Tree Stand Huntingby Terry Clapp
A deer stand is a very valuable piece of hunting real estate. Just like with all good real estate the value of a great stand is driven by location. The wise hunter who wishes to hunt from a deer stand will call upon all his woodsmanship strategies in planning the set up. A solid setup includes stand placement and location, which is paramount for stand hunting, but it isn’t the only variable.
Knowing the topography is necessary for both safety and to maximize harvest possibilities. Not only should you know the property on which you are placing the stand, or stands, but you should know as much about the surrounding properties as possible. Do other hunters hunt the adjacent properties? Do they hunt from stands? If so, where are their food plots, feeders and stand locations? What are the primary purposes of the properties? Is it farming crops, raising cattle or for hunting? Will youth hunters be hunting during the youth seasons?
Know the adjacent property owners’ names and contact information so everyone is in the loop for good hunting and safety for all. Knowing the property’s owner provides an avenue for collaboration in management on the properties. Together property owners can improve conditions that may produce larger bucks if that is a mutual objective. Better deer hunting and safety should always be a management objective for those who hunt.
It goes without saying that a good deer stand placement would be right at the crossroads where deer food sources, water supplies and bedding areas (secure places) intersect. Figuring out this piece of the puzzle requires observation and time afield. All the variables in trying to pattern deer are difficult to account for but need full consideration. Will you use a food plot or feeders and where? If you use either of these put them in place in advance of stand placement especially if you have limited knowledge of deer travel corridors in the hunting area. Use trail cameras in all likely travel funnels, on ponds and well used game trails. Is more than one stand a viable option? Your study of the property will help in such decisions. On public land hunting a treestand or a pop-up blind are two viable options.
Other factors in our preferences for stand placement are shooting lanes and range of shots. Our main stand is elevated in an open field higher up on a hill side. From this stand, either one of two hunters can have a 454-yard shot or maybe a 50-yard shot. The primary shooting will take place in the 100-yard to 300-yard range. This is all by design. The two of us who hunt from this stand want a chance to harvest the biggest bucks we have seen either during scouting or on camera.
Shots from this blind are easy for all ages. The stand sits in a leveled-off area of a downward sloping hillside. One hundred yards downhill from the stand sits a flat bottom 50 yards wide that leads to the edge of a hardwood forest.
This bottom extends several hundred yards to the east and west of the stand. The window frames to the front and on each side of the stand offer almost bench-rest shooting at a slight downward angle. This allows for comfortable, easier shooting access compared to an up slope shot.
A box provides a perfect mentoring atmosphere for first time deer hunters. It is a safe, comfortable, forgiving and secure place from which to shoot. Young, as well as old hunters who may have some physical limitations, will profit in hunting from a stand. Stands offer the best chance at a one-shot opportunity.
Size and Style
Stands come in an array of sizes and styles. Most are made from wood and metal siding. Some are made from fiber glass. What fits your budget and personal taste will be best for you. The usual interior of an elevated stand has room for two people to sit and move around with some comfort. The entry into the stand is a small doorway at the rear of the stand with large windows forward, to the right, to the left and two small windows to the rear. Usually these small windows are view windows only. All of the other window frames offer built in shooting rests from, which, with a little effort, the hunter can obtain a very stable shooting position. The windows to the rear by the entry may allow wildlife to see through the stand even though it is elevated. Use black curtains or dark towels on windows to block the see-through effect including your silhouette.
Ladder or Stairstep
Entry into the stand is critical. There are two styles to consider. The first style is the traditional ladder approach while the alternative is the stairstep approach. Our main stand uses the stairstep style. This stand has stairsteps with a handrail on one side leading up to a small landing with a handrail and deck that extends the length of the stand. For older hunters, youth, and hunters with disabilities the stairstep approach is great. It offers a safe and easy way to get into the stand. Equipment and hardware is also easier to load in and out of the stand using stairs.
Inside The Stand
Seating for two shooters is the norm. The types of seats you wish to use are up to you, and several options are out there. Ten years ago we went with boat seats which swivel 360 degrees and are OK for comfort. Currently on the market are higher back, more comfortable seats made of cloth and canvas. These seats are designed for hunting from stands and are now available at about the same price.
Extra padding or throw pillows are good to have in the stand. These pillows can be used for padding in seats and as a rest for your rifle.
You want the stand to be as comfortable as possible. Therefore, our main stand was built as an insulated stand.
With very little effort, shooting from a stand can provide almost the best of bench-rest shooting. The window frames provide a very stable shooting position. The stand chairs should turn quietly and easily to any angle for a shot from the bench-rest position on an open window frame. This stability is great for all hunters, but for youth or old guys it may be the edge needed to feel better about shooting effectiveness.
The shooting lanes from the stand are well-defined and familiar landmarks are used to denote the distances of the shots without the use of a range finder.
Comfort at all times, under all conditions benefit everyone hunting from the stand. The comfort factor is most noticeable during bad weather. Protection from the elements benefits everyone. But the young and elderly profit most by being able to stay afield for longer periods of time. Shooting from the stand is safer, better planned for and more effective than most other field conditions. It makes longer shot opportunities available for those with the expertise and equipment.
Cost and upkeep for stands are two factors that will continue to rise. However, you can find stands in many price ranges and you can always build one. Stands anchored in the ground are not mobile therefore that might become a liability. However, some stands mounted on trailer beds are mobile but require equipment to move them into level locations. Stands that use ladders for entry are more cumbersome than stair step entry.
If you hunt on public land, then innovations in pop-up ground blinds and portable tree stands will offer some serious pluses for your hunt. The great thing about them is they are totally mobile and will serve you well. You can place them where the deer, elk or turkey are that year.
Even on private property you may wish to try a pop-up blind for a year or two prior to committing to a stand. But for my money I say, if it’s your land, take a stand.