The Daily, The Woods

Working on our tree stands

An open tree stand like this means a hunter can’t move a muscle. I prefer more cover, especially on both side and above me.

I’ve hunted from wide-open tree stands and from stands that have just enough room through which to shoot. Which do I like best?

The answer, for me at least, is obvious. It’s easy for me to sit still, and I’m always positioned so a buck will never wind me, but the truth is, either tree stand will work if the hunter is downwind from deer and can sit still.

My preference leans heavily in favor of cover. I love cedar and pine trees, and have been known to fill in a few holey spots with boughs cut elsewhere on my property. I don’t want to be entirely screened by brush in a tree, but my idea is to have enough limbs and branches nearby to provide what I need for enough cover to break up my silhouette.

Work to mute the light from dawn or dusk to create shadows.

I like a mix of shadows and light, and an unbroken dark blob can be as revealing to a deer as a wide-open area with a big blob in the middle. The trick is to achieve some sense of shadowy balance; not too much and not too little.

The hunter needs enough room to draw, aim and shoot with a bow. The hunter doesn’t need to be worrying about bumping limbs or hitting them while taking a shot. It’s possible to be so concealed you can’t shoot.

On the other hand, it helps to have some background foliage behind you. A good stand needs some cover to the right and left sides, and some cover from cedar or pine boughs overhead will add to the shadowed effect that we need.

What a deer sees is what is most important to hunters. All trees, even thick cedars and pines, have gaps where light shows through. I just don’t want too much light shining through where I’m sitting. I want the area to be shadowed but not completely blacked out.

Create your stands now & brush them in early for deer season.

One trick some hunters use is to prepare their stand now. Hopefully they know where deer will travel, where they come from and where they go, and then have one person stand on the ground at the ideal location for a shot.

Study the area like an artist studies a landscape, and determine what needs some help in the way of pine boughs and what doesn’t. Be careful when adding boughs so the fresh-cut limb ends will not be visible by deer. Heavy twine can be used to tie the boughs in place.

Have a buddy climb into the stand and you hunker down in a squatting position at the height of a deer’s head, and study it. Pay close attention to what looks like the proper blend of shadows and softer but lighter areas. Limbs placed horizontally three or four feet overhead will add to the shadowed effect, and sometimes it is just a matter of putting a clump of pine needles in the right spot to make it work.

My reason for loving cedar and pine trees is there is year ’round foliage plus the natural scent of the trees. One hour of work on a tree stand can improve its effectiveness.

Of special importance is to complete this job as soon as possible. Don’t wait until mid-September to do it or you are liable to spook deer from this stand location.

Do it right & ways in and ways out & it can be a good stand for years.

A buddy of mine had a similar set-up, and hunted the same tree for 10 years until someone sneaked in and started hunting it when he was elsewhere or not hunting that day. They rearranged pine boughs to suit themselves, and soon the stand was worthless.

Should you decide to do this, treat the area like it is your private morel mushroom patch or your favorite ruffed grouse or woodcock covert. Don’t breathe a word of it to anyone, and hunt it by yourself.

Good stands remain good only as long as no one else can climb into them when the hunter isn’t looking. Trespass on private land is a major problem, and hunters who brag about shooting a big buck from a particular area are simply offering others an unwelcome invitation.

Keep quiet, don’t tell anyone where it is, and have two or three ways to get into it and out of it after hunting. Sometimes it’s worth hiking an extra half-mile to avoid detection. All’s fair in love, war and hunting whitetails from a tree stand.


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