Especially if you want to take a big buck, become invisible to whitetails, best done by stand hunting. However, no longer is it okay to sit fully exposed in a tree stand. No longer is it okay to trim all branches from a stand tree to facilitate spotting and firing at whitetails great distances away in all directions. After nearly four decades of hunters using tree stands, whitetails almost everywhere that have survived two or more hunting seasons are now very adept at finding, identifying and avoiding stand hunters. Older bucks quickly spot man-made construction, destruction and intense and widely-dispersed trail scents characteristic of most stand sites. Mature whitetails, especially much-experienced, stand-smart bucks 3-12 to 6-1/2 years of age, generally find and begin avoiding stand hunters within 1–30 hours after hunters begin using their stands. Whether moving or not and whatever the hunter is wearing, the large, dark, sky-lighted silhouette of a hunter poorly hidden in a tree is readily recognized great distances away by mature whitetails (not including fawns and yearlings), thereafter avoiding them. There should be little wonder why so many stand hunters today erroneously believe something must be done to improve numbers of older bucks.
Especially when hunting older bucks, bowhunters should wear dark camo clothing—no light tan, gray or white readily spotted by whitetails, especially while moving. Firearm hunters should wear camo blaze-orange, keeping in mind blaze-orange bathed in sunlight appears glowing white to whitetails. Human skin, which contrasts greatly with natural cover, should be covered, head and face with a camo headnet or mask, cap on top, hands with dark gloves. This is not enough. The hunter’s silhouette and stand should be screened by natural cover in front and fairly solid natural cover behind, preferably in shade, never clearly sky-lighted or snow-lighted. Colors of man-made stands or blinds should blend well with surrounding natural cover. Straight edges of portable blinds should be masked by natural cover. The hunter afoot should also be adequately masked by surrounding cover throughout the final 100 yards to a stand site. Natural cover surrounding a stand site should not appear significantly altered. Tree stands and blinds should be located 10–20 yards back in forest cover, never at edges of openings such as whitetail feeding areas or farm fields. Today, adequate natural screening cover is much more important than a wide field or view or a man-made shooting lane. A skilled marksman with a rifle only needs a few clear openings a foot or less in diameter, two feet or less for a bowhunter. Dense, intervening cover may occasionally make it impossible to fire at a nearby deer, but over the long run it will provide much greater numbers of opportunities to fire at unsuspecting deer at short range.
Finally, every precaution should be taken to avoid being scented by whitetails. A mature whitetail’s eyes and ears can be fooled, but never it’s nose. As recent research with K9 dogs has revealed, though intensities of human odors can be minimized by various store-bought products (which is beneficial), nothing can eliminate them. Always approach stand sites from downwind or crosswind and always sit downwind or crosswind of sites or trails where you expect a white-tailed quarry to appear. Never trash a stand site or the trail or site where you expect deer to appear with human trail scents, readily smelled by whitetails four or more days after deposited—much longer if often renewed. Best stand sites for taking mature bucks are those never used before (no obvious changes in appearance present) and where care has been taken to minimize the intensity and spread of human trail scents. The more quickly a stand site is prepared for hunting (needing little or no alterations) and the less that was necessary to accommodate and hide the hunter, the better. After selecting a stand site, get well away from it as quickly as possible and then stay away from it until the hunting season begins. To make certain everything is back to normal by opening day, my sons and I always complete our scouting and prehunt preparations two weeks earlier.