A Legacy of Refining Stand Hunting

Tree stand hunting made its reputation as a superior way to hunt whitetails during the 1980s and 1990’s. It even revolutionized archery hunting, making it a highly successful and popular way to hunt deer. Back then, all my hunting partners and I had to do for each of us to see as many as twenty whitetails up close per day during the first days of a hunting season was construct or attach a commercially-made tree stand to a tree trunk 6–9 feet above the ground near a trail well-tracked by deer without regard for wind direction or silhouette-hiding cover. At that height, we were invisible to whitetails. They couldn’t even smell us, or so it seemed. Tree stand hunting enabled us to become selective, hunting mature bucks only. By 1989, however, we were beginning to realize mature whitetails were learning to identify and avoid hunters in trees, especially older bucks. To counter this change, growing more and more obvious nationwide, stand hunters began climbing higher, wear camouflage clothing, cover the bright skin of their faces with camo paints, dust or masks and wear gloves, use products claimed to eliminate human odors and use so-called “buck lures.” While I was creating the 12-hour video series entitled, “Whitetail Hunters World” in 1885-86, more than 90% of the many wild bucks my partner and I video-taped were attracted to our tree stands by urine collected from does in heat. Soon after that, practically every deer hunter in America was using a portable tree stand and doe urine or another buck lure. As a result, during the following two decades almost every surviving mature whitetail in America, especially every buck 3-1/2 years of age or older, had become adept at identifying and avoiding hunters using tree stands and buck lures.

Meanwhile, being anxious to restore the buck hunting success we experienced during the 70s and 80s, my three sons and I began experimenting with a great variety of new stand hunting tactics, basing any improvements they provided, if any, on numbers of mature, unsuspecting bucks seen within 100 yards or less. Beginning in 1990, it didn’t take long to realize our occasional observations of gray wolves hunting deer or seemingly not hunting deer and responses of nearby deer in either case had great potential value in our quest to discover a more productive way to hunt older bucks. In time, we developed six mature-buck-effective stand hunting methods that provide regular hunting success, culminating with the most complex and productive of them all, “opportunistic stand hunting,” This hunting method incorporates the ruse regularly used by our wolves while searching for and selecting vulnerable prey—acting as if totally uninterested in deer. Learning to use this ruse (plus certain precautions) not only made it possible for us to hike to stand sites without seriously alarming deer along the way, but also made it possible to scout for fresh signs made by mature bucks and other deer (along certain limited trails) midday daily throughout a hunting season without causing ruinous whitetail range abandonment. Each of our six new stand hunting methods effectively counters the ability of today’s mature bucks to quickly identify and begin avoiding hunters using stand sites. Each also keeps us close to trails and sites currently frequented by mature bucks every day we hunt. No other hunting method regularly provides these great advantages.

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