Posted on Mar 07, 2017 by Jake Hofer
Learn how to strategize stand placement through all stages of deer season.
Deer Season might feel like a blink of an eye when it comes to a close, but in most states archery season is over a hundred days. That means, a stand that’s good in October might not be the best spot during mid November or even January. So we’ve broke the season down into five categories that will help hunters tackle stand placement for every stage of the season and give hunters the best chance of wrapping their tag around a mature buck.
Tree Stand Placement for Early Season
Early season can be tricky when it comes to stand placement. This time of the year deer have plenty of food to pick from. Row crops like corn and beans are still plentiful and forage and acorns are readily available. In order to set up a stand for success, it’s important to find deer’s favorite food source. For example, some deer favor a certain part of field year after year because there might be more cover or they might feel safer. Finding that location would be strong starting point to set up an early season stand. Look for larger trees that will allow for concealment to avoid movement detection and being skylighted.
However, another approach is to find a transition area where younger deer head to the field at dusk and mature bucks hold back from the field until it gets darker. Finding this area will take some serious scouting and a little intel from trail cameras, but if that magic staging area is found it could pay dividends. Look for areas with strong trails but thick cover to create a sense of security for leary bucks. The picture perfect location for early season would include a row crops in range along with a white oak tree producing irresistible acorns.
Don’t get frustrated if everything doesn’t pan out this part of the season. There is still plenty of time for more hunts. At this point in the season it’s only going to get better for over a month. Be conscious to not burn out early season stand locations, because the same location can become a hotspot later in the season.
Tree Stand Placement for Pre-Rut
The pre-rut portion of deer season can be an awkward limbo of determining whether bucks are still primarily concerned with food or if their interests are starting to shift to finding hot does. With this being a transitional period to the rut, there isn’t a silver bullet for stand placement. Fortunately there two strong approaches for stand placement during the pre-rut stage of deer season.
The first is to continue hunting food sources. During this portion of season, most crops should be out so food is more scarce, allowing hunters to hone in and find where deer are feeding.
Another approach that can payoff, is using old information from years past. Know a place where a scrape shows up at the same time every year? This can be a prime stand location for morning and evening hunts since most bucks are primarily nocturnal during the pre-rut stage. Many big bucks have been killed over a scrape line because of strategic stand location.
If a place already comes to mind, set up the stand early in the season and stay out of the area until it’s showtime. However, if the property was acquired this year, make it a point to learn pre-rut buck activities with the following year in mind.
Be certain to set up a trail cameras to collect invaluable inventory. These high traffic areas will give hunters the best chance of seeing a lot of deer and even more important mature deer.
When there’s enough inventory and a stand hasn’t been set up, move in with a fixed position stand and be ready to ambush the targeted buck the same day or days to come.
Don’t forget to keep wind direction in mind when setting up this stand, because mature bucks are not as forgiving as younger immature bucks. The most common fall winds in the midwest include North West and South West winds.
Tree Stand Placement for Rut
The rut is known for being hectic and unpredictable with so many hunters seeing mature bucks in strange places. In the midwest, deer have been known to bed in the middle of picked fields just to get away from hunting pressure and young juvenile bucks harassing does. Some hunters even swear to hunt small strips of timber that are in close proximity to large mature timber.
Even though the rut is highly unpredictable, some things are consistent with deer behavior and patterns during the rut year after year. Hunting where the does frequent is a sure fire way of catching a glimpse of a mature whitetail. Where do does spend time? Try setting up on the edge of bedding areas with more than one stand placed, so the wind won’t ruin a hunt. Bucks will cruise from bedding areas looking for does that could be going into estrous shortly.
Another highly productive tree stand location for the rut is pinch points and funnels. Pinch points and funnels are areas that cause deer to focus their traffic to smaller areas. They make for perfect stands for all day sits during the rut. One type of funnel is one small strip timber, maybe 50-100 yards wide, that connects large pieces of timber. Funnels give deer a sense of security because of the timber, but it’s also gives bucks a shortcut to other bedding areas in order to cover ground quickly and efficiently.
When setting up a tree stand for the rut stage, pick the most comfortable stand available. Hunting the rut effectively and to harness the full potential of the rut, all day sits are a necessity when possible. Don’t forget to pick stand that won’t shine in your eyes all morning. By doing so, it’ll help avoid being detected by glaring hunting products from the warm morning sun.
At this point in deer season, the deer have been pressured and are very sensitive to disturbance. Some might argue everything past the rut is late season, but in this stage some does will come into heat if they weren’t bread in November. It’s also not painfully cold so the deer aren’t desperate for finding the honey-hole for food.
During this stage of deer season, hunters scratch their heads and ask themselves where all the deer went. The deer didn’t get abducted by aliens, but are just laying low and are conserving energy after a long and physically draining rut. This stage can be one of the most frustrating stages of deer season after coming off an exciting rut.
When placing stands for this portion of the season, it’s best to have easy access to the stand for quick non-disturbing hunts. Hopefully there’s a nearby food plot with a buffet selection of late winter crops like winter peas, radishes, and turnips. Having a Big Game Box Blind is a great option for the later months of the season to stay warm and concealed. Instead of tricking a few deer with sharp eyes, hunters will have to fool umpteen deer at times and a blind is the best option.
If hunters reside in a state where baiting is legal, this is a good time to groom the deer to come into an area. Just be very careful with scent control and focus on disturbing the area least as possible because the following weeks temperatures will drop and food will be king.
For hunters who’ve stayed patient and put the food plot work earlier in the year can be rewarded during the late season portion of deer season. Stand location is highly dependent on food source location. Similar to post-rut, a Big Game Box Blind is great for bearing the elements and staying undetected from a visual and scent standpoint. Failure to conceal scent is the most detrimental aspect of late season stands, so always keep traditional wind patterns when placing the stand in mind. The larger box blinds also allows for multiple people to firearm hunt and enough room for archery hunting. After a grueling deer season, a hunting buddy to sit with can help anyone keep sanity.
Having an easy and strategic entrance route to the stand that avoids bedding areas and causing pressure is another key ingredient for placing a late season stand. Hunting afternoon are the most productive hunts since deer activity is centered around evening feedings. If a deer hasn’t been tagged all season, late season is the time to start considering tagging a doe to fill the freezer.
All Season Long Stand Placement
Some things hold true the entire season when considering tree stand location. For instance, having multiple stand sites ready for every stage of deer season is ideal. Using a climbing systems allow for quick installation for fixed position treestands. A stand location sometimes is only as great as the entrance and exit route it provides. Be sure to take that into consideration when planning a master tree stand placement plan. Mentally break down the stages of deer season when preparing to hang the stand to consider if it’s good placement for when the stand will be hunted. Follow this insight and hunters will have more productive sessions and see more mature whitetails.