Your first goal when selecting and preparing a stand site should be to make your stand site and and yourself as difficult as possible for approaching or passing whitetails to discover. Your second goal should be to make your stand site as productive as possible, more a matter location, location, location. The following seven characteristics I eagerly search for in a stand site these days have provided my hunting partners and me with 25 years of the greatest buck hunting success in 72 years of whitetail hunting:
- It was never used before.
- It requires very little or no preparation, enabling me to quickly depart and thus minimize human scents at the site.
- It could be reached without being positively identified by nearby deer — using a deer trail cleared of dead branches within 100 yards and hidden all the way to the stand by dense forest cover and/or high intervening terrain.
- It is within easy shooting distance downwind or crosswind of very fresh tracks and or droppings of a walking (unalarmed) mature buck in or adjacent to a feeding area.
- It was within sight of tracks of a buck that dragged its hooves from track to track in snow leading into a feeding area or a doe bedding area (while breeding was in progress).
- While no snow covered the ground, it was adjacent to a feeding area near lots of shiny droppings made by mature or yearling does.
- It was within sight downwind or crosswind of a freshly renewed ground scrape not approached within 10-20 yards by me — common in the latter half of October and rare but a very deadly buck stand site while breeding is in process in November.
While preparing a stand site these days, the more you move about it and the area where you expect a quarry to appear, the more you handle objects and alter the appearance of the area and the more time you spend at the stand site, the easier it will be for approaching or passing whitetails to identify your stand site via smell before and during the following hunting season. Too much and too long a preparation is too much preparation. Also keep in mind, the more you use a stand site during a hunting season, the greater the intensity of deer repelling human odors will become.
Similarly, the more you do to attempt to lure a mature buck to a stand site, especially one near a ground scrape freshly made or renewed by a dominant breeding buck — using a lure scent, a call or rattling antlers, for example — the easier it will be for that buck to discover you while still a safe distance away. Allowing a freshly renewed ground scrape to be your only lure, keeping well away from it, remaining absolutely silent at your downwind or crosswind stand site and moving very little and very slowly is deadly, mature-buck-effective stand hunting.
There’s more, a lot more. To assure success, both you and your stand should:
- Not appear obviously different from your surroundings.
- Your portable tree stand or your stool and/or blind used at ground level and your large and dark silhouette should not be easy to spot against the sky or a snowy background.
- Whether in a tree or on the ground, or whether using a bow or firearm, sit while stand hunting and remain seated while firing your weapon.
- Movements you must make while preparing to fire at a deer should be well masked by intervening cover.
- The bright skin of your head should be covered with a camo headnet or mask (cap on top).
- While archery hunting, your body should be covered with dark camo clothing — no white or light colors quickly noticed when seen moving by nearby whitetails.
- While firearm hunting, your upper body should be covered with camo-blaze-orange clothing and cap.
- Your hands should be covered with dark or camo gloves.
- Nothing on or about you should reflect sunlight.
- Whether using a tree stand or a natural or man-made blind at ground level, never stand hunt at the edge of a feeding area (or bedding area or very near a trail). Always set up 10–20 yards or farther back from the edge where well hidden in surrounding timber.
- Rather than create a shooting lane between your stand site and the feeding area, a dead giveaway to mature whitetails these days (illegal in Minnesota), always select a stand site with a natural shooting lane or two or more natural shooting windows (clear holes through intervening cover).
Though you may not see as much of the feeding area as you’d like to while hidden back in the timber, you, your necessary movements and your stand site will be far safer from discovery by approaching or passing deer. The hunting value of your stand site will likely last longer as well. Moreover, almost every deer you see will be unsuspecting and moving slowly — an easy target. One unsuspecting desirable quarry moving slowly a short distance away, most commonly earned via skilled stand hunting, is worth a hundred deer bounding headlong away through dense cover.
Next Blog: Avoiding being smelled while stand hunting.