When stand hunting, choosing your location will make the difference between success and failure. Choose a good spot, and as long as you have taken into account wind direction, your scent and the noise on the way in – you should be able to see deer. Choose a bad location, even doing all the other things right, is unlikely to give you success.
The importance of pre-season scouting cannot be over-emphasized when it comes to stand site selection. By scouting [watching the animals and studying their sign before hunting], you will maximize your knowledge on deer travel patterns and food preferences in the area. Bear in mind that deer habits and travel change throughout the fall and so scouting is an ongoing process to stay ahead of the deer. In some parts of the country whitetails are migratory, and once winter descends, they move from the mountains into valleys or from uplands to lowland swamp areas known as yarding areas. This migration provides an opportunity to post along the migratory route.
In the off-season, go and walk your hunting areas looking for sign of big bucks such as scrapes and rubs. If you find this type of sign, you should also be scouting suitable trees for stands:
- The off-season should be between December and April because the sign you will discover will be from the previous hunting season and rut phases. In summer, deer movement is completely different to that in the fall
- Off-season scouting can be very revealing showing the deer trails used between feeding and bedding areas and also escape routes. If there has been snow on the ground, when it melts, the sign from last fall has a tale to tell. Scrapes, rubs and trails can be more easily seen before the spring growth starts to conceal it
- Walk the rub lines to see where they go and where they connect to thickets, fields or mast flats. Look for areas where rub lines run along the edge of thickets or cross creeks. Next fall the same or another buck will probably leave rub lines in the same area, providing a spot to hunt them
- When walking the area, the key areas to look for are primary scrape areas, funnels between bedding areas, and funnels between bedding and feeding areas
- This is the time of the year to walk and check every part of the hunting area, without worrying about your scent. While the woods are barren, you will get a better feel for the travel corridors and escape routes. Check out all the small cover areas, as some of them could be used to conceal big bucks
- Set up an infrared trigger camera to find out if there are any older mature bucks in the area who may not be so interested in mating. Some monster bucks have been found to exist in an area only through this method. They have never been seen during daylight. They often hide in small areas experienced hunters don’t look for them
Your success using tree stands can be increased by identifying areas deer seek such as bedding areas, food areas and ‘safe havens’. Once you have found these, set up your tree stand on a travel route to them. The travel route should offer the deer cover and not be in an exposed area such as grasslands, mature timber or low crops. The best success is by setting up a stand well away from a feeding area and with scope or binoculars, watching the area for a couple of days. This will identify where the bucks are walking out of the surrounding areas to feed. Then when the wind is right, go in and hang your stand in the right place and surprise one of the big boys.
So what is involved in selecting a good site, and what sorts of places make ‘good sites’?
The best places to start are FOOD and FUNNELS.