public land hunting

How to Find Worthwhile Public Hunting Land

Public Hunting Land | Branching Out to New Areas

 

You might be blessed to hunt on private land of one type or another. Maybe it’s been in your family for generations. Maybe you worked your butt off to buy or lease a prime whitetail property with food plots. Or maybe you just know a guy who got you access for a free hunt on some land down the road. Any way you slice it, there are some great advantages to having a piece of property to yourself. But there are also some amazing opportunities and benefits from public hunting land. In fact, they might just stack up to tilt the favor away from private land.

 

First, there is literally so much public hunting land out there across our great country that it would be darn difficult to ever hunt it all. Granted, some states are better positioned for it than others, but there’s a lot out there. It’s basically free to use, so you never have to worry about missing a loan payment. Technically, your tax money helps purchase and maintain some of these areas, so why not use them? Many public lands include some truly scenic and amazing areas too. And as nice as it is to manage private land, it can sometimes get a little too routine. You fall into the same procedure every hunt, which doesn’t push you to grow your skills. With public properties, you can switch it up every day and stay fresh all hunting season. Trying new areas challenges you as a hunter, helps build your outdoor skills, and kicks tree stand boredom out the window.

 

But it can definitely be intimidating when you start your search. Luckily, it’s really never been easier for someone to quickly locate several great hunting spots from the comfort of their own home. Sure, some actual boots on the ground will be the only way to really know you want to hunt somewhere. But before all that, nimble up those fingers and start searching for some amazing public hunting land near you.

 

The Search for Public Land

 

The easiest way to start is to simply open up whatever search engine you want and type in “public hunting land in MN” or whatever state you live in. Alternatively search for “state hunting land near me” or “public hunting grounds near me” for a long list of properties. In Minnesota alone, for example, you’ll find county land, state forests, miscellaneous state hunting land, state trust lands, wildlife management areas (WMAs), waterfowl production areas (WPAs), industrial forest lands, national forests, and the list goes on. Usually, your state wildlife agency website will be a good resource for locating public hunting land. But if you’d prefer the old-fashioned way, call up a local office and ask them about public opportunities near you. Most of them will be happy to share, and they may already have a public hunting land map for you. As a last resort, whip out some county plat books and keep your eyes open for any of the property types mentioned above.

Don’t forget to look at surrounding properties and access to the public hunting land. After all, some portions of a particular unit may be land-locked by private property or require a very lengthy walk/ATV ride through a swamp to get to it. This is especially important if you primarily use ladder stands, as some public lands do not allow tree stands to be left on the property overnight. In that case, you’d need to take some fixed position stands or climbers with you that you can set up and take down in a day. The Blackhawk is a great option for strict public lands because it is very light, even when combined with the Quick-Stick climbing system.

 

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After finding a few potential places, it’s time to get some more information about them and develop a short list for hunting. Typically, there will be some kind of web page devoted to most of the common public hunting lands above, which will provide some more details about the terrain, land cover, wildlife present, or access. After weeding out a few more options, it’s time for some desktop scouting.

 

Scouting for Deer…with Your Computer

 

If you don’t already use Google Earth® for hunting, you really need to be. It is such a powerful tool for quickly looking at cover types, saving tree stand locations or trails, and even keeping track of past hunting activity throughout the years. In some cases, you can also search online for “land ownership Google Earth” to find county-specific ownership layers that you can import into the program, which makes the whole process even easier. Anyway, open it up and zoom to the location of the public hunting land you’re interested in. From here, it’s time to pan around and zoom in and out to get a feel for the property. If it passes this test, it’s probably worth investigating in-person.

 

As far as things to look for, think about what you would look for on a scouting trip. Thick cover, bedding areas, food sources, water, travel routes, funnels/pinch points, and tree stand locations are all things you should be able to estimate from this aerial research. If you find that you can’t really tell from the aerial imagery, there is a way to also view historic imagery, which might offer a better view. For example, your current imagery might have been taken in summer and everything appears to only be a different shade of green. But using the historic imagery slider, you can toggle back until you find one that was taken in fall or winter. During those times of the year, the leaves are gone and you can see specific tree species really easily, not to mention bedding areas and funnels in much crisper detail. You can even see deer trails through cattail swamps with these images!

 

how to find worthwhile public hunting land

 

Now here’s where it gets really exciting. You can create polygons of spots you expect to be good bedding areas, save lines for potential access trails, or make points for good tree stand locations. By saving these spots on your custom public land map, you can print it and bring it with you to the woods when you decide to ground truth it. From there, you can easily cross things off the map if they don’t look like you envisioned, or draw additional points and notes to record later back in the program. This makes it such a powerful tool for any deer hunter.

 

Make the best use of this winter by starting your scouting for new public hunting land right now. It’s never a bad thing to have too many properties you can hunt on a given day; unless of course you find perfect tree stand spots for each one. But that’s a pretty good problem to have, don’t you think?

fall turkey hunting from a tree stand | Big Game Treestands

Fall Turkey Hunting from a Tree Stand?

Take Fall Turkey Hunting to New Heights

November is flying by at a record pace. Before you know it and if we’re lucky, we’ll be gathered around a table giving thanks with family or friends. Now imagine going out yet this fall and putting a big tom turkey on the ground, just in time for some Thanksgiving table fare. How proud would you be serving your family and friends some fresh, deep-fried wild turkey instead of the store-bought version? If that seems like it would be a fun twist for your tradition, you should consider going fall turkey hunting this year.

While spring turkey hunting typically gets most of the hype and attention, there’s a lot of exciting action to be had in the fall too. Some states have more relaxed regulations for fall turkey hunting, which can increase your chance at harvesting a bird. In Minnesota, for example, the fall turkey hunting seasons are liberal and you can possess an either-sex fall tag. That means you could legally kill any turkey that strolls within range. That alone drastically changes the game if you’re hoping to guarantee a Thanksgiving bird. To make things even easier, this article is going to discuss how to successfully hunt turkeys from a tree stand. If you’ve already got turkeys in your hunting areas and have some deer stands up, you’re all set!

How Are Fall Turkeys Different?

fall turkey hunting from a tree stand | Big Game TreestandsBefore you hunt, it’s important to know the different turkey habits in the fall; they are very different critters than they are in the spring. Springtime is all about mating season and courtship displays, while fall is all about food and survival. Toms will spend a great deal of energy chasing hens in the spring, but they pretty much stick to bachelor groups in the autumn looking for food sources. Because of these tendencies, you would typically use hen decoys and hen calls to convince a tom to come investigate in the spring, but you need to use tom or jake decoys and similar male calls to get a gobbler to come by in the fall. As you can see, there are a lot of big differences between hunting a spring turkey versus a fall turkey.

Why Tree Stands for Fall Turkey Hunting?

Most people associate hunting turkeys with ground blinds, and that is definitely the most common approach. In the fall, many people also choose a run and scatter tactic, which can use the bird’s confusion to bring them right back in for a shot. But in most cases and places, people already have tree stands in place for deer hunting throughout the fall, which means turkeys are used to seeing them. Why not use them? Generally, they are also already very concealed and located on food plots or good travel routes, which are good spots for turkeys as we’ll discuss below. Depending on where you hunt, many turkeys are not used to aerial predator attacks. Since most hunters don’t approach them that way either, you can sometimes get away with a little more movement, especially if you’re wearing a good camouflaged set of turkey hunting clothing,. Finally, it requires the least amount of work to do, assuming you already have some tree stands up. If you don’t have some existing ladder stands or pre-hung lock on stands, your best bet is to choose mobile stands (i.e., lock on stands). That way, you can adjust your location easily depending on where the turkeys are or are not. You may want to hang a universal shooting rail with the fixed position tree stand, so that you can drape a camo blind kit around it for additional concealment; just don’t hang it so high that you can’t see the decoy below you to make a shot.

Speaking of the best locations to find fall turkeys, food sources and travel corridors are the best. Clover and hay fields offer greens for turkeys to eat with room to run, while brassica fields offer food and cover. Wooded cover between roost trees and feeding areas are also good ambush sites, particularly if there are any hawthorn, crabapple, or similar fruit trees. Many fall turkey crops have been full of small apples or fruits after shooting them. If you have deer stands in any of these areas, consider hunting them with a new goal: a fine turkey dinner.

Fall Turkey Tactics

Now that you see why tree stands can work so well for fall turkey hunting, let’s look at some specific turkey hunting tips you can use. First, you may want to monitor your hunting property for a few days with trail cameras, just to survey the area and see what’s happening. You can get a lot of information out of a trail camera, including how many turkeys are on your property, the number of toms/hens/jakes/jennies, the time of day the turkeys are using an area, and which direction they are coming from/going to. Review the pictures to form a plan about where and when to hunt.

fall turkey hunting from a tree stand | Big Game Treestands

If you’d like a large tom for the table, set up a male turkey decoy (probably a jake) in the food plot, field, or travel corridor. Whether other toms feel threatened or just want to come check out the new bird in town, decoys are very useful for fall turkey hunting to provide a distraction point and draw them in quickly. The more realistic the decoys, the better. Set the decoy up about 20 yards from your tree stand, so that you can still take an ethical shot if a gobbler hangs up beyond it. Again, make sure you can see the decoy and position your shotgun from your tree stand; you don’t want to have to stand up and move around to get ready.

Now as far as how to call fall turkeys, we already mentioned it briefly above. Males respond to male calls and females to female/poult calls. One of the best fall turkey calling tips if you’re looking for a gobbler is to give a few tom yelps every twenty minutes or so, which are lower and raspier than a hen. It should follow a slow three-note cadence, followed by a pause and another three-note yelp. After calling, listen intently as toms may call back and give you a warning as to where they may approach from. If the decoy is on a main feeding field, is visible from a distance, and turkeys are in the area, they will likely make their way to the field anyway. As soon as they hear audible proof that a jake is standing there, they will often come running in on a string.

Time for a Thanksgiving Bird

This year, consider going fall turkey hunting to have a Thanksgiving you won’t forget. And if you’re looking to try an even more unusual tactic, try sitting in the deer stand to do it. It makes for a great story around the table!

6 tree stand exit strategies for hunting the rut | Big Game Treestands

6 Tree Stand Exit Strategies for Hunting the Rut

Exiting Your Tree Stand Undetected While Hunting the Rut

Getting to your hunting tree stand undetected is a prerequisite for choosing a spot to hang it. If you cannot navigate through the woods silently and scent free then the game is up. You will spend countless hours staring at an empty forest or field edge. However, increasing success in the rut is not only about the route you take to your stand but also how you exit it. With that said, how come hunters spend very little time trying to conceal their exit from their tree stands?

Few too many hunters do not consider their tree stand exit strategy. How many times have you climbed down, packed your tree stand accessories and started out only to be startled by the sound of a deer snorting at you? Whether there are deer around you as darkness looms or you simply want to reduce your presence in a prime rut location, having a plan for leaving your stand, or your hunting blind, can produce results that may otherwise be unnoticed. Having a tree stand exit strategy is as important as planning your entry route. Even if you have not seen any deer, carelessly exiting your tree stands can blow your chances when hunting the rut.

Planning for an Exit

The rut is different as we all know. Deer are completely out of their early fall patterns and many mature bucks are in chase mode. This time of year it is even more important to have a clean and clear stand exit strategy. Hunting the rut only gives you a small window of time to hunt so preparing beforehand is critical to making every day count.

6 tree stand exit strategies for hunting the rut | Big Game Treestands

Low-impact is what you are trying to achieve, both entering and exiting your tree stands. Planning for an exit from a stand is accomplished with good preparation. Complete scouting of areas to determine likely deer movements, habitat features and prime forage areas helps to determine where to hang a tree stand but it also gives you an idea of how to get in and out.

Use maps and aerial photos of your hunting area to pick routes that will disturb deer the least. Avoid areas that could be used for bedding spots like thickets near reliable food sources and defined funnels that bucks can be patrolling during the rut. You also want to avoid noticeable buck activity like scrapes and rub lines. Leaving hunting stands and blinds by crossing a scrape line will get you noticed by the big boys and blanked for the rest of the rut!

Another part of hunting the rut is planning to take your time not only hunting but when you are exiting your stand. Hunters take their time getting to their tree stands, wait patiently for a buck to approach while in them but leave in a flurry like something is chasing them. Rushing to exit your stand will create unnecessary noise as you rush to collect all your necessary hunting accessories alerting any deer that may be off in the distant shadows. Plan you exit routes so that you can take your time getting out of your hunting locations silently.

Additionally, effective entry routes may not make the best exit paths. Entering a hunting location depends on a number of factors like season, time of day and weather. Each of these three factors, along with others, impact how you should enter a particular spot. The same holds true for exiting any of your portable or ladder tree stands. Late in the day deer may be approaching food sources unlike when you started hunting when they may have been near bedding areas. You want to make sure your exit plans take these factors into account. Finally, conditions should also dictate if you should even hunt a particular stand on a given day. If the conditions (wind, changing deer activity, etc.) are not going to allow you to exit without making your presence known then choosing a tree stand location somewhere else is in your best interest.

Common Sense Ways to Exit Your Tree Stands

Before we get into specific tree stand exit strategies, there are a few common sense approaches to leaving your hunting tree stands. The more you are careful when leaving your tree stands the more productive they will be during the rut.

  • No Talking – Not hard to do if you are hunting by yourself but when hunting with a friend the temptation to ask about what they saw is overwhelming. Save the stories for the truck.
  • Stay Concealed – If you are leaving a stand during daylight hours, keep your camo on until you at least get out of your main hunting area. Stripping down to a visible base layer shirt can easily get you picked out while leaving your stand.
  • Lower Lumens – Flashlights are a must for exiting tree stands at night but avoid those that could be substituted for a spotlight. Use just enough light to get out quietly or change to a colored variant that is less visible by deer.

6 Tree Stand Exit Strategies

How many times has the sun slipped away and you hear the sounds of approaching deer in the distance? Shooting light is no more but you can just make out the outline of a deer body followed by the shine of antlers. It is too dark to shoot but you do not want to ruin this location for future hunts, so what are your exit options? Hopefully, this example is an exception and not the rule when you are hunting the rut. Regardless, it pays to have a good exit strategy from your hunting stands and blinds. Here are five ways to get out of your stand when deer are nearby.

  1. Stay Put. The best option when deer are around you after shooting light or when you need to get out of your stand is to wait them out. Staying in your stand until they have moved on will keep them from realizing you are there and potentially blowing your hunting spot in the future. After they are gone, slip down and leave quietly. The downside is this may take all night!
  1. Announce Your Presence. There are times when you cannot wait them out. When you have to go, spooking them with something other than “I am a hunter” is the next best strategy. Carry a coyote howl or other predator call with you for these situations. Sounding off a predator call will have any deer in your vicinity heading away without directly connecting their alarm to your tree stand. Use this sparingly and only when staying put is not an option. Use this strategy too much, however, and deer start to know something is up.
  1. Go Wide. Sometimes deer are not directly under your stand but rather feeding in a nearby field or food plot. For these instances, slowly and quietly climb down or exit your archery blind and take a wide path around the deer as to not let them know you are there.
  1. Multiple Escape Routes. Being able to go wide when leaving your stand is only possible when you have planned multiple exit locations. You want to have one main exit path, pre-planned as described earlier and up to two alternative locations to exit from. This is critical when hunting the rut as deer can be anywhere chasing does and your first choice may not be available. Using trail makers can help you identify alternative routes when the time comes to use them.
  1. Choose Wisely. Not only do you need multiple exit routes but they should be chosen wisely. Stay away from active deer areas like food sources. Also, trim exit paths to avoid brush busting and spreading scent as you leave your tree stands.
  1. Use Common Disturbances. This technique requires the right area and some help. When hunting urban areas and agricultural spots, deer are used to cars, trucks, tractors and other common disturbances. Having one of these spook deer away from you is natural for deer in these areas. Take advantage of waiting for a car to pass by or call in a buddy to bring the tractor to the field to push deer away from your hunting stands and blinds. Deer will vacate and will just think it is another normal day to day disturbance, which they will not associate with your hunting spot.

6 tree stand exit strategies for hunting the rut | Big Game Treestands

There are many tips for hunting the rut but being undetected is often your best hunting strategy. Mature bucks will be cruising for does and deer, in general, will be outside of their normal patterns. It is more important this time of year to stay concealed than deciding where to hang a tree stand. An average stand location with the ability to get in and more importantly out concealed is better than one that has difficult access but sits over exceptional deer sign. What is the point to sit over sign if you are alerting everything in the woods to your existence? Exiting silently will make for better future hunts in the rut and increase your chances of running into a mature buck. Seeing bucks in the rut is not always related to the amount of rut activity (scrapes and rubs) but rather it is connected to the number of deer you alert to and from your tree stands.

Exiting your tree stands should always be done methodically. From collecting all your tree stand accessories to safely climbing down, the end of a hunt is not the time to get sloppy. The same holds true for leaving your hunting area. If you are not well prepared or you have not thought of tree stand exit strategies, you may reduce your chances the next time you return to that particular spot. It is all about staying undetected during the rut. Be conscious of remaining concealed from start to finish of every hunt because that is what separates those who are consistently successful from those that are consistently baffled.

essential tree stand gear hunting accessories | Big Game Treestands

Which Hunting Accessories Do You Really Need?

The Ultimate Essential Gear and Hunting Accessories to Bring to the Tree

The topic of “essential hunting gear” is often pretty controversial. Everyone has their own opinion of what item deserves a spot in their hunting backpack, and as a result, the conversation can be hotly contested. The key is in knowing which hunting accessories and gear are truly essential and which are comfort items. The first category are things that you literally couldn’t hunt without, either because you didn’t have the necessary tools or couldn’t stay in the tree stand long enough to see a deer anyway. Then there are just “nice-to-have” items, which might keep you slightly more entertained or maybe offer a slightly more comfortable sit. Knowing the difference between the two is critical if you have to hike into your hunt (e.g., during a backcountry hunting trip) or simply don’t have much room in your tree stand. In these cases, you need to eliminate the unnecessary items as much as possible. We’ll only discuss the items that will offer a distinct advantage to you on your next hunt, and are therefore considered essential.

Naturally, the essential gear and hunting accessories you need will depend on what kind of hunt you’re doing and what season you’re in. An early September hunt for antelope on the Great Plains will require very different hunting equipment than a late December hunt for northern Wisconsin whitetails. The further north you go, the higher in elevation, or the later in the season you hunt, the more warm clothing options you’ll need. On the opposite side of the coin (e.g., southern regions or early season hunts), you’ll need lighter, sweat-wicking clothing to keep you cool and dry. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume we’re hunting deer in the middle of the country in the early season to mid-season time frame of October (i.e., right now). Use this as a starting point and adapt your hunting gear list to your conditions and specific type of hunt.

Types of Essential Deer Hunting Equipment and Hunting Accessories 

For easier reading and organization, we’ve divided the different pieces of hunting gear for whitetail deer into separate buckets, if you will. From clothing to weapons to other necessities, we’ve got you covered. Take a glance through the different categories and see how your deer hunting supplies list stacks up before it’s time to head to the woods.

Hunting Weapon-Related Gear

Depending on when the seasons open in different states, a mid-October time frame almost certainly includes bow hunting, but it may also include gun season. Either way, if you’re not bringing a bow, crossbow, rifle, or shotgun to the woods with you, you’re probably not going to fill your tag. But if you forget your corresponding ammunition at home, you’re also going to go nowhere fast. Almost every hunter has at one point forgotten their ammo in the garage and had a very uneventful day because of it. Always keep your arrows in your bow case or carry an extra box of ammunition in your backpack throughout the hunting season to ensure you’ll be able to keep hunting. And if you’re bow hunting, you might also want to keep an extra release in your coat pocket…don’t act like you haven’t forgotten it before!

  • Bow, crossbow, rifle, or shotgun;
  • Arrows, bolts, cartridges, or shells, respectively;
  • Case to transport your weapon;
  • Release (for bow hunting).

Hunting Clothing Items

As we mentioned, clothing requirements will vary across the country and between people. Some folks run hot and some run cold. But there are some basic types of clothing that you can scale up or down. What we mean is that you can add or subtract layers or use warmer or cooler versions to get you where you need to be. The pattern of your hunting clothes is also important, as some states and seasons require you to use blaze orange, while others approve of camouflage clothing. Make sure you know which one you need. When you’re deer hunting, you also need to pay attention to your scent; more specifically, you need to hunt without it. That makes scent elimination clothing so important. In no particular order:

  • Hat (visor to keep the sun out of eyes or stocking cap to keep head warm);
  • Base layers (to wick sweat away from skin);
  • Insulating layers (adjust for your situation);
  • Shell layer (water and wind resistant to keep your other layers dry and protected);
  • Rain gear (for when the skies really open up);
  • Socks (regardless of season or location, wool socks will be a valuable gear item);
  • Hunting boots (appropriate to keep your feet warm and dry);
  • Gloves (hunting with cold hands is miserable and dangerous).

Tree Stand-Related Gear

Given the title of this article, we’re assuming you are indeed going to end up in a tree stand at some point. You’ll obviously need to bring that with you, as well as any miscellaneous straps, ropes, chains, locks, or ladder sections to actually hang it and climb into it. Depending on what kind of hunting you’ll be doing, you may want a slightly different type of tree stand. Climbing tree stands and hang-on tree stands are great for staying mobile and keeping the deer guessing. But ladder stands and box blinds are reliable stands that you can return to with no work involved. If your feet will be leaving the ground, you really should also be using a safety harness to ensure that an unexpected departure from the stand doesn’t end up badly for you. Always stay connected to the tree using a harness and safety line. Safety equipment should never be considered as hunting accessories.

essential tree stand gear hunting accessories Accessory Hooks | Big Game Treestands

  • Tree stand (ladder stand, climbing stand, hang on stands, etc.);
  • Quick-Stick ladder sections (if a hang on stand);
  • Miscellaneous straps (for attaching your tree stand);
  • Chains, cables, and locks (to secure your stand from would-be thieves);
  • Safety harness with a safety
  • Tree hooks for bow, gear, and backpacks

Other Necessary Hunting Accessories

After all of the gear above, it might seem like you’re fairly covered and couldn’t carry anything else into the woods with you anyway. But there are a few other hunting accessories you really need to make your hunt more productive. Assuming you actually get a deer, you’re absolutely going to need a knife to field dress it. It’s also just useful to have in the woods to help with cutting rope or cord or marking your license. A set of high-quality optics is also critical for noticing deer before they notice you. Depending on the area you’re hunting in, you might not have a good spot to really glass a long distance (e.g., dense conifer forest, etc.). But it is really handy to assess a buck from a distance to see if he’s a shooter or not before he gets close enough to see you moving. A range finder is also critical for laser-accurate bow shots. Unless you are committed to getting in and out of the woods quickly during the day, you should carry a flashlight or headlamp with you. If you’ve ever been in the woods once darkness falls, you know it’s a completely different world. Even if you’ve been hunting the same area for years and spent all day studying every single trail and tree from your stand, you can lose your way in a split second once you’re on the ground. Carry a light with you. You can partially eliminate the issue of getting lost by marking your trail using reflective tacks or markers too.

essential tree stand gear hunting accessories | Big Game Treestands

When it comes to getting closer to deer (or bringing them closer to you, more accurately), you need to pull out all the hunting accessories. Using whitetail deer calls and convincing scents will drastically increase your chance at encountering a nice buck. When used in combination, they can fool a buck into thinking there is a doe in heat hanging around, which is almost guaranteed to interest him. This is especially useful in mid-October, which is typically the pre-rut period. No matter what clothing you’re wearing, you can still pick up scents from your truck or ATV, so always spray everything with a scent elimination product before you head into the woods and when you get to your tree stand.

Then there are all the other necessary items that make your life easier. A 20-foot length of rope or paracord is really helpful for many things in the woods, from hauling deer, hanging a tarp, or pulling your hunting accessories up into your tree stand with you. However, it’s more convenient to use a Magna Lift for hoisting gear up into your stand. Many hunters often forget (or willingly neglect) to drink enough water while sitting in a tree stand all day, but it’s critical to bring a water bottle or canteen with to stay hydrated. Since many people start their mornings with the aid of coffee, you’ll find that you’re suddenly very dehydrated in the middle of the day. And you can’t think clearly when you’re dehydrated. The same thing goes for food. If you don’t snack throughout the day, your blood sugar will plummet and so will your reasoning, patience, and strength. You should always have a folding saw in your hunting pack because a near-perfect tree for a climbing tree stand could be made perfect by just trimming a few branches. Finally, keep some toilet paper in a plastic bag in your pack. Don’t learn the hard way. Enough said.

  • Fixed blade or folding knife (field dressing, general purpose, etc.);
  • Binoculars;
  • Range-finder;
  • Headlamp or flashlight;
  • Reflective tacks and markers;
  • Doe can call and buck grunt call;
  • Doe in estrous scent and buck urine scent;
  • Scent eliminating spray;
  • Rope/cord/Magna Lift (for hauling deer or hoisting gear);
  • Water bottle and snacks;
  • Folding hand saw
  • Toilet paper.

essential tree stand gear hunting accessories magna lift | Big Game Treestandsessential tree stand gear hunting accessories lift cord | Big Game Treestands

It might seem crazy once you lay all of these items out that you could possibly bring them all into the woods with you. But these hunting accessories and gear items are important to help you stay comfortable all day and improve your hunting success. If you’re comfortable and content, you’ll be more likely to stay in the woods for the long haul until you can put a deer down. Will you need every one of these items on every single hunt? Maybe not. But when you do need them, you’ll need them in a bad way. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

should you hang early season tree stands over deer sign | Big Game Tree Stands

Should You Hang Early Season Tree Stands Over Deer Sign?

Where You Should and Should Not Use Tree Stands

We’re pretty sure that you’re aware of it, but just in case, archery season is almost upon us. Lucky hunters are starting to post pictures of big velvet bucks they’ve already tagged. And those of us whose bow seasons aren’t open yet are going a little stir crazy watching them. Now is the time to hang our tree stands and fine-tune our archery form as we prepare for opening day.

What is it about the early season that’s so enticing? After all, it’s usually still pretty hot for hanging tree stands, the bugs haven’t yet disappeared, and the vegetation is still so thick that you feel like you’re hunting in a jungle. It’s not at all like the cool weather and fall colors we associate with hunting season. The first month of the early season has its challenges to endure. But the simple fact is that the early season may be your best bet at shooting a truly big whitetail.

During the summer, bucks are just about as predictable as they will ever be. Forming bachelor groups, these bucks consistently travel from bedding areas in the day to feeding areas in the evening and then back to their bedding areas. Rinse and repeat. There’s not much variation, nor much of a reason for them to change it up. We really don’t enter the woods very much to disturb them during this time and so there’s no human pressure to influence their behavior. This summer pattern is so predictable and the deer are unsuspecting enough that many a hunter has put a Pope and Young whitetail on their wall because of it. That doesn’t mean it’s so easy that anybody can do it though. It takes discipline and precise deer hunting stand placement to pull it off. To know exactly where you should hang your tree stands, deer sign is usually the best indicator. Let’s look at some commonly discussed sign that you may want to use this archery season.

Types of Deer Sign You’ll Find in the Early Season 

Since bucks have much smaller home ranges during the summer and bed in fairly close proximity to food sources, you can bet that any fresh deer sign you find means there’s a deer nearby. If you’re seeing buck tracks and scat along a trail from the food source, for example, he’s very likely to return. Though bachelor groups tend to switch things up now and then by using a slightly different trail, you should be able to set up near enough for a shot. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Whitetail Tracks

should you hang early season tree stands over deer sign | Big Game Tree StandsIf you’re hunting a farm field, there are probably hundreds of deer tracks covering the ground in every direction. As deer enter these fields, they mull around finding the best and most palatable forage. That could take them all across the field and back again, like hairy lawnmowers. It might seem like this kind of sign is useless for a hunter. Out in the middle of the field, it probably is.

But if you look at deer trails on the field edge, this is where things can get useful. Try to sneak in during the mid-morning hours for a little reconnaissance, paying attention to the wind direction so that you don’t spook any bedded deer nearby. Look for fresh tracks from the morning feeding, paying attention to which direction they’re facing. If you find lots of tracks leading away from the field on a certain trail, you can bet that the deer are bedded within a few hundred yards of that spot. You can ignore the trails with tracks facing towards the field, as that was where they entered the prior evening. Remember, buck groups will change the trails they use from time to time. Your tree stands should be near the trails with the most recent activity.

Deer Scat 

Similar to tracks, you might not think much of a pile of digested beans. After all, you already know that deer are near and on the field fairly consistently. But scat is one of those deer hunting secrets that can tell you much more. Do does and bucks tend to have different types of scat/pellets? Some hunters will swear up and down that pellets are produced by does and clumped piles are from bucks. But the evidence from penned deer doesn’t really show this to hold up consistently. What does hold true is that the type of food the deer are consuming has a large effect on the resulting scat. Deer that are consuming lush green soybeans, soft mast, grasses, or forbs tend to have wetter, clumped piles of scat, while deer eating much drier browse (e.g., maple branches, acorns, etc.) have pellets.

Using this information, you can hone your whitetail deer hunting strategies a little more precisely. If one of the trails has a lot of pellets along it, you can bet that deer are also browsing somewhere during the day before they get to the field. Depending on the type of habitat around the field, you may be able to guess where they are bedding. For example, if you only have mature trees and grassy cover nearby but there is a thicket of young browse species a hundred yards away, you can probably guess that the deer are bedding near that thicket during the day.

Deer Beds 

Unless it’s very early in the summer, you probably shouldn’t be walking through strict bedding areas unless you want to put bucks on alert and ruin the nice summer pattern they’re following. But if you feel the need to explore the trails leading away from the food source, there’s a lot to learn at your own risk. As you walk along near the food source, you should pay attention to any beds nearby. These may just be temporary resting areas during the night as the deer feed. But as you get further away from the field, you’ll probably start to see smaller beds, which are does and fawns, first. You’ll likely bump deer out of there as you push further into the woods. Further on, you should find buck beds, which will be larger in size than the doe beds. If you find a series of beds with piles of scat around, you can bet you’ve found a bedding area.

Deer Rubs

should you hang early season tree stands over deer sign | Big Game Tree StandsEvery hunter’s favorite thing to find in the woods, rubs are a sure sign there is a buck in the area. They may be on finger-width sprouts or fence pole-sized trees, and the size of the tree does not necessarily correlate with the size of the animal. Though generally, larger bucks will be the only ones rubbing truly large trees. You can also estimate the size of the deer and it’s antlers by studying the rub a little more closely. For example, if there are deep gouges into the wood and the bark is frayed from one to four feet off the ground, the buck likely has a very strong neck, has a large body, and probably has sticker points that are cutting deep into the wood. Bucks tend to choose smooth or aromatic trees for rubbing, likely because it is easier and helps hold the buck’s scent a little longer. Such trees include aspens, maples, cedars, and pine.

Really early in the season, bucks will still be in full velvet, and they will be careful to not touch their antlers against trees during this time as they are sensitive. So rubs won’t help you much during this time frame. But as fall approaches, they will start to rub against trees to help scrape the velvet away from the hardened antlers underneath. At this point, it’s time to start hunting deer rubs. If you’re wondering how to read deer rubs, you can determine the direction of travel from them by looking for patterns. For example, if you notice a rub line that is all rubbed on the side facing away from the field, you know that buck is rubbing trees on his way to feed in the evening. You can set up your tree stands on the downwind side of one of these trails in the afternoon, and wait for him to come walking down the trail in the evening.

Deer Scrapes

If rubs get people excited, then scrapes drive them nuts. Scrapes are made by a deer when they paw the debris from the forest floor to expose the dirt underneath. They use several glands to leave their scent in it, including the gland between their hooves when they’re digging, the tarsal glands as they urinate into the scrape down their legs, and their pre-orbital gland as they rub their face/eyes on a licking branch above the scrape. There’s a lot of information being exchanged by these hormones.

should you hang early season tree stands over deer sign | Big Game Tree StandsDeer use scrapes like we use a bulletin board or online forum. It’s a way for animals to keep in touch about who is in the area, when they were there last, and when they are receptive to breed. Bucks use them to mark territories once the rut starts, to a degree, but they also use them for establishing a social hierarchy early in the season. As far as how to find deer scrapes in the early season, look along habitat edges (i.e., where field meets forest, where swamp meets thicket, etc.). Deer like to use habitat edges anyway, and so it’s a natural spot for a scrape to act as a message board.

If you don’t find any natural scrapes in your area, you can make your own mock deer scrapes, which can be very powerful if used near your tree stands. These are simple imitations designed to fool a deer into checking it out. Making mock scrapes for deer is really simple to do. Find a tree with a branch about four feet off the ground, and scratch up the dirt so that there is some fresh overturned soil and little debris in it. Use a stout tree branch instead of your boot to scratch the dirt so you can keep your scent out of it. As far as when to make mock scrapes, deer are drawn to the fresh smell of soil any time, so you can use this tactic any time. You can add deer urine to the scrape if you wish, but make sure it’s just deer urine in the early season. A full doe-in-estrous scent in September would probably raise some flags. Hunting mock scrapes can be done by placing one just upwind of where you expect the deer to enter a food source. Bucks should enter the field, immediately smell the dirt, and turn to investigate it. This allows a perfect quartering away shot with the deer looking down and in the opposite direction.

Where to Hang Your Tree Stands 

We’ve covered the common types of deer sign you’ll find in the woods and what role they play in early season whitetail deer hunting. Now let’s transition into using this information for a successful hunt. As we mentioned, the best early season tree stand locations will be located on or near food sources (e.g., row crops, hayfields, hard/soft mast trees, etc.). If it’s a particularly droughty year, setting up your tree stands near water sources for afternoon sits can be a great place too. Deer will generally take a drink before and after eating.

If you can glass an agricultural field from a distance, this is the best way to scout because you won’t spook deer. But if that’s not possible, you can also use trail cameras to spy on them, only checking them once before you decide to hang your best bow hunting stands. Or you can hang some observation tree stands near enough to the food to see, but far enough away to not be noticed. As you bring your climbing tree stand in, you can also do some very quick and stealthy scouting near the food source for deer rubs and scrapes.

Speaking of which, lightweight tree stands like lock on stands and climbers are great at setting up quickly for an afternoon hunt. You can easily bring in a lock on stand with climbing sticks and set it up with your deer stand ratchet straps in no time. The Big Game Tree Stands® Outlook climber tree stand is light to carry and great for aspens or other trees with very few branches lower down. You might already have permanent box blinds set up with shooting lanes or set over food plots, which would also work great for early season deer hunting.

Any way you can distract deer as they enter a food source, the better off you’ll be. As we mentioned, using mock scrapes will grab a deer’s attention and focus it elsewhere while you prepare for a shot. The problem with hunting right on food sources is twofold. One, there are usually many pairs of eyes watching from the field, so you’ll need to be hyper-aware of minimizing your movements. Two, it can be hard to leave a feeding area in the evening if it’s a destination area. Smaller food plots and staging areas are a good solution to both of these problems. They don’t allow many deer to be there at the same time, and deer will generally feed away from your tree stands as they move onto larger fields.

Should You Use Sign This Season? 

If you’ll be hanging tree stands soon for some early season bow hunting, paying attention to deer tracks, scat, beds, rubs, and scrapes will definitely help you to pinpoint your tree stand location. Follow the tips above, and you could be looking down at a velvet buck with your name on it.

mobile hunting tree stands | Big Game Tree Stands

Going Mobile with Tree Stands this Fall

Mobile Tree Stands and Tactics for Archery Hunting

Bowhunters have little room for error when it comes to tree stand setups. Unlike gun hunting for whitetails, archery hunting for deer is more complex. You can not just shoot through brush or reach out to a mature buck at 100+ yards. There is much more thought that goes into where to setup a tree stand for archery. Scouting is a big part of this decision but also archery hunters have to think about cover, the right tree, shot options and what obstructions may impact shot selection. You never exactly know where a buck is going to be standing when that time is right to shoot.

The main purpose of tree stands is to give you an advantage when hunting deer by allowing you to elevate yourself out of sight. Bow hunting tree stands allow you to spot deer from afar and keep you concealed long enough until that right buck gets into range. If a buck does see you, the game is up. The stand, however, gives you a significant advantage. Allowing you to prepare, draw and make the shot all without a buck ever knowing what happened.

If you are putting the time in, your scouting over the summer has provided you with several good spots for your tree stands for archery hunting. Unfortunately, many bow hunters do not have time to spend day after day either in the woods or going through camera pictures to position their hunting tree stands. So what usually happens is we head back to the same hunting spots over and over and year after year. These are mainly based on past success but not always. Sometimes traditional hunting spots are based on exactly that, tradition. Often archery hunters have the mentally of “I have been hunting here for years so I am going to hunt there again.” Well things change over time and even if you have had success at a certain spot before it does not relate to how successful that hunting spot will be going forward.

What is your alternative you may be asking if I do not have time to put into scouting new areas? The answer is to go mobile. Mobile archery hunting is not easy and it is even more challenging when deciding where to place a tree stand. But with the right mobile hunting tree stands and  with the right mentallity, taking to the ground and getting mobile for archery hunting deer this fall can be vastly rewarding. Get mobile with your tree stands for archery hunting and focus on areas that commonly produce deer.

Qualities of Good Mobile Bow Hunting Tree Stands

mobile hunting tree stands | Big Game Tree StandsFirst and foremost you need to have the right mobile stand. There are several qualities that make an archery stand mobile. The first is weight. A heavy stand has several problems when it comes to being mobile for archery hunting. A heavy and bulky bow hunting tree stand will not be very friendly to your back and cause you to sweat as you look through the woods for a hunting spot. Sweat puts any of your scent control in jeopardy and in cold weather can leave you chilled all day long. Next is ease of use. It should be a stand that you can drop off your back and throw up on a tree in minutes. Tree stands that take hours to hang are no good if you want to be mobile. Lastly, they should be comfortable. Weight and ease of use are important but comfort should not be sacarficed for these two qualities. You will most likely spend hours or a full day in your portable tree stands unless you are one of the lucky ones who hangs a stand and has a monster buck walk in front of you before your breathe settles.

You choices for tree stands are climbers and portable hang-ons. Climbing tree stands are the ultimate mobile archery stand, mostly because they are designed to be light, easy to setup and large enough for comfort. With climbers you have the stand and way to get up the tree in one package. This cuts down on the equipment needed to carry with you, including climbing systems like climbing sticks or steps. Portable tree stands do however have their own place in the mobile archery game. Hang-on stands are often lighter than climbers but require climbing sticks or steps. These need to be carried along with the stand in order to get up the tree. The advantage of a hang-on stand over a climber is that if you find a spot with deer sign, your portable stand is ready to hop in the next day or following weekend. Climbers can be left as well but the climb would have to be done again. Finally, climbers require certain skills to do so safely. Portable tree stands still need to be navigated safely but many hunters are more comfortable ascending climbing sticks or steps.

Tree Stand Placement Strategies When Mobile

mobile hunting tree stands | Big Game Tree StandsWith mobile archery hunting, you are moving from area to area without much prior knowledge to rely on. For that reason, it is important to consider basic areas that consistently hold deer. Focusing your bow hunting tree stands in these areas will significantly improve your chances of getting close to a shooter buck.

First and foremost, you want to look for deer sign. Deer sign like pellets, tracks and trails all relate to deer movement and use of an area. Look for both new and old sign, which indicates deer are not just passing through but are using the area frequently over time. In addition during the rut, you want to identify areas that have scrapes and rubs that are fresh. These signs hopefully give you confidence that a hot doe and ultimately a buck is close. Hanging hunting tree stands in these locations give you options. You can put down a mock scrape or do some rattling to try to entice a buck into range.

Look for habitat type changes and natural places that funnel deer. Topological features like saddles, benches and draws are all places that bucks use to move between feeding and cover areas. Identify these features prior to heading to the field. Focusing in on natural deer movement areas then adding a piece of cover, water or food source will put your stand in a pretty good spot for seeing some deer. Archery hunters choosing mobile tree stand setups should consider these three tree stand placement strategies for mobile archery hunting for deer.

  • Food sources are important. Fall mast areas like oak flats or areas near agricultural lands are all good choices to move in with a mobile tree stand setup. Focus on worn trails leading to and from these food sources to try to cut bucks off as they approach.
  • Deer, like hunters, need water to survive. Small, secluded water sources are ideal as these areas attract deer from long distances in areas where water may be limited. Work river bottoms until you find heavily used crossings to put up your archery stand.
  • Cover is the third part of a deer’s needs in its habitat. Bucks use cover for bedding and escaping during the fall. Target thickets of cedars, laurel, briar patches and old clear-cuts to pop in with a climbing tree stand.

mobile hunting tree stands | Big Game Tree StandsAlthough not a detailed list of places to hang your tree stand, focusing on food, water and cover are good places to start when you are going into an area that has not been scouted. Furthermore, even archery hunters going mobile have to keep in mind the basic principles of where to place a tree stand. First, make sure your tree stand is downwind of where you believe a buck will approach from. Even with good scent management, the last thing you want is to have the wind blowing right up a buck’s nose as he is approaching towards you. Next, you have to consider the type of tree for your stand. Choose multi-stem deciduous trees to cover any slight movements like checking ranges or drawing your bow. Finally, consider visibility when choosing a tree stand location. You want a concealed location but not too concealed that the fall leaves and other trees prevent you from seeing incoming bucks. With mobile archery hunting, there is limited time to manicure trees and surrounding brush when you do find a good hunting spot. Add a small set of clippers to your pack to quickly trim stand trees and make shooting lanes from your stand.

Challenges with Mobile Tree Stand Setups

Being mobile in archery seasons comes with its challenges. Bouncing from spot to spot can help you cover ground, but each new stand setup tests your archery abilities. The placement of hunting tree stands has to be thought out so that you put yourself in the best possible areas to see deer. Seeing deer is half the battle because frequently your shooting ability will be challenged with difficult shots in tough conditions. You need to prepare for shots at awkward angles and in tight windows as mobile setups rarely offer perfect bow shots. Also being mobile means your equipment changes. Select quality stands that are lightweight and easy to setup since you will be carrying in climbing tree stands and climbing systems with fixed position stands. The last thing you want is something heavy to lug around looking for a spot and then struggle with getting a stand into position.

Benefits of Being Mobile for Archery Hunting

If your scouting time is limited, mobile setups are for you. This archery hunting technique gives you freedom to move to new areas with relative ease all season long. This tactic is your scouting and may even uncover areas that are worth putting in more time. Having hunting tree stands that are mobile let you move quickly based on changing conditions, especially important during the rut as deer activity changes rapidly. Bucks are unpredictable even with the best scouting so it is important to be confident in your ability to change archery stands to improve your odds of getting a shot at a buck.

Conclusion

It takes time each year to scout for archery hunting. However, you can still be successful even if you have limited time to put in pre-season. Consider going mobile with your tree stands. Grab a good mobile bow hunting tree stand and work with the basics of tree stand placement strategies to break free from the traditional archery tactics this bow season.