There’s nothing like the excitement of sitting in a stand for the first time. Not only do you feel that special anticipation that comes with experiencing something new, but the odds of success always are higher the first time you sit in a stand.
A host of factors can lead to a stand’s decline in productivity. In fact, each time we hunt a particular stand, we’re increasing the risk of tipping off the deer as to our presence in the woods and our stand’s location. Since mature bucks are skittish animals at best, they don’t like to expose themselves to unnecessary dangers. To avoid the dangers of human predation, big bucks often alter their normal patterns drastically. They may begin to avoid specific areas altogether. Also, they’ll frequently shift their daily movement routines to nighttime hours only.
In order to minimize the risks of educating bucks as to where a given stand is located, three important factors should be taken into consideration. First, try to select a travel route both to and from your stand that will give you the minimum amount of exposure. Next, always choose a stand location with adequate cover and where the wind direction is favorable. And finally, no matter how good a stand site appears to be, you must restrain yourself from over-hunting the area.
In addition to the “big three” factors that are so important to stand hunting success, this article will delve into some of the lesser-discussed methods for keeping stand sites undetected. When combined with the big three, these methods can do wonders for helping a stand remain in a fresh, pristine state.
As important as it is to reach your stand without being detected, it’s equally important to be able to leave your stand without spooking the deer. Few things ruin a stand faster than having deer watch you exit the woods. This is particularly true when you’re hunting crop fields or food sources in the woods.
One good technique that seems obvious, yet is often underutilized, is that of waiting the deer out. Because of their browsing nature, deer do not tend to “camp out” in one location and feed for hours on end. Instead, they like to keep moving as they slowly feed through any given food source. In many cases, simply having the patience to allow the deer to feed in and out of an area is all a hunter needs to do to prevent discovery.
A good example of this occurred with me a number of years ago after I had invested a considerable amount of effort into patterning a nice 2 1/2-year-old 8-pointer on my 40-acre home site. Because this buck bedded on my neighbor’s land, I knew I would have to arrow him before rifle season opened or he would be gone for sure. This was the first buck I had ever seen on my small chunk of land that was older than a yearling. Unfortunately, my land was surrounded by land being used by a horde of dedicated and highly effective meat hunters.
With my stand hung on an oak ridge behind my house, I hoped that my years of fertilizing oak trees would finally pay off. As the acorns began to drop, I traveled a low-impact route to the stand and settled in. About 20 minutes before dark, I saw him. Working along the ridge, he had paused to eat some freshly dropped mast. As he moved through the woods, he’d stop at one tree, eat a handful of acorns and then proceed on his way, getting closer all the time.