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Ideal Sites for Your Treestand
The deer hunter has found a good hunting locale with a healthy deer population, including some big bucks. Now he must answer a very important question: where, exactly, will he put his treestand?
If he chooses the right spot, he could see the buck of a lifetime. Select the wrong place and he’ll experience disappointment.
Every deer hunt should scout to determine the ideal treestand location, looking for hotspots like these.
Active Deer Scrapes
Finding a line of fresh deer scrapes helps identify a mature buck’s travel route. Putting a treestand nearby is definitely worthwhile, but it need not be right on top of a deer scrape as long as the deer hunter can cover the route. It’s best to use terrain, cover and local wind flows to maximum advantage when selecting a treestand site. For example, predominant winds may not allow killing the buck down in the draw where the biggest scrapes are, but there’s a chance up on the ridge where the travel route leads. Study local conditions and place the treestand accordingly.
Each morning when deer hunters start dispersing en masse into deer territory, deer go where they can avoid humans. These escape areas usually feature dense cover or steep terrain. The deer hunter should situate a treestand where he can see likely entrance or exit paths and be there watching when other hunters start stirring. Look for rugged cover-filled areas where wary bucks might feel safe: thick creek-bottom brush, hollows full of vines and blowdowns, a bench just below a ridgetop or brushy knolls overlooking feeding areas.
Heavily used deer trails can be choice bowhunting spots. For example, one good treestand site is where the hunter can watch a trail deer travel between a daytime bedding area in dense cover and a nighttime feeding area such as a crop field. For those who will hunt more during the morning, it may be best to have a treestand closer to the bedding area. That way there’s a better chance of seeing a deer coming to bed down after the sun is up. Those who plan to hunt more in late afternoon should put the treestand closer to the feeding area.
Always watch for treestand sites where terrain features funnel deer through a small area. In farmlands, this often is a tree line or overgrown fence row connecting two tracts of woodlands surrounded by agricultural fields. When a buck moves from the south woods to the north section, it will follow the cover strip and can be intercepted by a watchful deer hunter in an elevated treestand. Other funnels include crossing spots on deep ravines, saddles between ridge peaks, benches on mountainsides, heavy-cover strips between open feeding areas and open paths through clearcuts or thickets.
Lightly hunted swamps often harbor big-racked swamp bucks. An ideal treestand site is on a long “ridge” of higher ground deer can travel and keep their feet dry. These aren’t distinct like mountain ridges. They appear as slightly higher elevations on a topo map, often adjacent oxbow lakes or near the swamp’s outer perimeter where lowlands give way to dryer terrain. Scout for crossing places between water bodies, too. For example, a slough connecting two oxbow lakes may have a beaver-dam “bridge” where deer cross, making this a good stand site. Likewise, a narrow spot in an otherwise broad bayou may serve as a travel route, even if deer have to swim across.
Deer are edge lovers, often traveling and feeding where two habitat types come together. For example, whitetails are more likely to be seen where a pine planting abuts a hardwood stand rather than deep within the pines or hardwoods themselves, making the edge area best for treestand placement. Crop field/woodland edges and edges of rivers and lakes are deer hotspots, too.
Power or Gas Lines
Rifle hunters love these open areas. They allow long-range viewing and shooting, and can be planted with foods that attract whitetails. A tall treestand that allows distant viewing and easy turning to tag a buck from long range is desirable.
Look at a hand placed flat on a table with fingers spread. Pretend these are finger ridges coming off a main ridge. The hub—the back of the hand—is where most deer pass through and the hunter should scout there for a treestand location. If the hub is also a nice oak flat with plentiful acorns, that’s a real hotspot. These are definitely places to scout and put a stand if sign indicates deer activity.
Deer travel paths of least resistance, so they habitually pass through gaps in fence lines. A concealed treestand with a good view of deer crossing here can be a real producer. A blue-ribbon stand site is where a tree has fallen across a fence. Deer will jump through repeatedly until the fence gets fixed.
Strips of brush or trees jutting into feeding fields can be golden stand locations. These often these exist because there’s a draw there or the ground stays wet. Whatever the reason, the deer hunter who finds a place like this should examine it thoroughly. Chances are deer use it to enter and exit the field, and a properly placed stand can help bring one down.