Because of poor hearing in my left ear, I was startled as the heavily panting doe strode by only 10 feet below. Given that the peak of the rut was right around the corner and of her exhausted look, I knew she was avoiding a buck hot on her trail. Before she arrived I was enjoying watching a huge lovesick 6 point push several does around in the core rut area around me. Because of his massive, long tinned 3 X 3 high-racked frame, I considered taking him if he offered the shot. But, that notion was about to change.
>>>> This new doe unexpectedly came in from behind me, altering her course off a series of trails coming out of a bedding area off to my right side that eventually converged into a main trail 10 yards in front of my stand, and then branched off into another trail 15 yards to my left. She hurriedly continued on and crossed over the main trail in front of me and disappeared through the junipers on her way to join the other does.
>> By then I had positioned myself for a shot should the newly expected buck follow.
>>>> After a couple of anxious minutes he gated in from behind me, neck out, wide-eyed, his head cocked slightly back, following in her steps.
Nervously, I watch for his reaction should he pick up my scent as he began to pass underneath my feet.
>>> The steady NE breeze held true and blew my scent mere feet over his head. Instantly my mind confirmed that this awesome, heavy wide-racked 8 point was a shooter. After holding my breath for what felt like was an eternity, I had to swiftly decide how to make the shot happen.
>>>> He too was heading away from me, offering no shot with my bow. When he broke clear of some tree branches between us and stepped into a shooting lane I snorted with my mouth to stop him, only he didn’t stop.
>> Before he completed his next step I snorted again, this time very loud and aggressively, halting him in his tracks 12 yards away.
>>>> As he jerked his head right to left to locate the offensive buck which blew at him I readied my recurve, increased tension on the string and mentally beseeched him to step in either direction.
>> He did. As he stepped to the left I picked my spot, drew and released in a liquid-like motion. My eyes recorded the flight of the arrow, but my mind would only process the event frame by frame, as though I was watching a fast-paced slide show – until it struck its mark. The instant the arrow passed through him I snapped back into real-time.
>>>> He had no idea what had just happened and only slightly jolted when the shaft punched into the earth a few feet beyond him. Moments later he sauntered out of the site after branching off the main trail at the junction.
>> Within an hour it would be dark, and I looked forward to completing the task at hand under the soft light of the closing day rather than in the harsh contrasting shadows of artificial light.
Knowledge Begets Opportunity
Interestingly, this scenario played out almost identical to my big buck experience the season before. Same stand site, same time of year (November 15 & 17 respectively), identical weather, and both bucks retreated in the same direction and went down within yards of each other. Actually, I’m not surprised, except for the weather considering central Texas, which was definitely a coincidence.
Not wanting to sound arrogant with that last statement,
I’ll defend myself by sharing one of my most productive bowhunting techniques – that being a quality stand placement strategy.
But, before we go any further I want you to think about your knowledge of the land and the deer you’re hunting. Without a solid understanding of your hunting grounds, the best-placed stand in the wrong location will only waste your valuable hunting time. I should know, been there and done that.
More importantly, I continually record and maintain notes of my observations afield of deer and their activities while I’m scouting and hunting by utilizing The Hunt Recorder & Notes Book. Specifically; where I find it, when I find (or see) it, and what they’re doing (behavior).
Specific information is then also indicated on a black & white copy of a topo map which will become part of my “how-to-hunt” strategy for each season. Important information includes big buck sightings, active trail systems (funnels and travel lanes), bedding areas, core rut areas, new rubs, and scrapes as they appear each season, and stand sites.
The compilation of data on this map becomes a histogram, indicating vital information, both past, and present, which guides me to accurately determine when, where and how I should hunt during each phase of the season.
The only thing left to do is locate sites and place the stands.
When we don’t have an intimate knowledge of the land, it’s imperative to review topo and aerial maps, interview the owner or manager and others who work on and have previously hunted it, and then personally conduct thorough scouting on foot. Again, aside from knowing when and where to hunt for each of the different phases of the season, the most important aspect for creating shot opportunities is quality stand placement. After that, you need only to sit those stands so you’re there when he decides to walk by.
If you place it, they will come.
Besides missing a gimmie shot, I can’t think of anything more depressing than to watch the buck I’ve worked so hard for calmly walk into my stand site, begin working his way into bow range and before he’s broadside jerk his head up, begin starring my direction all bug-eyed, nervously back step and then bolt out of range.
After 21 years of bowhunting, my misses far outnumber the times I’ve been seen by deer. No, that doesn’t mean I’ve missed dozens of times! Also, concerning the misses, those bittersweet events do contain a positive note – I HAD the opportunities to shoot at CALM bucks and does. The stand placements were perfect, my shots were not.
You can be the greatest shot in the world, but your talent is wasted when you cut corners in creating the proper stand set up.
In this article we will take a hard look at stand placement strategy, covering three basic principles.
Utilizing these principles will help you place a quality stand in a productive area within an optimal shot distance of the deer you want; and, you will hunt with the confidence of not be detected when the opportunity begins to present itself.
That in itself is a tremendous feeling and accomplishment every time it happens. We’ll make these heart-pounding situations become a reality beginning in Part Two.
Part Two – IN THE ZONE
1. So Many Choices – Where to place a stand – What kind of stand will work best
When you finally locate that magical spot where you know you’re going to see Mr. Big you now need to determine where to place a stand, and in order to do that you have to determine what kind of stand will work best.
Today we have a wide assortment and several versions of stand types to meet any need, ranging from
Pop up ground blinds,
tripods, ladder stands,
hang-on stands and
All of these are great choices, but I usually find one of these stand types will work best in any given stand location choice – that one spot where all stand placement factors come into focus, better said as In The Zone.
Such factors include:
expected path of buck’s entry and travel through the stand site,
the rising or setting sun, and
available background cover to hide in.
For me, being in the Zone means a broadside shot within 20 yards at a calm deer that has no idea I’m there until after I decided to let him know.
Any number of scenarios create just as many variations to effectively accomplish this, whether it is a tripod tucked into a lightly trimmed dark green juniper with an oak tree next to or behind me, a ladder stand propped up into a large gnarly live oak, or a chain on stand hung high up in a red elm.
The list goes on and on.
Therefore, be flexible in your thinking as you study each stand site, and walk yourself through the possible strike zones to determine shooting lanes, looking through them for a stand site that offers optimum concealment concerning the buck’s ability to see and scent you.
2. The Invisible Man
When evaluating a stand site take into consideration how much background cover it offers you. I’m more concerned with this than I am about stand height.
Also, I prefer to hunt with the sun behind me and my target in front of me, that way the background cover breaks up my outline, creates dark shadows and puts me in the shade, allowing me greater freedom of movement when the anticipated moment arrives.
If the buck looks in my direction he’ll have to look in the general direction of the sun. Thus, I have stand sites for morning hunts, others for evening hunts and others still that can be hunted any time of day given the wind direction cooperates because they are located in the deep shade of heavy canopied groves of trees.
I absolutely hate to hunt with the low morning or evening sun in my face because I feel lit up, vulnerable and obvious, plus it’s a nightmare trying to pick a spot for my shot.
Effective background cover can be attained from the larger, wider telephone pole type trees with perpendicular branches (pines, and many softwoods), gnarly trees with large branches that abruptly jut out (oaks and other mast trees), and the dense dark Christmas tree type evergreens (junipers, firs, cedars, etc.).
3. Quiet Please
Depending on the stand, you’ll most likely have to make some adjustments to eliminate stand noise.
NOTE: NEVER MODIFY THE DESIGN OF A STAND! Doing so can compromise its structural integrity and safety features.
However, to eliminate those buck busting noises
I’ll put a drop of a liquid silicon (no scent) where pieces join and bolt together.
I then make sure all nuts, bolts, and fasteners are snug or tight depending on the function of the joined pieces. Snug for swivel joints, tight for fixed joints.
Thin nylon washers placed between swivel joints, nuts and bolts help tremendously.
Always contact the manufacturer for approval prior to any adjustments, applications or modifications; and heed their advice!
Also, stands sometimes squeak when you shift your body weight while sitting, or apply more weight on one foot than the other while standing.
To Solve This
If the source of this noise is where they stand makes contact with the tree, try squirting some water (from your water bottle) on the bark where the stand makes contact.
Where water doesn’t work, place a thin strip of carpet between the stands’ contact point and the bark.
Again, if squeaks come from joints and other points in the stand, use a drop or two of liquid silicon, available in auto parts and hardware stores.
In Part Three, we will delve into four important considerations concerning the wind and how we can use it to our advantage. –Zano
Part Three – BLOW, BLOW, SEMINOLE WIND
Considering the wind direction, a stand site should never be sacrificed. That means NEVER hunt it when the wind is wrong for it, especially if you don’t bathe in scent killing soap, wear scent-free camo and rubber boots, and spray down with scent killing spray.
The biggest bucks are mature bucks – living, breathing BUG OUT machines, and they never err on the side of caution when they suspect or smell something is not right. For this reason, I’ll develop another stand(s) for that site area allowing me to hunt any of the possible prevailing winds. Hunt the wind. Always.
Having several choices of stands to hunt also prevents stand to burn out, meaning it’s being over hunted – hunted too often in a short period of time. Mature deer can quickly pattern you within two hunts. Of 20 stands I have placed, I never have to hunt one over and over in a short period of time.
Plus, a third of my stands cover preferred food sources, a third cover core rut areas, and a third cover travel corridors between bedding sites, food sources, and core rut areas. All my bases are now covered. A couple of stands I can hunt only two or three times per 100 day season, they’re that specialized.
I view prospective stand sites and the huntable area around it like a compass. I’m the needle pointing into the wind, the site around my stand is the compass rose with eight possible wind directions within the 360-degree circle.
The best stands offer me at least a 270-degree shooting opportunity, we’re thinking wind, forget the shooting lanes for now. The other 90 degrees are behind me and is the area I don’t want the buck to be in because that’s where I could be scented.
This step in the process of choosing a stand site utilizing the 270/90 rule is as important to me as being in the Zone and being able to become the Invisible Man.
Most of my stand sites offer at least two (of the three) huntable wind directions, giving me greater flexibility to hunt it. Thus, having multiple stands throughout my hunt area allows me to hunt the four primary winds:
Southerly winds (SE/S/SW),
Northerly winds (NE/N/NW),
Easterly’s (SE/E/NE) and
Westerly winds (SW/W/NW).
I now don’t have to worry about where I can hunt. Also, having 2 or 3 stands placed in the most coveted areas means I’ll have complete freedom to hunt the most active sites during any phase of the season, regardless of wind direction.
Try it, your shot opportunities will skyrocket with this tactic and you won’t jeopardize a site area because you hunted a stand when the wind was wrong.
The following diagram of the Cross Creek stands locations illustrates what is in my mind as I select stands within a hunt site, and is the layout of the site I’m hunting at the beginning of this article. As you can see, two stands cover this site, allowing me to hunt the predominate fall and winter wind directions for our geographic area, typically Northerly’s and Southerly’s. Except for NW or W winds, I can hunt this site without worry. Therefore, when I’ve done my homework, the buck should never be in the 90* zone behind me. But, like what happened to me with this buck, they don’t always cooperate with our best-laid plans. Fortunately, the wind held a steady breeze keeping my scent up high and the buck walked almost directly underneath me as he angled in a crosswind from behind.
Like it or not, you stink! If you don’t do something about controlling your scent while going to and from your stand you’re wasting your time. No sense going through all the trouble we’re talking about if you skip on this subject. Any deer with a brain over 6 months old simply won’t tolerate your presence, so get as scent-free as you can afford.
That means your rubber boots, camo, gloves, hat, and bow need to be sneaky clean. There are many methods and products to help you control your scent, and much has been written on the subject. Do it! You’ll see deer like never before.
Know Entry – Know Exit
Now that you’ve got the stand site selected you to need to consider how you’re going to access the stand. You also have to determine if you can only get in during the mornings or afternoons.
Those last few hundred steps to/from your stand will determine if a deer will make its route without altering its course.
Choose a path that considers the wind, how much noise you’ll make, and how visible you’ll be to deer on your walk into/out of the stand site. Also, never touch anything with your bare hands while you are on the ground.
On your walk out of morning hunts, and into afternoon hunts, slow it down. Not only look where you place your feet but scan ahead and around.
Avoid pushing through brush, kicking rocks, crunching leaves and snapping sticks underfoot – keep your approaches and exits quietly.
On several occasions, I’ve come upon deer within 50 yards, giving me the opportunity to put the sneak on them, or just watch until they leave so I can continue on. If the conditions are right – damp, wet ground and windy, you can add a dimension to bow hunting few people ever get to enjoy. My two most memorable hunts happened like this as I decided to stalk up on good bucks I stumbled into on my way to stand because the conditions were right and I was taking a deliberate, slow and aware approach to my stand.
Do Not Disturb – Avoid walking Through Those Way
At all costs, avoid walking through or next to a bedding site on your way in to hunt the afternoon and out of your morning hunts.
Also, choose a path that directs you out and away from feeding areas on your walk-in on mornings and out of in the evenings.
During the rut, bucks are often active all day long, traveling and looking for receptive does, so avoid walking through the funnels and trail systems you’ll be hunting, come in and then leave the stand from a perpendicular angle if possible.
Remember, you don’t want to be seen, smelled or heard. Stealth is key. All of this route planning can mean some extra time and walk, which I happen to like, so don’t skip out here.
Lastly, unless you park in a place that has permanent human and automotive presence, like a farmer’s yard, in the immediate area where you will be hunting,
Do not slam the doors on your vehicle. Quietly push them shut.
Also, keep your voice down, the radio off, and don’t clank stuff around in the back of the pickup.
From where you park there may home just down the road, and you may even be able to hear people noises, but I promise you a mature deer will know something is up if it hears you as you leave your auto.
Also, I try to park at least a quarter-mile from the stand I’ll be hunting. Come on now, that’s only 440 yards. Many of my stands are 1/3 to 1/2 mile and more from where I park.
We get several questions a year about driving to and parking close to hunting areas and if that affects the hunt. If the immediate hunt area is devoid of human activity throughout the year, then my answer is always the same, YES! Besides, why chance it. Plus, a casual walk to your stand releases stress and allows you to get mentally prepared for the hunt. So, after parking and from that moment on, shhhhhhhh…..
If you have a question regarding any point in this article, please feel free to ask me about it here.