Treestand therapy is nearly upon us. Bucks across the country are showing us their promise, wrapped neatly in velvet. Trail camera photos of these velvet bucks are enough to send any serious whitetail hunter into a frenzy, and it’s time to head out and hang a couple treestands!
You’ve now got 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 consider 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. 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 will help determine exactly where to hang your stand.
1. 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.
Start by pulling up an aerial view of the land you’ll be hunting with your mobile app. 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.
2. Locate right tree at right distance from the trail to hang out strand
Once you’ve pinpointed that location, put your boots on the ground. Keeping in mind the appropriate size of tree that is recommended for your stand, determine which side of the trail you need to be on for the most likely favorable wind directions to hunt, and 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.
3. Cut Shooting Lanes
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.
- With your setup, you may want to consider having a 20-yard shot through a shooting lane straight out in front of the stand AND a shooting lane providing a 30-35 yard shot out on either side, so that you have equal opportunity regardless of which direction the deer comes from down the trail.
- Determine whether you’ll hunt the mornings or evenings more in this location based on the direction you anticipate the deer coming from during that time. If you did your scouting, you should have a good understanding of this.
- Finally consider cutting a shooting lane offering a 40+ yard quartering-away shot as a last ditch effort. This should be the max of your comfort zone for shooting a crossbow, and 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 to make sure you’re dialed in.
All of this information and strategy, while not a guarantee, definitely increases your odds of not only cross paths with many deer throughout the season, but that you will get a good ethical shot opportunity, hopefully at a mature buck!