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How Shed Antlers Can Help You Next Year

The Search for Shed Antlers and the Stories They Tell

 

It’s that time of the year again. Shed hunting season may have made its arrival unnoticed to some, but it hasn’t escaped our attention. Far from it. When you’re a deer hunter in February and you’re already looking forward to opening day of archery season, it’s usually the perfect shot in the arm to limp us along and fuel our passion. Looking for shed antlers can be a very time-consuming and frustrating hobby, but it can also be an extremely fun and addicting one. Fortunately, shed hunting has other benefits beyond the possible promise of finding a nice shed antler for your collection in the living room. You can also learn a lot about the woods and become a better hunter in the process. We’ll look at a few ways you can improve in the shed hunting 2017 season.

 

But first, what is it about shed antlers that captivate us so much? After all, they’re really just bones at the end of the day. There seems to be something special about their shape and texture that capture our imagination. It blows our minds that something so beautiful could be formed randomly on the head of an animal through the deer antler cycle and then be simply discarded one day. Maybe it’s because they can be so hard to find sometimes; rodents and other people love them. Their scarcity makes them valuable to us. Private landowners who have had a history with a certain buck over a few years tend to get really obsessive over finding the matching set every year. It’s no wonder why they love to collect them. Yet those who primarily use public hunting land and have never seen a buck or have any history of the property are just as happy finding a shed. No matter what your circumstances, finding shed antlers is a lot of fun.

How Does Looking for Shed Antlers Help You?

But there’s more to shed hunting trips than actually finding antlers. A day in the field or woods is always a chance to learn something new. It doesn’t matter if you’re a brand new hunter or a seasoned veteran; there are always new things to learn. Here are a few ways that shed hunting can make you a better hunter before next year swings back around again.

 

First and foremost, hunting for shed antlers is basically just another way to do some post-season scouting. Without the fear of bumping deer, you can wander wherever your heart desires. Do you have an area you usually stay out of so you don’t bother the deer there? That spot is now fair game to look for shed antlers right now. The winter conditions also make it possible to explore some typically unreachable areas, such as swamps and bogs, which usually end up being great winter cover for whitetails. During your hike, take note of any prominent areas you’d like to keep in mind for next hunting season. For example, you might find a remote clearing the deer like to congregate in that you never knew was there. Or if you notice lots of deer trails converging on a single field access, you might want to hang your Guardian XL ladder stand there next summer. It’s big enough to easily handle two people, which is great for taking your child along.

 

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Second, shed hunting can be a lot of work. On heavily pressured public lands, you might walk for hundreds of acres and never find a pair of whitetail deer antlers. The odds can be increased on private land where you can control the habitat and who accesses it at what times, but it’s still a lot of walking. This is good because it challenges your body to keep up with the rigors of navigating the woods. We have a tendency once deer season closes to relax at home instead of continuing to explore the forest. This makes it harder to get going again the next year when hunting season begins. If you continue that trend for several years, you’ll be in much worse shape than you should be. This is one way to reverse that trend.

 

Finally, spending time in the woods is the best way to become a better outdoors person. The more time you spend in it, the more you will learn about wild animals and their habits and habitats. When you learn more about your prey animal, it’s easier to hunt them because you know what they need and where they like to live out their lives. Finding deer sign and knowing how to interpret it is easier too. This really pays off when you’re carrying your tree stand in to hunt and need to make a quick decision. The Boss Lite is a great fixed position tree stand that you can use on those kinds of hunts.

 

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How to Find Shed Antlers

 

While it’s true that shed hunting can be a lot of work, there are ways you can go about it more intelligently and successfully. Here are a few shed hunting tips for you to have a higher success rate this winter.

 

Before you head to any public property, make sure you know the shed hunting laws in your area. Most public lands allow you to collect shed antlers, but there are a few places that may not, such as scientific and natural areas or wildlife preserves. Luckily, the process of finding a shed is very simple (in theory). You just need to pick an area and walk around with a keen eye to the ground. Don’t forget to look up every once in a while though to scan the woods around you. If you focus on the ground too much, you might walk right by a shed laying only ten feet away.

 

Finding shed antlers consistently is all about timing and location. If you can hit the magical combination of the two, you shouldn’t have any problem finding at least a few antlers. If you miss one of these two, you might get lucky occasionally. But if you miss both, well, at least you’re learning more about the woods and becoming a better hunter, right?

 

Where to Find Deer Sheds

Start your search by focusing on location. Deer stay bedded for most of the day in the winter, which conserves their energy and keeps them from exposing their bodies to the weather. In very tough winter conditions, deer typically seek out bedding areas with thick thermal cover to protect them from icy cold winds. This cover is usually in the form of conifer plantations with plenty of low-growing branches (i.e., spruce is better than pine), dense young forest regeneration, or dense herbaceous areas (e.g., cattail swamps, switchgrass plantings, etc.). If you can find an area like that with a sunny southern exposure, you stand an excellent chance at finding some shed antlers. Field edges are another common bedding area and a great place to look for sheds. In fact, bedding areas are probably one of the best places to find shed antlers, period.

 

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Of course, deer also spend a good chunk of their day feeding, which is why it’s one of the other best places to shed hunt. There likely won’t be many food plots available, unless you keep some uncut standing corn or beans for the deer. More likely, deer will feed on browse to get them through the winter. If there is a young forest regeneration area (i.e., recent clear-cut), there will be loads of young browse species for deer to feast on. Additionally, there will be lots of thick branch tangles to potentially pull antlers loose as they feed.

 

You will occasionally find a shed antler along a trail between a bedding area and feeding area, but there usually needs to be a cause for it. For example, when deer have to jump up and over a log, the landing force can sometimes rattle an antler loose. Pay special attention to obstacles along deer trails for that reason. But use trails more as a method to get from the bedding area to the feeding area and vice versa.

 

When to Shed Hunt

The second prong to the shed hunting approach is timing. Unfortunately, when to go shed hunting is a much trickier variable to peg down because it varies with your area of the country. Shed hunting in Minnesota, for example, will usually take place during a very different time than Georgia. It all depends on the local conditions and the environmental stresses that deer feel, which all influence when they drop their antlers. Across the country, prime shed hunting times will generally start around mid-January and continue through the end of February, though they can be much earlier or later than that. Because of that variability, the best time for shed hunting is whenever you can spare the time. If it overlaps with the ideal timeframe above, that’s even better.

 

The Real Purpose of Antler Hunting

Finding shed antlers definitely takes some hard work and determination. You might get lucky a few times, but more often than not, it just takes a lot of miles walked to find them. But even if you don’t find one, don’t get discouraged by it. The reality is that you won’t find them all that often. They’re kind of rare, remember? As we started the article with, the overall point of shed hunting is not to amass a crazy wall full of sheds. It’s to get outside and learn a new thing or two about the world we miss as hunters once hunting season closes. We can always improve the world we miss as hunters once hunting season closes. We can always improve the way we hunt in some way or another. Shed hunting is the solution you’re looking for.

Tree Stands

Tree Stand Maintenance | Take Your Tree Stands Down or Leave Them Up?

Considerations Around Post Season Tree Stand Maintenance

Do I take my tree stands down or leave them up? This debate plagues hunters each year, and if you are like most then you have at least several stands around which to ponder this question. There is no right or wrong decision here depending on several factors. The only exception is on public land where certain state laws prohibit leaving a tree stand up after the season.

 

Tree stand maintenance is important to remember after the conclusion of a hunting season. Quality portable tree stands and permanent stands are a significant investment, so it is important to maintain them. Maintenance is an aspect that not only guarantees the lifespan of a tree stand but also makes for safe hunts. With many hunters focused on post season scouting this time of year, take the time to consider if you are going to leave your tree stands up or take them down and how those decisions relate to maintenance.

 

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When to Leave Your Tree Stands Up

First of all, leaving your stands hanging in the woods is an option that favors those hunters who own their own land or exclusively lease hunting grounds. In these situations, leaving a tree stand in the woods until next year may make sense depending on a few factors.

 

For stands that are constructed as permanent hunting havens (think box stands, wooden ladder tree stands, etc.), their design is such that warrants them being positioned and left out year after year. They are built to be comfortable, spacious and robust enough to handle the elements, which is why you are hunting out of it and not a portable tree stand. These stands are best left in the woods so long as they are in prime hunting locations and that yearly, or more frequent if needed, tree stand maintenance is performed.

 

Another reason to leave a stand up is that it may not be in an area that is easily accessible. If you have put in the time scouting and found the perfect tree for hanging a tree stand, it is hard to pull it out after the season. Leaving it up, even if it is one of your many hang on tree stands, is an option so long as you remove any tree stand accessories, lock it down and schedule time before next season to inspect and complete any necessary tree stand maintenance.

 

There are some that argue that leaving a tree stand up after the season minimizes disturbance in an area. While it is true that not going into a spot one more time is one less time for you to spread scent around or bump a deer, right after the season it is virtually harmless. Pushing a deer in winter from an area will have little if any impact on next deer season. Likewise, the scent you may be distributing as you tear down tree stands will not stick around the nine months or so until opening day. So from this perspective, reducing disturbance in a prime location is rarely a valid reason to leave a stand up after the season.

 

When to Take Your Tree Stands Down

Leaving a tree stand up, in certain circumstances, can be an option for hunters. However, tree stands are not an inexpensive hunting item and they hinge on your safety. Quality tree stands are durable and made to withstand the elements yet still require care. The right tree stand maintenance can make a stand last a lifetime not to mention keep you safe while hunting.

In general, taking your stands down each year is beneficial. The best time is right after the season ends. The benefit to removing them now is, if you are concerned about disturbing the area, you allow plenty of time for things to calm down. Also, you can combine pulling stands with post season scouting, both of which will give you an advantage this upcoming deer season.

 

The obvious reason for taking down a tree stand is simply you may not want to hunt that particular spot next year. There is a lot of time between now and the start of next season. Your post season scouting and summer scouting trips may bring you back to this spot or lead you in another direction. Either way, there is no point in leaving any stands up year round that will be moved anyways. Also, if there is a requirement in your state that stands have to be removed by a certain time, you are obligated to get out there and pull them down.

 

Safety is by far the greatest reason to take your deer hunting stands down. Although it is often taken for granted, hunting from a tree stand is dangerous. Being suspended 20 feet in the air on a poorly maintained tree stand can be fatal. Also, wear and tear are not the only concerns you should have by leaving stands up. Squirrels and other animals can chew, rip and otherwise damage tree stand ratchet straps, seats and cables. All of which put you at risk if not handled during annual tree stand maintenance. Tree growth, in addition to animals, can cause damage to your stands. Even the smallest growth can be enough to pop a cable or break a strap if not checked yearly.

 

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If you do decide to remove tree stands after the season, one thing to watch is the weather. Winter conditions can make for slippery climbing sticks and an icy tree stand ladder. Always think tree stand safety anytime you are using a tree stand.

 

Tips for Post Season Tree Stand Maintenance

 

You should now have a pretty good idea as to if you are going to take your tree stands down or not. Those that can be removed, should be but maintenance does not end there. On the contrary, each year you should inspect your stands at the end of the season and also before you go to hang them for next season. Depending on which type of stand you have, tree stand maintenance activities can vary.

 

Permanent Tree Stands

Traditional permanent stands are becoming less and less popular as better portable tree stands hit the market and further restrictions on how stands can be attached get implemented. The trouble with traditional permanent stands is that many are constructed from wood, which rots and becomes less stable over time. Metal replacement ladders for tree stands like these are a good option if you do go with a wooden platform since most of the maintenance here has to do with rotten ladders. The other permanent alternatives available to hunters are box stands and tower deer stands. Stands like these are much more durable and less vulnerable to having major safety issues compared to traditional permanent stands.

 

With any type of permanent stand, you want to check any screws, nails and bolts used to hold the stand together. Likewise in the case of tower and box stands, the mechanisms for how the stand is set up also needs to be inspected. Exposed hardware, even on deer box stands, weakens over time. Connectors can be loose or snap from the weight of ice and snow or become dislodged from high winds. Tripods or posts holding them up can also shift from now until you get back in them in the fall. Double check the positioning of these elements in the pre-season if they are to be left out for the year.

 

Portable Tree Stands

Tree stand maintenance does not end when you pull a stand from the woods. The best way to treat these stands is by never taking anything for granted. Although many are built with materials designed to last, they are still susceptible to normal wear especially if you use them frequently. Make it part of each post-season and each pre-season routine to visually inspect your portable stands. Go over all connection points for loose nuts and bolts as well as check all welds for any noticeable cracks. Most importantly, physically test cables and straps used to attached the stand to the tree and secure the platform. Offseason tree stand maintenance should include the follow fours areas:

 

  1. Safety concerns. Focus your maintenance activities first and foremost on safety aspects. These include cables and straps, which are usually the first to show signs of wear. Failure with these components can mean serious injury the next time you climb in if left unchecked.

 

  1. Heavy use areas. Places on the platform where you keep your feet can wear off factory paint, which will lead to rust over time. Look for areas where rust is forming and sand it down and add some touch-up paint to protect the metal.

 

  1. Seats. A good seat can be a lifesaver during all day sits in archery season. These wear out every few years or get ripped or chewed by animals. Invest in a new seat instead of repairing to make sure you have the comfort you need in the stand next season.

 

  1. Proper storage. Getting your tree stands indoors until next year is good but cleaning them up and storing them properly is great. Rinse off any dirt and dry them off before putting stands in for the year.

 

Take your tree stands down or leave them up? Well, it depends. If possible, the best solution is to pull down your tree stands after the season. Each stand should go through proper stand maintenance to ensure they are ready to deploy at the start of deer season this year. For those permanent stands that are left out in the woods, make sure you take the time to maintain them. Time spent on tree stand maintenance not only increases the life of your stands but also keeps you safe.

 

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!

 

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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?

post season scouting

Making the Most of a Post Season Scouting Trip

Post Season Scouting for Whitetails

All the snow lately has probably got you thinking about one thing: how much you miss fall. Not just the amazing weather and sights of fall itself, but deer hunting too. Fortunately, hunting doesn’t have to end when deer hunting season ends (we’re not talking about poaching either). You can continue your pursuit to become a better hunter throughout the year, and there’s no better time than now for a post season scouting trip. If you’ve ever wondered when to start scouting for deer, you can start immediately after the season closes! Most people don’t think about scouting for deer in December or January, because it’s either too cold or they don’t see the benefit of it. But it’s really an ideal time to wander the woods and learn more about the animal you obsess about during the fall. Plus, it’s some good exercise to keep the holiday treats from sticking to your gut too much.

 

Why Post Season Scouting?

Scouting is one of those deer hunting 101 skills, and every hunter should be doing it to maximize their success rate. Similar to pre-season scouting, you can learn a great deal about the woods and whitetails to help you during your next hunt even if you’re scouting after the season ends. When used in combination with scouting before deer season, however, you can double your knowledge. Pre-season deer will have different movement patterns and behaviors than post season deer. So you should ideally combine these experiences to find the average behavior for your hunting area, and know where to target them as they transition throughout the season.

 

Another nice thing about post season scouting is that you really can’t do any harm from spooking deer. During the pre-season, it’s usually good to sneak around without disturbing bedding areas or alerting deer that you’re there. If you run into a bedded buck, you might hurt your chances at hunting him that season. But you don’t need to worry about that for post season deer. If you jump them from their beds, they’ll run away and have 8 to 9 months to recover from it before you would possibly be able to hunt them again. So feel free to tromp wherever you want.

 

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Finally, the post season is a good time to scout because you can find out where the deer have been gathering in the last couple weeks of the season. Especially if there’s snow on the ground, you can easily see where they’ve been feeding, traveling, and bedding in your area. The frozen ground even allows you to inspect some swampy areas where reclusive bucks might hide out during the season. This allows you to set up predictive tree stands next year in the right spots without having to do much more than a quick reconnaissance scouting trip in the fall. The Big Game Tree Stands® Boss Lite fixed position stand is perfect for quickly hanging on one of those trips next fall. This time of year is a good one for clearing new trails or shooting lanes too, since there aren’t any bugs and the temperatures are cool.

 

Planning a Post Season Scouting Trip

You have a few options to plan out your scouting trip. You can either use your time to inspect your usual hunting spots and further pinpoint where the deer activity is. Or you could also try a new hunting area you haven’t been to before, to get a feel for the land and check for deer sign there. If you’ve got lots of time, you could easily check out several areas. Plan on a weekend for thoroughly walking a few hundred acres during one of these trips. You can obviously get by with less than a weekend. But if you find yourself crunched for time, you’re not likely to inspect every deer trail you come across that could lead you to a hidden oasis.

 

Many hunters wonder how to find a good hunting spot on public land, and assume it will takes miles of walking to figure this out. While you do need to walk a bit to confirm things, you should always start your post season scouting with some desktop research before you leave for the woods. You can use any kind of aerial maps for deer hunting purposes as long as you can see satellite imagery and zoom in fairly close. Use them to glance through your hunting area, looking specifically for areas you’d like to target. Identify the food sources and bedding areas you know about, and then locate likely travel routes between them, knowing that mature bucks will often take a very meandering route to stay out of sight. If it’s a completely new area you’re looking at, make your best guess at these spots. Some promising areas to look for include recent clearcuts, agricultural fields, small woodland openings, dense brushy riversides, or thick conifer stands.

 

As far as logistics for one of these post season scouting trips, you should pack light and wear lighter clothing than you think you might need for cold weather. You’ll be very active beating the brush throughout the day, so wearing layers of performance clothing can make a big difference in staying comfortable. You don’t want to sweat, so peel off layers or slow down if you find yourself perspiring too much. You may want to pack along an extra insulation layer or wind-breaking shell jacket in case you get stuck somewhere you don’t intend. If there’s a lot of snow, plan on using gaiters or snowshoes to make the experience more pleasant and keep your feet dry.

 

Otherwise, pack some water and a lunch to keep your energy and hydration up throughout the day. If you haven’t pulled your tree stands down for the season, now is a good time to do it before winter really sets in. If you have lock on stands, make sure you can carry them out with your extra gear. If you mostly have ladder stands, however, you’re going to need to recruit some help to haul them out. Toss a notebook, map, and compass in your bag too so you can record your thoughts and not get lost. It’s also always good to carry along some basic tools, especially if you plan on doing any habitat work. You can easily pack a serrated hand saw or some ratchet shears should you need them.

 

The only caution with post season scouting is to not wait too long. As winter really grabs hold, the temperatures plummet and the snow piles up. Whitetails in many areas tend to migrate to better wintering areas, called deer yards, where there is food nearby and thick cover to protect them from winter winds. Whether they migrate near or far, their patterns will be different. Step into a cedar forest in mid-winter, and it will look like there are hundreds of deer per acre. But the same hot spot will likely be pretty barren during early season deer hunting. The point behind post season scouting is to catch deer patterns while they’re still applicable to hunting season.

 

Where and What to Look For

 

If you’re still wondering exactly how to scout for deer in the winter, you should start with some high percentage spots to make the rest of the trip successful. As we mentioned above, food sources and bedding areas are great places to start your deer scouting. A whitetail’s world this time of year revolves around these two things. If you’re not sure about where these spots might be or don’t know how to find deer in the woods, start wandering some ATV/snowmobile trails until you cut a track. Either way, you should start looking for deer trails entering and leaving the areas above or crossing the trail. After finding some with buck tracks in them, start the tracking process. If you don’t know how to track a deer for a few hundred yards, you really need to try it. You can discover all kinds of interesting things about deer behavior by learning where they go, what they stop to look at, what trees they browse on, etc. Very often, they will take strange routes that lead you to a new area you wouldn’t expect them to bed, which is great information for next year. Patterning big woods bucks can be challenging, given the vast acreage involved and seeming lack of food. But that’s when following a buck’s trail really pays off. Use your journal and map to record notes on what you find and where you find it.

 

The really critical thing you should look for on one of these post season scouting missions is a good-sized travel corridor you could set a tree stand in. The best tree stand placement for most of the deer season will be concealed along a deer trail. If you’ve been puzzled with how to find a good deer hunting spot before, simply keep an eye out for other deer sign and pinch points as you track your deer from food to bed or vice versa. Finding deep woods bucks is easier when you can see their large tracks in the snow. If you see a history of rubs on the trees along a buck trail, it’s likely that this buck or others have used the same route before. If at any point the trail gets narrow against an opening, a fence line, or a brushy point, you might have found a good place for a tree stand. Particularly if there are mature trees with good cover (e.g., big conifers, oaks, maples, etc.), you should record the spot as a place to re-visit next fall with a trail camera. That way, you can analyze what kind of deer movement is still there next year before you hunt it.

 

Miscellaneous Work

While you’re out post season scouting, you should also keep an eye out for other work you could get finished. For example, if you feel confident you have found one of your new deer hunting spots and will put up a tree stand in a the area next fall, grab those ratchet shears and saw and start pruning out an access trail and shooting lanes to save on the work you’ll have to do next year. It will grow in quite a bit throughout the summer, but there shouldn’t be anything heavy in your way to slow you down. That’s good since you want to remain discreet in the fall and make as little a disturbance as possible. Depending on where you hunt, deer can get spooked by fresh cut trees in the fall.

 

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If you’re on private land where you are allowed to cut even more, you may want to consider doing some quick and dirty timber stand improvement to see more deer while hunting. If the property you’re on is lacking in quality winter cover (i.e., consists of mostly mature trees), you may want to consider doing a few quick hinge cuts. Hinge cutting is best done on trees that are 6 to 7 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh). If they are larger than that, you’ll reduce the chance of it hinging properly and make it unsafe to do too. Use your serrated saw to cut halfway through the tree trunk on the opposite side of whichever direction you want it to fall. Gently guide it down as best you can so that it doesn’t break off from the base of the tree. This remaining connection will provide some water and nutrients to the tree top for another year or two, which will keep it alive and producing buds and leaves. Treetops make excellent deer browse in the winter, because the buds and smaller twigs are much softer and more nutritious than coarse, woody growth below. Cutting a tree along a trail produces more food for them as they walk between food and cover, which may even stall them long enough for a shot next fall. But it also helps them this winter by providing some easy-to-reach food and cover. Some good trees to try hinge cutting include maples, basswood, aspens, and beech.

 

Don’t Miss Post Season Scouting

This year, don’t miss out on the opportunity to make next deer season more successful. Post season scouting is a good way to spend a winter day, even if you don’t find the perfect spot to hang a tree stand. Use these deer scouting tips to check out some new areas or learn more about your property. Getting back out in nature for a while to explore the woods is never a waste of time.

game processing

DIY Game Processing Tools to Save Money

This is How to Do Your Own Game Processing

 

We get it. It’s so much easier to just drop a deer off at a butcher to take care of your game processing for you. We’re all strapped for time, especially during deer hunting season. But do you really know you’re getting your own venison back? This is not to discredit the butcher business because there are some great and reputable local deer butchers near everyone. But there are also some individuals who might just toss all the meat processing together with the next guy who gut shot his deer and let it sit for days before bringing it in. If you really care about the meat you actually harvested from the deer, it’s so much better and fulfilling to do your own game processing at home.

 

Plus, it ultimately makes far more sense financially to do it yourself instead of bringing it to someone else. The average price of processing a deer fully (including skinning, butchering, and packaging) is about $75 to $100 per deer. If you save the money you would spend on processing two deer, that’s enough to buy all these game processing tools easily. And if you really think about it, every two deer after that is like a free tree stand. If that doesn’t convince you, what will?

 

Good Game Processing Starts in the Field

 

As with anything, the more care you invest in the front-end of butchering a deer, the better the meat will turn out. A poorly cared for deer will yield some off-tasting venison, and it all starts in the tree stand. Whether you recently tagged a doe for the freezer or you’re chasing a post-rut buck right now, making a good shot is critical to not spoil the meat. A gut-shot deer will often take hours to expire, and some unpleasant things can happen during that time. Stomach content can spread throughout the body cavity, which can then spread further once you field dress them and taint the meat. It’s obvious, but you need to make the best shot you can by practicing and being proficient with whatever weapon you’re using, and being very careful about field dressing a deer. Dragging your deer across the ground can also impact the meat slightly. If possible, place them into a sled or carry the carcass as much as possible.

 

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Another huge consideration is the temperature. If you’re hunting the late season where the temperatures are below freezing, you don’t need to worry. But if it’s an early season hunt or you’re down south, you need to move quickly after shooting. Field dress the animal as quickly as you can and spread the rib cage apart to start cooling the chest cavity. If it’s above 60 degrees, you should skin the deer as soon as possible. The hide really insulates the meat well and can cause some spoilage if not taken care of quickly. Before you do that, you might want to hang the deer on a dial scale to see its field dressed weight.

 

Once you get your deer back home or to your camp, you should skin the deer if you haven’t already. This is made easier with the Magnum Lift System, which allows you to easily hoist even the heaviest deer up to eye level instead of straining your back to bend over. Insert the heavy-duty gambrel into the deer’s hind legs and start lifting it up. Starting at the 3whind legs, slowly remove the hide by peeling and making select cuts where it gets stuck. Skinning a deer that has been recently killed is easy, but one that has aged a few days or been frozen will require a little more effort. The skinning tool makes it a non-issue with powerful teeth that grip the hide.

 

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How to Quarter a Deer

 

Once the carcass is bare, it’s time to start quartering it up into basic pieces. You don’t need a lot of fancy game processing equipment or accessories either; simply gather some knives, a sharpener, a cutting board, and some butcher paper.

 

If the deer is still up on the lift system, start by removing the backstraps and tenderloins. These are the choicest cuts on a deer, by most hunters’ estimates. The tenderloins are located on the inside of the cavity beneath the spine towards the hips. They are 8 to 12 inches long and should pull out with some minor cutting on each edge. The back straps are located along each edge of the spine sitting on top of the ribs. Start your cut down each side of the spine from neck to rump. Then make a cut perpendicular to the spine near the neck to start it. Slowly work your way down the spine, cutting in small increments. Eventually, the muscle will start to pull away on its own with some minor cutting. Continue all the way down to the rump area. These two back straps are very versatile (and delicious) later on.

 

Next, move onto the front legs. Use a sharp set of meat processing knives and cut under the armpit area towards the spine, following the rib cage. They are only connected via muscle tissue, so they will come off easily. Use a hack saw to remove the lower leg. Place each front leg on a table lined with some butcher paper. Then work on the neck meat by basically unwrapping it from the spine.

 

Now it’s time to remove the rear legs. Basically fold them backward and start cutting the meat until you expose the ball and socket hip joint. Pop it out of place and continue cutting the meat until it separates from the pelvis. Again, saw the lower leg off. At this point, you could also remove the ribs from a fresh deer and pick away here and there. But it’s mostly ready for final processing.

 

The Nitty Gritty of Game Processing

 

Now you should be able to take the quartered pieces and start turning it into real cuts of meat for eating. The easiest way to do this is to refer to a good deer processing chart, which will show you where to get each cut of meat from the deer. For each cut, take the time you need to really trim the silver skin membrane and sinew from every piece, which will really enhance the quality of the meat. Basically, you will get a few roasts from the hind legs and potentially the front shoulder or neck. You can leave the back straps whole to roast or smoke, or cut them into thick steaks for grilling. You’ll get a lot of steaks from the hind quarters too. Most of the remaining meat can be ground for hamburger, sausage, or jerky. This might seem a little picky, but you really can’t mess anything up. If you accidentally cut up a roast, you’ll have more steaks and will learn for next time. If you really like sausage, you could grind every scrap on the carcass using simple home meat processing equipment. As long as you’ll eat it, it’s a good deer processing option.

 

There’s really no wrong way to do your own game processing as long as you keep quality meat at the front of your mind and spend a little extra time on it. The satisfaction of eating a meal you killed and processed yourself is well worth the effort involved.

post-rut-stand-locations | Big Game Treestands

Post Rut Whitetails | Switching Up Stand Locations

Post Rut Deer Hunting | Stand Locations

No question the rut is an exciting time to be in the deer stand.  There is not a better time to put a big mature whitetail on the ground than during the months of late October and early November.  Although many whitetail hunters will experience the thrill of punching tag on a November whitetail, the rut is anything but a guarantee.  So what do you do when things don’t play out the way you had hoped, and you find yourself staring the end of the rut directly in the face?  The answer is simple; you gear up for post rut whitetails!

There are those who say that whitetail hunting simply doesn’t get any better than during sweet November, however, there are a growing number of whitetail hunters that are beginning to see the advantages of hunting mature whitetail bucks during the post-rut, and on into the late season.  Many appreciate the new set of challenges that come with hunting and harvesting a post-rut whitetail buck, while others really enjoy hunting whitetail deer during the frigid, late season cold when there is a several inches of fresh white snow on the ground.  One thing is for certain, hunting post rut and/or late season whitetail deer is certainly different than chasing them during the rut.

So What’s the Difference?

One of the most exciting aspects of hunting a mature whitetail buck is simply seeing how their patterns and focus change over the course of the fall.  From the early season where bucks can sometimes tend to still be in their bachelor groups, keying in on early season forages all the way through the rut and into the post rut.  For many that are what makes whitetail deer so exciting to chase, you have to stay abreast of what the deer are doing and adjust your hunting strategies accordingly.

So, to effectively hunt and harvest a post-rut whitetail buck you need to first understand what is going on in the world of the deer during this time.  First and foremost, it is important to keep in mind that the process of going through the rut is very hard on both bucks and does (albeit a little harder on the buck) and both handle the adversity in a little different way, moving into the post rut.  During the post rut, does tend to become solitary, though sometimes last year’s fawn will still be close by, by the time the rut rolls around they have generally run last year fawns off and are solely focused on breeding.  Once bred, the doe will begin to build up her body as best she can in preparation for the winter and to ensure that she is in optimal condition comes spring.

Bucks, on the other hand, will continue to roam the countryside in search of the last remaining doe in estrous that they can find.  Occasionally, does that come into estrous late can sometimes spark what has become known as the “second rut”.  This can be an excellent time to catch a big mature buck on his feet, cruising for does even long after the end of the official rut.  Opportunities like the “second rut” can sometimes come and go quickly, so it is important to keep running your trail cameras throughout the rut and on into the postseason.  This information can give you some insight as to whether you have a hot doe in the area, which can help you determine if you current stand locations are still appropriate or if you need to begin making the change into a post rut/late season hunting strategy.

Second rut aside, during the post-rut whitetail bucks are simply worn down.  They have spent the last four weeks or so roaming the countryside in search of does.  They have expended a vast amount of energy on rutting, fighting, and breeding with very little time spent on resting and foraging.  As the rut ends and the post-rut begins, the buck will still show some interest in sparring and fighting.  Calling techniques such as light rattle and some grunting can still be effective, though you want to be sure to keep in light and infrequent.  As the post rut transition, whitetail deer, and especially bucks will begin to focus on rebuilding their body reserves that have been depleted during the rut.  As a result, hunting food sources can be absolutely stellar during the post rut and on into the late season.

Post Rut Stand Locations

There varying opinions on post rut stand locations, however; there are two areas that have proven to be very effective for putting post rut bucks on the ground year after year after year.  So if you are planning to hit the woods in search of a post rut buck, here are some areas that you may consider moving your Big Game tree stands to.

post-rut-stand-locations | Big Game Treestands

Major Trails, Close to Bedding Areas

When you are talking about a post rut buck, you are talking about an animal that is not going to have a whole lot of energy to spare.  As a matter of fact, a post rut buck is going to look for every opportunity they can to find a secure bedding area that is typically close to a food source such a grain fields or turnip plot.  If you think about it, it only makes sense that in order for a deer to build up a severely depleted reserve of protein and carbohydrates, they would try to be a close as they can safely be to the food source, in order to limit the amount of energy burned in travel from bedding to food.

Though post rut bucks will tend to be very reclusive, they typically will not be too sneaky in terms of using secondary trials to get from point A to point B.  They will choose the path of least resistance in order to conserve energy and rebuild their reserves.  One of the best stand locations that you can have to try to hunt and harvest a post-rut whitetail is along a major trail that is very close to cover or bedding.  These sets can produce excellent results, especially later during the post rut as the weather begins to deteriorate.  These sets, while productive do come with their set of challenges namely the entry and exit for the hunter.  Often, for these sets to be successful the hunter will need to get as close as possible to the buck bedding area.  This can often prove to be very difficult so ensuring that you have effective entry and exit route that you can use relatively noise free is critical.  Likewise, only entering these areas with the proper wind is key to success.  Once you bump a post rut buck, it can sometimes be difficult to locate them again.

Food, Food, and More Food

You have probably sensed that this topic was coming throughout the majority of this article, but the importance of high energy foods to a post-rut whitetail cannot be overstated.  It is something that they absolutely need for survival and is something that they will actively be seeking out once the rut has come to an end.

While the end of the rut will drive whitetails to seek out nutritious forages like corn and soybeans as well as turnips and radishes, the harsh weather conditions of the late season can also drive these deer to key in on these late season food sources.

Hunting food plots or grain fields are excellent options for post rut whitetails, both with archery and firearm equipment.  If you are hunting the wide open expanses of a grain field, where you can see for a great distance, a tower blind or tripod stand can be just what the doctor ordered.  These stands can keep you comfortable and concealed while giving you the ability to see and shoot from a great distance.

If you are planning to take after a post-rut whitetail with archery equipment or you just want to get up close and personal, then a solid hang-on or ladder stand placed close to the main trail into or out of the food plot can be deadly on post rut whitetails.

The number one take home point is that it is important to remember is that a deer’s behavior changes throughout the year. You cannot expect to be successful hunting the same stand that you hunt during the early part of the year during the post rut.  Sure, we all have those go-to spots that produce year after year regardless of the time of year it is, but the need to constantly move your stand locations based on the time of year can often be the missing factor for many hunters, and being reluctant to do so can often result in eat tag soup rather than backstrap.  If you hit the woods in pursuit of post rut whitetails, keep these stand locations in mind and with a little luck, you will punch a tag on a late season bruiser.

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.

five hunting accessories and hacks to make your next hunt easier | Big Game Treestands

5 Hunting Accessories and Hacks to Make Your Next Hunt Easier

Which Hunting Accessories Make a Difference?

Every hunter likes to go shopping, right? They wander up and down the aisles comparing products and wondering if they’ll be the right fit for them. As long as we’re talking about hunting accessories, that is. Isn’t it funny how the same person who “hates shopping” will happily spend two hours in a sporting goods store looking at all the cool new deer hunting gear they need?

Hunting gear lists can sometimes get a little crazy and our backpacks are usually stuffed to the brim with numerous items as we walk to our tree stands. This is good in the fact that we’re prepared for almost any situation. But it can sometimes be hard to tell how much of a difference the various items really make to your hunting success. How truly necessary are they?

Hunting Accessories and Hacks 

Let’s look at five hunting accessories and simple hacks or tricks you can do that will really make a difference in your hunt. From just setting up your tree stand to processing a deer that you kill, we’ll cover the whole process.

Hanging a Tree Stand 

When you’re hanging your tree stand, you’ve already got a lot of deer hunting gear with you, so you’re probably not looking to add more to that list. But there is a very simple hack that you can do to make hanging a tree stand much easier. Lock on stands present some unique challenges simply because you have to hang ladder sections as you climb the tree. This can be incredibly awkward and dangerous without the right gear.

The solution is to use a combination of hunting accessories: a safety harness, lineman’s rope, and lift cord. While you’re at ground level, attach the first ladder section to the tree and make sure it’s secure. Next, put on your safety harness and connect one end of a lineman’s rope to the left side of your harness. Wrap the lineman’s rope around the tree trunk, connecting the other side to your harness on the right side. Snug it up so that it holds you fairly close to the tree, but not so close that you can’t climb. Next, attach a lift cord to your additional ladder sections, and another lift cord to your tree stand platform itself. Connect both of them to your harness. Now climb up onto the first ladder section, making sure the lineman’s rope keeps you secure. You can now have both hands free to haul the next ladder section up and attach it. Continue in this fashion until you get to the top. Haul your tree stand platform up and attach it using the same method. Now you don’t have to scramble up and down the ladder sections or try to secure them while bear hugging the tree trunk. It’s safer and easier, which makes it a winning hunting hack.

Where to Store Your Hunting Equipment

When you’re physically in the tree stand, you’re often cramped for space. After all, you’ve got five layers of clothing on, a backpack between your feet full of deer hunting accessories, and a bow or gun perched on your lap. In smaller tree stands or if you’re a taller person, there’s just not much wiggle room.

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One way to change that is by using hook holders and hunting accessory bags. You can screw the hook holders into the tree trunk above you and to the side of you to hang your backpack, weapon, binoculars, etc. within easy reach. Alternatively, Big Game Tree Stands has a multi-hook accessory strap so you can use one strap for multiple items. For hunting accessories, you want to keep close or that won’t hang well (deer scents, water bottle, snacks, etc.), you can place them in the tree stand basket below your seat. Having a place for everything and everything in its place is really helpful when you’re hunting because it will make it more comfortable and streamlined to use when you need it.

Comfort Matters

Speaking of tree stand comfort, sitting in a tree for all-day sessions multiple days in a row can get downright uncomfortable. The first thing that usually starts to stiffen up is the back. This happens because there is surprisingly little support leaning against a tree trunk. It’s counterintuitive, but you know it’s true if you’ve done it.

Luckily, Big Game Tree Stands has the right whitetail deer hunting accessories to keep you comfortable. There is a spring-back tree stand lumbar support accessory that you can attach to the tree, which will provide the right structure where you need it most. It attaches with a simple strap and will transform your lock on stands or ladder stands into a comfortable perch so that you can stay in the woods longer after the buck of your dreams.

Deer Retrieval

Assuming you have now hung a tree stand with ease and hunted comfortably out of it, let’s say you put a deer on the ground. In some locations, it’s just not possible to drive right up to it and toss it in the back of the four-wheeler or truck. In dense, young forests, cutover areas, or even cattail swamps, you’re going to need to invest a little sweat equity and manual labor into retrieving your deer. Trying to grab one by the antlers and drag it is OK for short distances, but quickly gets old. Wrapping a rope around its neck and dragging it works a little better, but it ties up your hands from carrying your deer hunting equipment.

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This is where the next hunting accessory really shines. You can wear the deluxe deer drag system just like your safety harness, which distributes the weight across your shoulders and hips. Wrap the drag system attachment rope around the deer’s neck or antlers and start walking. The system works by holding the animal’s head off the ground so it doesn’t get tangled in brush or logs, and allows you to use your full bodyweight to drag it while using both hands. This makes the process so much easier because you can quickly drag a deer to the nearest trail while carrying your gun and backpack. There’s no need to make two trips to come back for your hunting gear once you get the deer to the ATV.

Processing Time

Once you get the deer back home, it’s time to start processing it, assuming you butcher it yourself. It’s really not all that difficult and doesn’t take as much time as people think. But it can if you don’t have the right deer processing equipment. Luckily, there aren’t many hunting accessories you need to make the process go smoothly.

It starts with getting the deer off the ground so you can more efficiently skin and quarter it. The best method for doing this is to use a Magnum Lift System. The gambrel spreads the hind legs apart and is inserted through the rear leg (between the tendon and bone around the knee). This is attached to the lift system so that you can simply hoist the whole deer off the ground. No more pulling on a rope while simultaneously lifting the deer and then awkwardly trying to tie it off somewhere. The self-locking lift system uses a 4:1 weight reduction system to make up to 500 pounds feel ridiculously easy.

This season, stock up on the right hunting accessories and use these simple tweaks to make your life a bit easier. When things are easier, they are more enjoyable and save you time to hunt more. And that’s a winning combination.

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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.

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.