. Those particulars are stand height, background cover, screening cover, advance warning, and comfort.
Most of my stands are set at around 20 feet off of the ground. This is a height at which I have found deer do not easily pick me off in my stand and yet I am not so high that the target area on the animal noticeably shrinks.
Background cover is what allows you and I to get by with movement while in a treestand. Without background cover such as leafy branches, tree trunks, vines or the tops of other trees, deer with their motion-orientated sight would easily pick us off regardless of the camouflage pattern we wore. If background cover is skimpy, I will often hang my stand on the backside of the tree so that I can keep the trunk of the tree between me and where I expect the deer to come from. Background cover is what allows us to slowly shuffle our feet on the stand and position our bodies to line up for the shot.
Advance warning, as I call it, simply means that whenever possible, I position my stand so that I can see deer approaching at a distance. The longer the advance warning, the more time I have to prepare for the shot and the better shot I am likely to make.
Screening cover is cover off to the side and sometimes in front of your stand, which prevents the deer from seeing you. I use screening cover to make my draw. Screening cover might be a leafy branch in the tree in which you are sitting or a branch on a neighboring tree. Often screening cover is something on the ground such as a blowdown, a ditch or a big tree trunk — anything that blocks the animal’s line of sight to you. Without screening cover drawing is difficult.
Comfort is the last factor I consider in a stand placement, but if you often sit in a stand all day like I do, comfort is important to getting the shot and making the shot. If, for example, there is a branch stub or big knot right between my shoulder blades, I am going to be uncomfortable all day. Odds are good that because I am uncomfortable, I am going to fidget and fuss more than normal and will likely spook a few deer in the process. Also, being forced to stand or sit in an uncomfortable position for long periods puts strain on muscles and nerves, the same muscles and nerves, which you and I rely upon to make a good shot.
Please read more in Part 2, including tips on cutting shooting lanes, how to stop a moving deer, use of deer scents, use of decoys, how to practice shooting from a treestand, and how a rangefinder can be helpful.
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Gary Clancy writes a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Gary has hunted whitetail deer in 20 different states and provinces. He has harvested many record-book animals, and presented hunting seminars from Tennessee to Wisconsin. Gary also has authored or co-authored six hunting books, four on whitetail hunting.