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.

6 ways to bring deer closer to your tree stand | Big Game Tree Stands

Big Game Treestands | 6 Summer Projects That Bring Deer Closer To Your Tree Stand

6 Things to Do This Summer That Bring Deer Closer To Your Tree Stand

Summer is a busy time of year. From installing food plots to creating mineral stations, our time is valuable as deer hunters and managers. It’s hard enough to find the time to hang our tree stands or install food plots, surely finding time to start just one of these 6 summer projects is unrealistic? It is unless you realize that any or all of these projects will count towards what’s really important…they are ways to bring deer closer to your tree stand!

If you really think about everything that a deer hunter or manager might do during the summer, you realize a good portion of it most likely does not directly affect the hunting. In fact the food plots, mineral sites, and off season tasks are more a way to get out in the outdoors than actually things that will benefit hunting. These 6 summer projects are not those tasks, and unlike the other chores they do directly affect your hunting, in fact they steer and bring deer closer to your tree stand! Read this article on the 6 summer projects and figure out which one, if not all can apply to your deer hunting property and tree stand location.

Create a Watering Hole

Creating A Watering Hole For Deer
(Video) Spring is giving way into summer! Soon the rain will let up and the dry warm weather will hit, making water a great resource to have in the right location. Join Buck Advisors Weston Schrank as he explains how to create a watering hole for deer on your property.

When the word summer is brought up two things pop into your mind, the sun and the heat. Why? June is just the start of the long hot summer months, the heat will be relentless until fall arrives. This creates a perfect scenario for a watering hole for deer.  Why put a watering hole on your property? Well the obvious reason is to supply water, especially when a property is lacking any water sources. But in the case of a way to bring deer closer to your tree stand, a watering hole, even in the presents of water source on your property, can be effective!

Installing a watering hole will create a big attraction for your tree stand location. If not a direct draw during the early season in September and October, than at least a great stopping point and potential shooting lane and shot opportunity. The great thing about a watering hole, besides being a way to bring deer closer to your tree stand, is it is extremely easy to install. With minimal digging, a $20-$50 dollar tank, and a little planning a watering hole can be installed and filled up to start attracting deer this summer.

Before putting out anything for deer that can be consumed, check your states regulation and baiting policies.

Summer Deer Mineral Site

Deer Mineral Station Placement and Strategy
(Video) – Putting out minerals for deer is critical to start in May! Join Weston Schrank as he explains exactly how many mineral stations for deer you need and where to place them on your deer hunting property.

Summer deer management would not be complete if it was not without mineral stations and sites. Fortunately these mineral stations, which need to be removed before the dee season to not be considered baiting, can bring deer closer to your tree stand location even when they are gone. How?! By creating a social area and travel route. Putting out a mineral or salt attraction is not only a great place to hang your trail cameras, but a way to attract deer to your tree stand location before the hunting season. Deer determine their movement by 3 criteria, ease, security, and social influence. The path or area they choose to travel through depends on whether or not it is safe, it is easy to move through, and other deer move through it. By putting a summer mineral station out around your tree stand and keeping pressure off the site, you are creating a hotspot for deer activity. While the minerals might be removed, the memory, social interaction, and influence of the mineral station will last, ultimately becoming a great way to bring deer closer to your tree stand.

Before putting out anything for deer that can be consumed, check your states regulation and baiting policies.

Creating A Micro Food Plot

What and How To Plant for Small Food Plot Success
(Video) – Small food plots (under an acre) are by far the most common food plot planted for wildlife. So what should you plant in small food plots to succeed? Here is our number one choice of species, the reasons why, and some other small food plot tips.

A lot of deer hunters and managers will be talking food plots this spring, summer and early fall. While most will worry about planting that 2-5 acre food plot or bigger, the small time food plotter will be planting a much more important and vital plot. This food plot is a micro plot and it acts as a kill plot if done correctly! These kill plots or micro plots are less than 1 acre, less than ½ acre even, and are usually an unbelievably effective ¼ or 1/8 of an acre big! They key is that small size. It creates a pit stop, staging area, and afternoon or morning snack that can turn into a prominent shot opportunity. The key with these plots are prepping the plot and planting the right species. White clover, small grains, and brassicas are usually the only crops that can last in a small food plot. They also give attraction in the early and late season.

Rake a Trail to your Tree Stand

One way bring deer closer to your tree stand is by steering them with a raked trail. Why would that work? Well deer are just like you when you hunt, they want to stay quiet, and take the path of least resistance. The only time you really hear a deer in the woods is the rut or through an oak flat searching for acorns, for the most part deer walk quietly and on deer runs. By taking a hard rake, or leaf blower you can essentially create an artificial deer run. While this is usually a tactic in creating silent tree stand access routes, it can work to steer deer by your tree stand, as long as it is in the general area they were already traveling towards.

We usually see it when we hunt, deer filtering out into a food plot or AG field from a logging road or four wheeler trail. The same principle here. If an easy route, such as a freshly raked trail, is available to travel on, it obviously is the easiest route to travel and will result in deer usage.

The Fence

How To Grow A Small Soybean Food Plot – Electric Fence
(Video) – Soybean food plots are the deer managers and hunters best friend no doubt about it. However, the one thing that limits soybeans is the size of the food plot. Make and Install your very own DIY dual perimeter electric fence to successfully grow a small soybean food plot.

An electric deer fence is a great and effective way to bring deer closer to your tree stand. This is especially true when talking about deer hunts involving youth hunters and bow hunters. It is common knowledge that soybeans are one of the greatest food plot species and this is where an electric food plot fence shines.

By fencing off one section of a soybean field, you can hold the beans off from being demolished by deer, and by the time fall rolls around put an extremely productive yield at the deer’s level. Soybean pods in the late season, November –January are one of the very best places to be in a stand. If you’re a bean plotter, look into a fence this summer as a productive way to bring deer closer to your tree stand.

Hinge Cutting a Funnel

Another popular summer project among deer hunters and habitat managers, is hinge cutting for deer. Usually this takes the form of creating bedding areas and thick sanctuaries for deer, but changing up the style of the cut can result in steering deer to your tree stand.

It’s called screening, or in this case funneling deer with hinge cutting. By hinge cutting small diameter non mast bearing trees like maples, poplars, hackberries, and elms you can make a natural and impenetrable fence that if done strategically can create a massive funnel. Just be sure to think out every cut, the funnel, and take all the necessary safety precautions.

Create a Mock Scrape

Later this summer into early fall, when bachelor groups begin to break up, communication will begin. In this case the communication is through mock scrapes as a social bulletin board for deer, creating an opportune moment to bring deer closer to your tree stand.

By finding or placing a licking branch, and pawing up a patch of dirt with a stick or your boot, you can create a stopping point or wall on a run that could potentially draw a buck into a shooting lane. Whether they are scent checking for does and happen to stop at the scrape or are specifically checking scrapes and stop, you will have an opportunity within range if place correctly.

This summer, while you are hanging your tree stands in order to prepare for the upcoming deer season, think about which project makes sense in that area. These 6 projects can bring deer closer to your tree stand, only if you can find the time this summer to complete one!

using desktop scouting to position your tree stands | Big Game Treestands

Using Desktop Scouting to Position Your Tree Stand

Tree Stand Placement | How Aerial Deer Scouting Techniques Can Lead To Great Sets

Tell me if you’ve been here before. After wandering through the woods for hours carrying your tree stand, things get depressing. You still haven’t found the magic tree that you were hoping to find and you saw very little deer sign either. Finally, you give up the search and reluctantly hang your stand in a less than ideal location on the off chance that you’ll get lucky. What if we could magically change that outcome for you? Let us introduce aerial deer scouting.

Aerial scouting would be way easier if we could ethically go deer scouting with drones. But even with its slightly less exciting approach, it’s still a very effective method of finding high percentage spots to hunt. Simply open up your favorite online mapping program, and navigate to your hunting land. That’s where the fun begins. We’ll talk about that some more below, but first let’s define what we mean by aerial scouting.

What’s the Difference?

Traditional scouting means boots-on-the-ground walking of public or private land properties. It’s time- and labor-intensive and you may go through all of the effort to find nothing. But you can also learn a lot about a new property using that approach, so don’t completely throw it out the window. Aerial scouting consists of opening up a deer scouting software and doing a lot of that legwork before you even physically set foot there. You can do it from a library, in your home office, or even lounging on the couch. Once you locate some good-looking spots from the map, you can then field verify them using the traditional deer scouting techniques. It allows you to cover way more ground, but you do need to eventually physically investigate a site before you commit to hanging tree stands. Those are the primary benefits and drawbacks of each scouting approach. Now let’s discuss how you can start your aerial assault.

How to Use Aerial Deer Scouting

The best thing about aerial scouting is that it frees up your time by eliminating 90 percent of a property before you even arrive. That’s time not spent wandering through the woods getting poison ivy or battling mosquitoes, which is undeniably great. But since time is our most precious commodity, that time-saving aspect is worth its weight in gold.

Deer Hunting Strategies| Scouting A New Property With Aerials
(Video) – There is a wrong way and a right way to scout. This especially true when we are just months or even weeks out from deer hunting season. The key during this late summer period is minimal disturbance and scouting smart.

As we briefly mentioned, download and install any deer hunting mapping software you want to use. Alternatively, Google Earth is one of the easiest free deer scouting software programs to use and it’s very user-friendly for a wide audience. You can find dozens of different map features (layers) online that can help you for scouting whitetails. For example, many counties offer free layers with property ownership information, which is basically a plat book on steroids. Many governmental agencies provide wetland, topographic, soil, or land cover layers, which you can turn on and off to create your perfect map. To find these layers, simply use a search engine to look for terms like, “topographic map google earth.” After collecting the data sources, it’s time to start deer scouting the smart way.

using desktop scouting to position your tree stands | Big Game Treestands

If you’re simply looking for new spots to hang your tree stands on a property you already have access to hunt, jump ahead at this point. If you’re looking for a new property, turn on the plat map layer to find public lands near you or promising private lands that you could then ask the landowner to hunt. Once you find some spots that look good, you’re ready to continue.

Start by turning on the wetlands layer, and you’ll likely eliminate many spots right off the bat that look like forest on the aerial but are actually intense shrub swamps you wouldn’t want to venture into with a tree stand. Locate any likely feeding areas by looking for open meadows, agricultural fields, pastures, or recent clear cuts. Since whitetails are browsing generalists, you can bet that they feed just about anywhere there is vegetation, but these are the most likely spots to focus on. If you wish, use the mapping tools to draw a green colored polygon (or any other color you prefer) around each one so that they stand out as feeding areas. Once you’ve found those, now try to pick out possible bedding areas. These will be much more challenging since deer can bed anywhere. However, south facing ridge slopes, conifer clusters, upland islands surrounded by wetlands, prairie grass plantings, and regrown clear cuts are some good spots to look for. Now mark these spots with a different colored polygon (brown or your preference).

Now we’re getting somewhere! Many people wonder how to find deer trails. Using only these two types of locations, look for possible travel routes between them, and you’re set. This is where it’s helpful to turn on topographic layers. Deer are fairly lazy creatures, and prefer to travel parallel to contour lines instead of against them, meaning they would rather walk along a ridge than straight up and down it. They’ll obviously make exceptions if the elevation changes aren’t very severe or if they get spooked, but keep this in mind as you’re searching. Also look for areas that are connected by natural or manmade corridors (e.g., logging trail connecting two clear cuts, conifer hedgerow connecting two fields, etc.). In agricultural areas, these travel corridors should be obvious and will likely be shrubby hedgerows and overgrown fence lines. Basically, any kind of structure that crosses relatively open agricultural land or fields will be used. On heavily forested properties, however, these trails may just follow the edge between two different habitats. Deer have plenty of structure in a forest, so you’re just looking for where several habitat types come together.

Using those corridors, try to identify a location along them that really funnels them to a good hunting spot. We call these spots “pinch points” because they squeeze the deer activity into a tightly bound location. Some examples include a six row windbreak narrowing down into two rows, a beaver pond and river coming together to funnel deer movement between them, or the middle of an hourglass-shaped food plot. If you can identify a spot like this that is near some mature trees where you could set your tree stands up, then you can move on to the next step below. If not, keep scanning the aerials to find a decent ambush site.

Field Verification

Now that you’ve theoretically found a handful of good tree stand locations, it’s time to put some miles on the boots and make sure that your hunches are correct. Whether it’s the middle of the summer or you’re doing some post season deer scouting, print out a map with your polygons and stand sites labeled on the aerial and bring it with you to the field. It may also be helpful to download Google Earth or similar mapping software on a smartphone (there are several smartphone hunting apps) so you can see exactly where you’re at and tweak your stand location while you’re in the woods.

Whether you use paper maps or technology, navigate to your pre-selected spots and take a look around. Does it look like you had envisioned when you were sitting at the computer screen? If it’s clearly not where you want to hunt, move on to the next spot. If it has some potential, though, it’s time to investigate a little more thoroughly. Even if it takes some slight re-adjustments of the original location, at least you didn’t spend all day wandering the woods to find it.

using desktop scouting to position your tree stands | Big Game Treestands

Scan your surroundings for deer sign along the funnel areas. If you chose well, you should be able to find a deer trail, droppings, or rubs without too much effort. Ideally, you’ll find a heavily-worn trail with plenty of scat, and several past rubs lining the way. Now do you see any good-sized trees overlooking this trail that could hide your profile once sitting in the stand? Try to stay away from aspen, ash, or birch trees as they generally don’t have a wide enough profile to hide your silhouette. However, oaks, maples, and conifers usually have enough structure at height to help you disappear.

Stealthy Access and Wind Direction are Critical

Alright, you think you’ve found the perfect spot, but did you miss something important? Most hunters focus too much on the stand location in terms of deer sign, and completely neglect the access side of things. This is one of the most important deer scouting tips. If you can’t sneak in and out of your location without spooking the deer, then the perfect tree you found is actually garbage. By hunting it, you risk disrupting normal deer behavior and travel patterns, making your top-notch pinch point useless. Similarly, if you see a perfect tree on the predominantly upwind side of the trail and still decide to hang a stand there, you could spend more time educating deer to your presence than seeing mature bucks. And that is not the goal.

Take another look at the aerial map and see if there’s a way you could approach and leave the stand location without crossing the deer trail or otherwise leaving any sign you were there. Since you’re perched on a deer trail versus bedding or feeding areas, it should be a little easier to do, but keep this in mind. For example, is there a ditch or creek near the funnel that you could use to navigate there without leaving much sign? Is there a steep ridge that deer are unlikely to use that you could approach from? Even if it means going out of your way a bit, it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to entry and exit routes. Yet many people ignore these basic whitetail deer hunting strategies because they get lazy.

Don’t set up tree stands on the upwind side of a trail if you can possibly help it. It’s better to choose a less-concealing tree downwind than perching in a great tree upwind. Why? You can sometimes fool a whitetail’s vision if you dress appropriately and don’t move. But it’s pretty much impossible to convince them you’re a tree after they get a nose full of human scent. For most of the whitetail range, the predominant wind direction is from the northwest, but there will be localized differences depending on the topography. Make an effort to understand that before you commit to a hunting spot.

The Best Tree Stands for Different Situations

Whew! You finally found the perfect hunting spot using your aerial deer scouting techniques and field verifying them. Now you need to decide what type of tree stand is best for the location. If your resources are somewhat limited, you may only have one stand to choose from, which makes this section pretty easy for you. But if you have a couple different types hanging in the garage or shed, this process can make a big difference in the ease of hunting and your ultimate success.

First, consider how difficult it would be to physically get tree stands to your final location. For example, do you really want to weave a ladder stand through a maze of aspen trees or brush, or haul it up a steep ridge by yourself? We’re guessing not. But a fixed position tree stand or climbing stand would be relatively easy to carry into remote sites full of the conditions above. Alternatively, if you’re hunting an open field or food plot with good access, you could easily use a side by side or ATV to haul a double-wide stand in. Along those same lines, will you be the only one hunting from the stand, or do you plan to take your kids with? The Duo is a great option for bringing along a hunting partner, no matter the age. The footrest, seat, and shooting rail all flip back to offer more room on the platform while setting up, but the stand is big enough for two people and is rated to hold 500 pounds of hunter and gear. For these reasons, it’s also one of the best ladder stands for big men, as well.

using desktop scouting to position your tree stands | Big Game Treestands

If you use hunting stands and blinds alike, you’re familiar with the challenges of private versus public land. When you primarily hunt on private land, you can leave your stands up throughout the season without much fear of it being stolen. Since you have that option, you can also choose larger, more permanent stands such as a tripod tree stand or box blind. But if you’ll be hunting public land, you’ll probably want to choose a climbing tree stand or fixed position stand that you can take with you or hope nobody notices it if you do leave it out. Your hunting personality will also play a role in deciding which tree stand to use. If you like to be very comfortable while in the woods and have all the tree stand accessories, including camouflage tree stand blinds, then a more spacious model might work better.

These considerations will all help you narrow down what kind of tree stands you decide to use. Whichever one you choose for your situation, you need to make sure that it’s safe by doing seasonal maintenance. The best option is to take it down at the end of the season and tighten all bolts, grease any moving parts, and renew your cables or straps.

The Final Touches

As you can now hopefully see, aerial deer scouting saves you from walking many, many miles to find new hunting hot spots. By first screening hunting properties and the land cover on them, you can eliminate 90 percent of the area, which saves you time and effort. Then you can focus on really examining the high priority spots in person. So this next season, spend some time deer scouting the smart way, with a refreshing beverage in hand and sitting on the couch.