As the season progresses, change your stand sites to give yourself ….A Front Row Seat
A buck doesn’t hit true trophy potential until full maturity. Notice I said “full” maturity. I’m of the opinion a buck isn’t fully mature until he’s at least 5 ½ years old – and that means he is as smart at avoiding stands as you are at hanging them.
In five and a half years of survival, a buck has pretty much learned all the ropes. He’s learned to adapt to situations and conditions within his world or he wouldn’t still be there. Woods-wise knowledge coupled with his natural senses make him a worthy challenge. I’ve always been a believer when hunting mature bucks you are better off letting them come to you. That dictates setting up a situation and letting it unfold, and it usually means proper treestand placement.
I choose my treestand placements according to several factors. I consider time of the year; food sources; the rut; post-rut; AM versus PM versus all day; entrance/exit; hunting pressure; and most importantly, consistent wind direction.
Let’s touch on those variables as the season progresses –
September and October:
Hunt their food sources. Set up between their bedding and feeding areas, but take the bigger picture into account: the overhead tree canopy, foliage densities, light intensities, food preferences, etc. Hunt mast crop in preferred locations discovered through scouting.
For example, think about what might happen along a dry creek bed lined with mature oaks. It may create a natural feed trough if the acorns roll downhill into the dry creek bed.
Late October and All of November:
Shift to hunting the terrain and structure to take advantage of rut movement. Prepare yourself mentally with the fact big mature bucks WILL be on the move. Terrain structures will dictate that movement year after year, and you can capitalize on them for decades. Hunting pinch points within security cover will eventually produce.
You may not see as many deer as you do when hunting food sources, but have the mindset that the longer you cover these areas under ideal conditions, it’s just a matter of time until your opportunity comes. Be aware the foliage is dropping and the canopy is opening up. Stand locations that were perfect in early season might be too open now, so adjust accordingly.
Late November through January:
Return to hunting trails to and from the food sources or at the food itself as the rut winds down. This is when nutrition again becomes vital as bucks rebuild from the rut. Take into consideration the foliage has now opened up to a degree, that you will be much more visible in the hardwoods. Consider placing stands in softwoods such as cedars, junipers and pines knowing they won’t shed their needles and will afford much better cover for the treestand hunter.
My General Stand Placement Strategies:
I don’t worry about stand elevation so much. I’d much rather be elevated only ten feet in a thick softwood tree than twenty feet up in a limbless hardwood that looks like a telephone pole. I’ve killed giant bucks with my bow when my feet were only eight feet above ground level.
I have morning stands, evening stands and all-day stands. I also have stands set up for various wind directions. I am especially conscious of my entrance to and exit from my stands. I try to vary my approach so as not to be patterned myself, but always approach according to the day’s wind direction.
I force myself to walk in a long way under the cover of darkness so as not to educate the deer to my presence with the noise of any kind of vehicle. When it’s dark a deer thinks he’s invisible and you can get away with a lot more visually than when it’s light out. But ALWAYS be aware of the wind direction.
No matter what time of year you are setting up for, the number one factor is wind direction. Do not hunt a stand if the wind isn’t right for it. You’ll just educate all the deer in your area and make it that much harder to hunt them. You can and will alter their patterns for weeks or even the entire season. When that happens, you’ve wasted all your scouting efforts.
I personally like to have a lot of stands pre-hung before the season in order to capitalize on a sneaky approach. But if a hunter doesn’t have many stands available he can at least create his stand sites prior to the season. Have the area all trimmed out and hang your stand when you’re ready to hunt.
Adjust to what’s happening in the woods and with a little luck, you’ll always have a great front row seat.
About Barry Wensel
Barry Wensel is one of the nation’s top hunters using traditional archery equipment, and the author of The Crooked Hat Chronicles, tales of his adventures and misadventures (available at www.brothersofthebow.com.) If you ask him why he wears his hat crooked, you’ll get his sense of humor. He says, “So the animals I’m shooting don’t think I’m looking at them.” It works – in 2011, while wearing his hat crooked, Barry took his oldest buck ever, an incredible 9½ year old.
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