Six Steps for the Perfect Tree Stand Setup
Deer season is right around the corner, and it is time to start thinking about getting those tree stands in place. Deer hunters across North America kill millions of deer every year, and the biggest portion of those are killed from tree stands.
That is why tree stand placement is so important when it comes to deer hunting success. It all begins with selecting the best tree and location possible and doesn’t end until the last sapling is cut out of the shooting lane.
Tree Selection and Concealment
It all begins with finding the right tree. When using a traditional hang-on stand find a tree as straight as you can. A perfect tree will be 12- to 18-inches in diameter. A tree smaller than 12-inches is not big enough to support a stand and a tree bigger than 18-inches is too big to safely get your arms around the tree as you reach around to hang climbing sticks, hang the stand, and affix your safety harness.
Chances are that you will not find a tree that is perfectly straight. Take a close look at your tree that you want to hunt from and climb up the side that will allow you to lean into the tree, not away from it. This will make it easier to ascend the tree and hang your stand. Not to mention, it will give you piece of mind knowing you are not leaning into thin air.
Prevailing winds and thermals also need to be thought about when choosing where to hang a stand. Be sure your stand location is not going to spread your scent over the deer. Have several stand locations in place so you are able to hunt every wind direction.
Early in the season, it is possible to get away with hunting closer to the ground than you would later in the season. As the season progresses though, trees will start dropping their leaves leaving the hunter extremely visible.
Concealment needs to be taken into consideration before you begin to hang the stand. Will the tree have enough cover to conceal you not only early in the season, but later in the season when the leaves start falling.
If you will be concealed all season long you are lucky. If not, you might consider purchasing camouflage material that can be used to help conceal you and your stand.
Another option is to place your tree stand in a clump of trees. This will provide good cover so you can draw your bow on a passing deer without being detected. Also, as an added bonus there will be many places to hang your bow and other gear.
If there is ever any question as to whether or not your stand is concealed, get down and look at it from a whitetails view. If you notice changes that need to be made, now is the time to do it.
Also, when deciding the tree, you want to hunt out of, you will need to be able to get to and from the stand without alerting deer to your presence. Too many hunters fail to take their entry and exit routes into consideration when choosing a stand location. For example, if your stand is on the edge of a food source and it is likely deer will be feeding when you arrive or exit you need to have a route to and from your stand that will not disturb the feeding deer.
Climbing sticks might be heavier to carry through the woods than steps, but they are easy and safe to climb on.
When you are using climbing sticks, extend them a foot above the hunting platform. It is much safer to step down onto the stand than having to pull yourself up and over to your stand.
A safety line is a must for getting to and from your stand. Tree stand accidents do not always happen once the hunter is in the stand. In fact, most accidents occur as hunters descend and ascend the tree.
A climbing belt or safety line is easy to use. It consists of a heavy line that runs from the bottom tree step to approximately 5-feet above the platform. Attached to the stout line is a positive stop knot or the Prusik Hitch. Before you begin to climb attach a carabineer to the knot. As you climb to or from your stand you push the Prusik on the main line ahead of you. If you fall, the weight will turn the knot, and put it in a bind preventing it from sliding. Vest/harness systems have a place for a carabineer.
Hanging the Stand
With sticks to the desired height of the stand and about a foot higher it is time to hang the stand. It is a lot easier to hang a stand when you are standing level.
The use of a lineman’s belt has taken the fear out of the tree stand hanging experience for many hunters. The lineman’s belt gives me the freedom to work without the fear of crashing to the ground. It also allows both of your hands to remain free to work. Always wear a lineman’s belt when hanging a stand.
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.
The stand should now be safely and securely hung. The last thing to do is to secure it to the tree. Unfortunately, not everyone in the woods is honest and some will steal your stand. Even on private property where you believe your gear is safe, lock it down. Trespassers are out there and if they don’t think they need to ask permission they might not think twice about taking your stand.
Hook up your safety system and make the finishing touches. Attach any accessories like a canopy over your tree stand and any other accessories you might need.
Prune or saw any limbs that will prevent you from drawing your bow. Even if you can pull your bow back, but there is still a limb you could rub against and cause noise, remove it. Just remember the very limb and leaf clusters you remove are the same ones that conceal you.
Preparing shooting lanes is also something that should be done now. By doing this task now, deer will also have plenty of time to get use to the alternations to their cover. Creating shooting lanes is not something only archers should be concerned with. Remember that the smallest twig can send a bullet places other than where you want it.
Something many hunters do not consider is the sight of fresh cuts left behind from clearing a shooting lane. After you cut your shooting lane, step back and take a look at. Does it stand out like a sore thumb? I bet it does. If you notice it, the deer will too.
It is an easy fix that will not take much time or effort. All that you need to do is smear some mud on the stump left behind. The brown stump will not be nearly as noticeable as the white of a fresh cut. Cut your lanes as close to the ground as possible, and make sure the cuts are thrown off the trails and out of your way, and your shooting lanes are complete.
If you are anything like most hunters, you probably take a backpack or fanny pack with you to your stand. Invest in some rubber coated hooks to hang your gear on. Hangers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Everything from hangers for multiple accessories, a single hook or double hook are available.
Now, the stand is in place in the perfect spot, hopefully. In addition, no one got hurt, any limbs that could get in the way have been removed, and hooks to hold your gear have been screwed in. All that is left now is to climb to your perch, strap in and wait.
Hunters, especially bow hunters, need to compensate for the shot angle the higher you climb. At steep angles, your arrows are only going to cut half the vitals. For a better hit aim a couple of inches lower. To know exactly how your arrows are flying from a tree could require some pre-season practice from a tree stand to provide realistic hunting situations during your practice sessions.