Early Season Hunting Tree Stand Placement
Deciding where to hang tree stands early in the bow season can be difficult. Deer seem to be everywhere eating as much as they can from the grain fields and food plots. But, sometimes all this food can cause a hunter to second-guess the best location for a tree stand. Add to this the fact that fall home ranges and acorns can cause even more problems by the time season rolls around. There are several things to take into consideration as the season approaches, but generally knowing where and what the deer are eating, and where the available water sources are located should be your biggest concern. These can be found through summer scouting and trail camera tactics. Once you have these two things considered out, it is then time to start hanging your stands.
Think About Concealment
Early in the season when the trees are still full of leaves, hunters can get away with not climbing high just to find cover. Concealment ranks high on the priority list of most hunters when choosing a tree to hang a stand in. Hunters don’t want to pick a tree that is bare, but also don’t want a tree that will prove difficult to climb. Most trees in the whitetail’s range offer 12 – 20 ft high hanging opportunities, but most hunters want to be less than 23-25 ft. high. A hunter might get lucky from time to time if they hang on the low end of the spectrum (12-15ft), but more times than not they will get busted before a deer ever presents a shot opportunity.
Another way to stay concealed is to pick a tree with multiple trunks. Not only will this provide that all-important cover, but it will also give you the hunter plenty of places to hang your gear.
If you cannot find a tree with cover, or multiple trunks, and you would rather not climb to 22ft + all is not lost. Consider hanging your stand on the backside of the tree that is along the trail you want to hunt. Stand in your tree stand facing the tree keeping an eye on the trails in front of you. This will allow you to hide behind the tree above the deer while still giving you shot opportunities.
Hunters need to take into consideration the angle in which the stand is going to be placed. For right-handed shooters, place the stand so the prevailing wind hit’s the left side of your body, and vice-versa for left-handed shooters. This will make it easier to draw your bow on any animal upwind of your stand.
If the ground you are hunting has a water supply do not ignore it. While the weather is warm whitetails will get thirsty throughout the day. They will not only visit it at midday to quench their thirst, but also in the mornings as they return to their beds and again in the afternoon before they start to feed. Place your stand downwind of the trail leading to the water supply. It doesn’t take a lot of water to pull a deer in. If there is a small stream running through your property, find where the deer are crossing it. The white-tailed deer is an animal that likes to do things the easy way. Rather than cross where it is steep they will walk out of their way to find an easy crossing. Often, before they cross the creek they will usually pause for a few seconds giving you time to get a shot off.
You might notice that the deer are not going to the fields and food plots as early as they once were. You can probably blame acorns on that. The deer are still visiting the fields, but only after an appetizer of acorns. Deer prefer the sweet tasting white oak acorns over the bitter red oak acorns. But, if the reds are dropping fruit and the whites are not, the deer will go to the red oaks. When both the white and red oaks are dropping fruit, the deer will devour the nuts from the white oaks before moving to the red oaks.
The best advice a hunter can get is to set up close to a hot oak that puts you within shooting range. Deer will mill around as they feed on the nuts. Always make sure the wind takes your scent away from the oaks. And as soon as oaks start dropping in good numbers, be ready. It might only last a couple of days, or it could last for weeks.
Don’t forget about the soft mass either. Apple and persimmon trees produce fruit that is well-liked by deer. If you have either tree on your property, hang a stand downwind. Once the trees start dropping their fruit, deer will walk long distances for the sweet treat.
Morning and Evening Considerations For morning hunts, hang a stand on a trail between the food source and a known bedding area like a swamp or thick ravine. It is a good idea to stay within 50 yards from a food source. Any further and you run the risk of bumping the deer from the beds. This is a great tactic to sneak in without spooking deer off the food if any happen to be feeding.
On an afternoon hunt you can often get away with hunting on the edge of a food plot. Try to position your stand about 15 yards downwind from the entry trail or funnel into the food source. Unpressured whitetails will feel safe enough to enter to enter a food source with plenty of shooting light left. Pressured deer may feel the need to stage in thick cover or feathered edges if entering large open Ag fields or food plots.
Early season bow hunting means targeting food and water, yet also playing it safe to ensure you keep the deer herd unpressured. Watch your wind, concealment, entry and exit routes, and shot opportunities. Tree stand placement in the early season is critical for success for those particular hunts and even keeping the deer unpressured for later hunts in October and November.