Well it’s that time of year again, your November date with that deer of a lifetime is calling and there is work to do. By now food plots have been planted, mineral stations have been installed (per state regulations), trail cameras have been hung and the data from those has been reviewed. You’ve cleaned up your old deer stands, checked all the nuts and bolts or may have even bought new ones. Your safety lines have all been replaced and or checked and you are chomping at the bit to get into the stand again. The location of the stand is one of the key components to being successful in the field and we have identified five, no brainer, locations for you. Keep in mind that not every property has all of these locations as discussed, but all properties should have at least one of these to be successful, and multiple stand locations properly used throughout the season at correct times will increase your odds of connecting with that deer.
1. “Dinner Bell”
During the early season the deer are focused on one thing and one thing only, packing on the pounds before the rut & winter hits. All that hard work you have done installing food plots around your land, or even just the neighboring corn/bean/alfalfa fields can all play into your plan of attack. The “Dinner Bell” stand is best utilized during evening hunts when the deer are up on their feet and ready to eat in the open areas, typically about an hour to thirty minutes before dark.
You should always place your stand location on the downwind side of your food plot, being aware of travel routes to and from the plot, along with an easy entrance and exit strategy as not to disrupt travel patterns. You can have the best location picked, but if you can’t get in our out of it without being seen or heard, what’s the point? I typically like to find a stand location that has a lot of back cover, green cedars during this time. I find that the smell helps to cover scent as well as the back break in the color helps to keep me secluded and hidden when moving around preparing for a shot. My camo selection during this month also has a lot of green in it as well and typically is very lightweight. The use of scent control products is recommended by most, but if you hunt the wind, you will be fine.
Early season is a great time to fill the freezer with venison, and with this stand location the ability to intercept younger bucks and does is almost endless at times. Be conscious of your surroundings and make sure that you can get in and out with your harvest quickly during the warmer months.
2. “Holding Pattern”
Second part to the early season hunt is the “Holding Pattern” as we call it. This is when the mature bucks are using spatial awareness prior to entering into the food plots. We’ve all seen it many times, young bucks and does parading around the food plots in front of us with plenty of time to take a shot, but that dominant, more mature buck is in a “Holding Pattern” back in what we refer to as a staging area, away from the food plot.
Big mature bucks aren’t stupid, that’s why they are Big & Mature. They know that the cover of darkness is to their benefit. That is why during the early season, you typically don’t see them parading around the food plots with a lot of day light left in the day. Your stand location, again, should be on the prevailing downwind side of the travel route or funnels from the “Holding Pattern” location, noting the bedding areas nearby. Since it is early season, trees should still have most of their foliage and cover should not be a great concern. Making sure that shooting lanes are cut and groomed well before you enter this stand to hunt are a key to your success as well as your travel route in and out.
The bedding area or “Bedroom” stand is one of the hardest stands to hunt, if you don’t know when or why to use them. Since you are as close as you possibly can be to the animal during their down time, it can pose numerous problems for the novice hunter, but when hunted at the correct times, it can make for an amazing time in the woods. This stand location is used at three different times of the year on our farm.
The first time is during what most hunters refer to as the “lull” typically taking place in mid-October until the rut starts. Why this happens still baffles wildlife biologists and hunters alike and there are hundreds of reasons, as I’m sure you’ve heard a few or even have some of your own. The point being is that this is during a time where the deer movement is slim to none during day light hours, so in order to hunt, you need to move into their ”Bedroom” where they are spending most of their time. The critical items to remember are; first you must hunt the correct wind, first sign of wind changes you are down and out. Secondly, that cover is king, the more you are hidden the better you are.
The second time to utilize this stand is late season after the rut when the deer are worn out and beat up, just trying to get a break and heal their bodies. Knowing where the closest food locations along with any yearlong open water sources are key to late season “Bedroom” stand location hunting.
Last but not least is if you have wounded a buck and tracked it back to their “Bedroom”. In my opinion, a wounded animal needs to be found and put down immediately once tracked. If that means hunting in its bedding area so be it. At this point in time, they’ve blown out all the rest of the deer around them anyways except for maybe a few, and it’s time to go in and harvest that animal
All those “shiners” or rubs on the trees along with the massive scrapes along the ground are screaming out to you that you have identified a buck’s territory. With proper camera placement you can assess which one or ones are using them. The “Shiner” or rub/scrape line stand should be set up at the heaviest well used location with prominent wind direction taken into consideration during the “Pre-Rut” phase when most dominant bucks are on their set daily routines. Their day time movement is not at its peak but it’s getting close. Timing of when to get into the stand is earlier than the pre-season but still within the two hours of end of day light scenario. I typically chose a large oak tree for this stand location. While providing great cover still at this time of year, there is also ample amount of food on the ground, bringing those deer closer and masking some of the noise with falling acorns and bustling leaves.
Let your trail cameras do the work to choose this location. If you have deer on your property, you will most likely have rubs and scrapes somewhere. Most individuals look for rubs and scrapes on field edges, which is a good starting point, but many larger communal ones are also found within the cover of the timber. Utilizing the trail cameras to identify the heaviest used ones from pre-season to years past will increase the odds in your favor.
5. “Game Time”
The Rut is a magical time of year, no doubt about it and this stand should be used only for that reason hence the name we use “Game Time”. This stand location is typically in the thick timber, and on our farm, on a ridge where chasing and scent checking for hot does is at its best. The funnels and trail heads leading to and from this location are worn and easily identified even by novice hunters.
Since bucks are focused on females mainly this time of year doesn’t mean that stand proximity to food does not need to be taken into consideration. Does are being run hard and at any chance they can get, they are wanting to get a bite to eat and or some water. The stand location should be near the funnels or trail heads leading to these locations. Distance to the food sources is up to your scouting and what available cover you have near that is easily accessed. This “Game Time” stand is my most comfortable stand by far physically, due to the amount of hours that I am going to be spending in it. In most cases during the rut, this means all day sits.
Being able to see a good distance from this stand location is also valuable at times as well, and is why I typically have this stand set as my highest stand in the largest tree as to conceal my body against the background. The more area I can cover when glassing for a buck from that point helps me. The use of calls is great, but I personally think calling too much can ruin a great stand location. That is why I like being able to see a good distance, whether through timber or out into a field, being able to see them not only keeps you mentally in the “Game”, it also allows you to observe the movements for next year’s stand location decisions.
Along with stand locations and times of when or when not to use stands, there are also a handful of things that you should be aware of when choosing the correct location:
What type of stand are you planning on using? Determining the best tree depends on the stand itself as much as it does with the location and time of year. You wouldn’t pick a gnarly tree with tons of cover if you were using a “climber” style stand, and in retrospect you wouldn’t choose a bare tall tree for a hang on or ladder stand. Knowing when to use each type of stand can be tricky but here are a few tips:
1. Climbing stands: The use of these during the rut is great if you like to be able to be mobile from area to area, or if you hunt public land. If you are hot on the trail of a buck, this option may be for you.
2. Ladder stands: These are great for multiple persons being able to use them, as when hunting with kids, as well as for older persons wanting to feel more stable. I highly recommend this stand type for beginners as well. The cover on some trees can be an issue and a lot of grooming may be needed to place the stand.
3. Hang on stands & steps: These are the most commonly used stand and will get you up and into most trees, allowing you to be very well concealed. The installation of these is not for the novice and as with any treestand, you should always wear a safety harness and be tied off when installing them and hunting out of them.
Which tree should I use? Obviously the tree needs to be in the right location. Once that is established, finding a good sturdy tree that is still alive is a great start. Knowing what stand and how much work to install that stand will also help you pick the specimen. I typically like oaks and cedars, depending on where I am at, and what time of year I am hunting, but these are my go to. My “Dinner Bell” stand is typically always a ladder stand cut into either a cedar tree or right in front of a cedar patch. My “Game Time” stand is, at least on our farm, a monster oak.
Where is the sun going to be when I am hunting? There is nothing worse than sitting in a stand and not being able to see most of the time because you are facing the wrong way at the right time of day. Knowing the deer travel routes & prominent wind direction will help you figure this out. When all else fails use the compass on your phone.
How will I access my stand? You have to know your travel routes to and from the stand as they may not be the same during the hours you are in the tree. Making sure that the brush and path you are using is cleaned up during the season is a step in the right direction. Making the path as wide as you and your gear also helps. You’d hate to go tromping through the woods clanging everything around, just to see that buck of a lifetime pop up 40 yards away from you and take off. Plan a little bit and every time you use that stand remove downed branches on your way in or out.
When should I get into my stand? The earlier the better! If you can sit a long time, do it. More time in the stand means more opportunities to learn as well as to have a chance at a successful harvest. That being said, don’t go out at noon during preseason and sit until 8:00 p.m., as the deer aren’t typically going to move. Know your deer and the time of the season and get in sooner than later.
Time to get out and hang those stands!