3 Things to Consider When Setting Up A Tree Stand for Bow Hunting
Hunting is ripe for a surge in popularity. With reasons ranging from wanting to know where your protein is sourced to you can’t stand being around other people anymore. Hunting is a very traditional experience in desperate need of modern solutions. Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." We’re here to help.
So if you’re reading this blog, you’re looking for land to hunt, or you have land to hunt. You might be a trophy hunter or looking to fill your freezer, doesn’t matter. If you’ve selected to bow hunt, here are some basics to put yourself in a position to be successful.
It’s really hard to find a tree stand placement that doesn’t check these boxes and have success during the season. At the same time, it’s really easy to find stand placements that don’t check these boxes and have little to no success during the season.
1. First of all, practice.
I was born in Tuscaloosa, so Roll Tide! With every single National Championship the University of Alabama football team has won, at some point during those seasons, the ball bounced their way a few times. That gives credibility to the motto of the more you practice and plan, the more luck you’ll have. So create your own luck and practice. You’ll get to know your bow better, and your limitations on shot distances. Practicing creates confidence too. Visit your local Archery Pro Shop for lessons. For a lot of us, archery is also therapeutic for our mental health. Enjoy it!
2. Location. Location. Location.
Second, have a specific reason for being in that spot. This is going to be somewhat dependent on your hunting experience. And we all have to start somewhere. So don’t worry about being a beginner! Some of the most successful tree stand hunters will share with you they’re always fine-tuning their setups, always learning. There may very well be a Tree Stand Yoda out there somewhere, but even Yoda has a unique style.
Your hunting style matters because it will influence certain aspects. For example, can you legally bait for deer? Maybe not. Maybe you can legally bait and you choose not to. Either way, it impacts the spot you choose to hunt.
Personally, I like bow hunting in the woods as opposed to fields and/or crops where you can see a long way. It’s a cool experience for me to hear the deer and observe their behavior in tighter spaces. Being up close and personal also helps me make better decisions about what shots to take relative to what animals get harvested.
It’s also a ton of fun to video your hunts in these close range encounters. I encourage people all the time to try videoing your hunts. It’s a great way to truly remember what happened and how the deer reacted. You might even consider capturing hunts on camera before trying to harvest anything with your bow.
A general rule is to space out from other stands at least 250 yards. So if you are hunting an area with other people and their stands, be courteous enough to respect their space. It’s a safety rule as much as anything. Different clubs have different rules and obviously, if it’s your own private property, do what you want. Either way, be safe and considerate. Nobody likes the jackass who sets up 50 yards away. Don’t be that jackass.
My general style is to find travel corridors between feeding and bedding areas. And understand that feeding areas change throughout the year. We like to have goals with each tree stand placement. So obviously finding heavily used primary and secondary deer trails is a goal. Once we find those trails, we look for an open spot along that path that will provide us with an unobstructed view. We don’t like to cut shooting lanes, we don’t like to cut trees, we prefer not to manufacture our own Kill Box. But not everyone has that luxury.
Once you’ve found suitable deer trails and a natural Kill Box area, then you have to find a tree. Sometimes that’s quite obvious, and sometimes not so much. Consider your prevailing wind during your particular hunting season. You want the wind to blow your scent to where the deer are not. You do NOT want the wind to carry your scent to where you expect the deer. And just because the weather report calls for a NE wind, the topography or even a steadily flowing river can influence that wind in a different direction.
Sometimes being low in bottoms keeps you out of the wind and other times the wind in those same bottoms swirl all over the place. As you scout for these tree stand placement spots, look at your weather report and decide if that’s what the wind is really doing at your exact spot. You’ll be surprised at how often it isn’t! And don’t forget thermals! Those of us who bow hunt in the South stay frustrated with thermals and our topography challenges. You flatlanders sure have it made!
3. Find A Shot Opportunity
Thirdly, you need to find a tree that will offer you a shot opportunity within your skill range. So if you’re proficient at 20 yards then you need to find a tree that will give you a 15-25 yard shot, not 50 yards. And please make sure the tree is alive! Do not ever place a tree stand in a dead tree. Ever. No telephone poles either. Seriously, someone asked me that once.
Consider what the deer will see when they look up at you. It’s nice to have more trees behind you to break up your silhouette in the tree. If the deer looks up and sees just you with an open sky behind you, your silhouette will stand out making it much easier for that deer to be alerted to you. So keep other trees and limbs in your background as much as possible.
Another consideration is how high do you want/need to be in that tree. Keep in mind your effective shot distance. If you practice and are confident with a 20-yard shot, then place your tree stand 30 feet high, you just set yourself up for a really tough shot. With your arrow coming in at that steep of an angle, it’s a huge challenge to hit both lungs. Where if you were only 15-20 feet up, that arrow angle flattens out a bit allowing you to hit more vitals, making an ethical harvest. Set yourself up to have success!
Then consider how you would get in that area to hunt, as well as get out when your hunt is over. Be mindful of your noise and scent as you approach and leave. Deer are incredibly smart and adaptable. The idea is to be as low impact as possible so the deer don’t know you’re there. If deer sense your presence by seeing you, smelling you, or even hearing you, they’re out of there fast! Respect their nose and you’ll be ahead of the curve. Don’t respect their nose and you’ll waste a lot of your time. That’s a fact.
Are you thinking this is better as a morning or afternoon opportunity? Here’s another spot to consider thermals again. For me, a lot of my travel corridor spots are good for both. But generally speaking, you’ll want to hunt food in the afternoons. Hunting food sources has its advantages. Generally speaking, deer are cruising by in travel corridors so they aren’t likely to stop. When hunting over food sources, they’ll stop to eat. Which affords you the opportunity to consider taking a shot, or not. Or it could be as simple as you don’t like waking up early enough, so hunt afternoons, over food sources. Put yourself in a position for your own success.
Most tree stand hunters I know are more than willing to help you and offer up suggestions. Those same people aren’t usually open to driving you by their tree stand locations though. Especially not during hunting season. Maybe right after the season is over they will? Talk to them and learn what you can from their style. Adapt it to your own style, your own stand placement goals.
Tree Stand Placement is a ton of trial and error. This general information is a brief reflection of my particular style and can guide you in your next tree stand placement.
This is not a comprehensive list! There are many other characteristics to consider and you’re not likely to find the “perfect” tree anytime soon. Did we mention thermals yet?
You’ll have to compromise on some things but never compromise on your safety. Make a list of characteristics that fit your style, your own tree stand placement goals. The more boxes you can check off, the more successful you should be. It’s about that simple.
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