Here we are in the Month of June, just a few short months away from being able to enjoy a little “treestand therapy”. Bucks across the country are showing us their promise, wrapped neatly in velvet, still with much growing yet to occur. Trail camera photos of these velvet bucks are enough to send any serious whitetail hunter into a tizzy, and you might even want to head out to hang a couple treestands! Truthfully, there is no better summer month to hang a tree stand than June. The weather isn’t blisteringly hot and you’ve got just enough intel from your trail camera photo inventory to select the PERFECT spot to ambush that buck at the beginning of the season with your crossbow. But there is one other key piece to take into account before you tote a stand to the woods.
Now is the time to recall all of that data you absorbed while you were out on your late winter walk, scouting for deer sign throughout your hunting property and looking for shed antlers. If you weren’t confident enough in your reconnaissance then, you certainly don’t want to wait until august to start hanging stands. That’s just not enough time for the deer to settle down from any disturbances they might have felt while you were traipsing through the woods scouting and hanging treestands.
If you remember back to our article on February scouting, you’ll remember that visible trails, scrape lines, and rub lines in collaboration with the known food sources, bedding locations, and terrain features that you were able to identify when all the greenery was absent from the woods, then determining exactly where to hang your stand should be fairly simple.
Start by pulling out a map, printing one offline, or using one of the many mobile phone applications to pull up an aerial view of the land you’ll be hunting. From there, think back on those bedding areas and feeding locations. They are critically important in this process. If you know the general direction the trails run both to and from each location, you’re off to a great start. Couple that with any trail camera information you have about when the deer are utilizing each of those trails. If you hit one that is fairly daylight-active, then the strategic work is done. Pick a spot between the bedding area and food source that shows the most promising daylight activity from your trail cameras and set out to hang a stand in that vicinity. Keep in mind which trails and which side of these trails allows for the most commonly favorable wind direction.
Once you’ve pinpointed that location, put your boots on the ground. A couple things to consider once you’ve taken your treestand to the woods: First, the manufacturers recommendations for how to securely fasten that treestand to the tree and second, the appropriate size of tree that is recommended for your specific treestand model. With this in mind, and having already figured out which side of the trail you need to be on for the most likely favorable wind directions to hunt, you just have to find the right tree at the right distance from the trail.
This is actually easier than you think. Most archery hunters kill deer at about 20 yards or so, which means you don’t have to be right on top of the trail itself. Pick a tree that is about 15-20 yards off the trail. It should be relatively straight with a few small branches and leaves at the right height to offer some cover. Most hunters prefer to hang treestands around 20 feet off the ground, so that should give you a good starting point.
After finding the right tree and hanging the stand in that tree, observe your surroundings. Take note of any outlying branches, limbs, saplings, fall-downs, etc. that would need to be moved in order to open up a clear shooting lane from your stand to about three or four different locations on the trail you’re going hunt. Too many shooting lanes and you likely don’t have enough cover to effectively conceal yourself. Too few and you risk blowing your only opportunity because of all the unforeseen and inevitable variables that play out while hunting whitetails that would prevent that deer from walking right through your shooting lane.
I personally like to have a 20 yard shot through a shooting lane straight out in front of the stand. I also like to have a shooting lane providing a 30-35 yard shot out on either side, so that I have equal opportunity regardless of which direction the deer comes from down the trail. I then like to predict whether I’ll hunt the mornings or evenings more in this locations, coupled with the direction I anticipate the deer coming from during that time. If I did my scouting, I ought to have an even better understanding of this. I will then cut a shooting lane offering a 40-45 yard quartering-away shot as a last ditch effort. That is the max of my comfort zone for shooting a crossbow, and I want to be sure it offers the most effective shooting angle to increase my chances of making a successful and lethal shot. Once that is accomplished, it’s a matter of counting down the days until the season starts and practicing with your crossbow or compound bow to make sure you’re dialed in.
All of this information and strategy, while not a guarantee, definitely improves my confidence and goes a long way to increasing the odds that I will not only cross paths with many deer throughout the season, but that I will get a good ethical shot opportunity, hopefully at a mature buck! So just because it’s summer time doesn’t mean you can disregard all that knowledge you gained through February and March. That information is invaluable to helping you set up the best possible stand location for one heck of an exciting crossbow hunting season this fall! Good luck!