Unbiased Ways to Plan Your Tree Stand Locations
Luck certainly is a factor to successfully harvesting a mature whitetail year in and year out. You cannot control luck, but what you can control is the amount of preparation you put into each season. Preparation starts with planning and evaluating your tree stand locations.
Tree stand placement strategies need to be looked at each year objectively. Information obtained from last year and any data you can gather in the offseason should guide your decisions about setting up a deer stand for the upcoming season. No matter if you are choosing a tree stand spot for the first time or are considering moving an existing one, an unbiased approach to selecting and reviewing your tree stand locations will give you that much more of an edge.
Remove the Guesswork for Finding the Perfect Tree Stand Location
The perfect tree stand location rarely falls into your lap, especially on new ground. Hanging a tree stand on a completely new property or in an untouched area on public ground has its challenges. Many times hunters bias themselves by looking at obvious areas and following the crowd. The best stand locations, however, are found by examining areas and putting the information to work.
There are so many technologies available today to the hunter. For example, you can complete 80-90% of your planning and scout from your home computer. Start by using digital aerial photos and topographic maps to analyze a piece of ground. Many times this data is enough to discount many spots before even setting foot on the ground. Additionally, there are often free state-level resources such as habitat layers, parcel ownership, and land use history available. Information like this can paint a more granular picture of where exactly the best tree stand locations may be. Finally, the last piece of your research should entail historical weather analysis. Historical weather when you are considering potential tree stand placement spots provides an indication of wind direction trends. Sometimes this data can put a likely spot either in the yes or no bucket to start ground truthing.
Off-site information goes a long way but at some point, you have to physical investigate potential areas for hanging a tree stand. Even the best-researched spots from home can go bust when you actually go there. What you have actually gained, though, is you have eliminated hundreds of “good” areas before you spend days hiking around. This allows you to be objective when assessing stand sites for whitetails. From there it is as simple as getting on the ground and making sure what you judged is the perfect tree stand location actually holds up.
Tree Stand Locations and the Factors That Keep You Honest
When is the last time you took a comprehensive look at tree stand locations you have previously hunted? Each day in a tree stand is one more data point that can be used to evaluate whether or not you are dialed in on a high percentage deer stand location.
5 Factors For Unbiased Tree Stand Hunting
- Weather – Most whitetail activity is dependent on weather. Foraging, bedding and general movements are in some way tied to the weather. Historical observations of deer movement in different stand locations can dictate future activity when you tie it to weather patterns. For example, wind speed and direction determine which tree stands are likely to produce on a given day and which ones are not worth your time sitting in.
- Hunt Logs – Real observations over time are your best pieces of data. A tree stand location may have all the right attributes and look good but if you never see deer or the right deer from it, it is time to move on. Write down or use one of the many apps to track observations from each stand you hunt. You can document deer sightings, rut timing, and other accounts that can clue you in on how good a tree stand placement may be.
- Trail Camera Data – Trail cameras are your 24/7 hunt logs. Having them deployed in your tree stand locations gives you data when you are not there. This can help you decided when and how to hunt an area. Trail camera images and videos give you the ability to predict, in conjunction with the weather, what stand makes sense to hunt particularly if you are tracking individual bucks.
- Past Success – Similar to hunt logs and trail camera data, past success of seeing deer and harvesting bucks are good ways to objectively assess your tree stands. If you have had no success day after day in a stand, it may be time to move or change up to a new location.
- Seasonal Site Conditions – Each year is different. Another piece to the puzzle is current year deer sign and food availability. It changes yearly in an area and how it changes can be a major factor in if a stand produces or not. Investigate what deer sign you are seeing at each stand locations. Past success is something to consider but if this year’s mast crop is poor or agricultural crops have changed, deer will modify their patterns. Fresh scat, well-used trails and rut activity like scrapes and rubs are all signs deer are still using areas. Use this information in conjunction with other pieces of intel to hunt the right tree stands.
Stop Making Knee Jerk Mid-season Moves
Putting in the right preparation can be key from making off the cuff changes to stand locations mid-season. There are, however, times when even the best stand locations require a change.
Similar to setting up a deer stand on a new property or analyzing yearly hunting spots, the same methodology has to be implemented during the season. For example, rut activity is picking up nearby and deer patterns are changing related to it. Here you are wise to have a good hang on tree stand or climber to make quick changes day to day. Also, trail camera scouting can help with determining exactly when to make these changes.
In addition, tree stand placement during the rut is one of the hardest times to objectively consider where to put or move stands. Deer patterns during the rut season can be all over the place. Staying put in a tree stand all day is not always the answer no matter how much preparation you have put in. Hunt the moment and use available field information from fresh sign to actual observations to objectively positioning your stands.
Planning next year’s tree stand locations can be accomplished one of two ways. Either you put them back up in the same spot you hunted last year or you refocus your attention and objectively put the odds in your favor. The best stand locations do not happen by chance. Prepare and be unbiased with each tree stand placement.