By: Dan Johnson
August is hot. August is humid. But if you’re like me, you’ve procrastinated too long and it’s the last chance to get some work done before the season starts. Because in September, I don’t step foot on the properties I hunt, except to maybe check some easily accessible trail cameras.
So what happens in August, other than sweating my balls off, I hang tree stands. I used to hang them earlier in the year, like May or June, but over the years I realized that there is still a lot of growth and movement that happens in the timber. This means that there have been times where I will hunt one of those stands in late October that I trimmed out in May and multiple shooting lanes have been either grown over or blocked by a fallen branch. That is why I like to trim them out as close to the hunting season as possible without pressuring them so much that the movement won’t recover by the beginning of the hunting season.
I own about 8 tree stands, and before the season starts I typically like to have 5 or 6 of them pre-hung in historically good locations like quality bedding areas, pinch points, travel corridors, and staging areas. The other two are kept as run and gun stands so I can be 100% mobile throughout the season.
In this series, we have discussed finding the best possible stand location, the access route to get there without being detected, and now all we have to do it set up the stand. Once we identify the actual tree we will be hunting out of, it’s time to set the stand. I spend a majority of my time in the stand standing. So when setting up my stand I like to have the platform facing in one way or another away from where I feel the deer will be traveling. The reason I do this is that it puts part of the trunk of the tree between myself and any deer that may be walking my way with their head up or already on alert. This allows me to get away with a little more movement in the stand.
Now that the stand is up in the tree it’s time to trim some shooting lanes. I know some guys that literally trim lanes where you could land a plane, but that’s not me. I take more a minimalist approach and trim shooting holes as opposed to shooting lanes.
I like to have as much cover while in the tree as possible. I am still going up and down the stand several times to make sure those shooting holes are perfect. Depending on the set up I like to take some of the smaller branches and limbs that I have previously cut up in the stand with me and hang them from the platform from my stand. Depending on the tree, the leaves will stay on the limbs and act as additional cover surrounding your stand. With the bigger branches that I can’t bring up the tree, I will drag them to specifics locations in the area and hope that it will force deer closer to where I want them. Kinda acting as a funnel, sometimes it works sometimes it does not, but it’s one more thing that can work in your favor.
Like I mentioned earlier, I am a big fan of the run and gun mobile hunting style. But, it’s not the most efficient as it requires you to make some noise and leave some scent. It’s always better to try and have your stands pre-hung even though you may be restricted by the number of stands you have. As we all know there are way more trees than tree stands. This also brings up a good point. There are times I will hang the stand, trim it out, and tear it down. I do this in locations that may not have historically produced year after year but is still a good location for those “just in case” moments. Better to be prepared than to be walking around the timber aimlessly in November with a dumb look on your face.
With all this said, early season prep is your friend. You may have to sacrifice a couple hot days in the timber, getting bit by 10,000 mosquitos, and explaining to your wife that setting stands were more important than mowing the lawn. But it will all be worth it when you are following a blood trail in November of a giant buck that you shot out of a tree that you busted your ass setting up in August. Good luck!