public land hunting

How to Find Worthwhile Public Hunting Land

Public Hunting Land | Branching Out to New Areas

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Search for Public Land

 

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

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

 

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

 

Scouting for Deer…with Your Computer

 

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

 

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

 

how to find worthwhile public hunting land

 

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

 

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

fall turkey hunting from a tree stand | Big Game Treestands

Fall Turkey Hunting from a Tree Stand?

Take Fall Turkey Hunting to New Heights

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

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

How Are Fall Turkeys Different?

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

Why Tree Stands for Fall Turkey Hunting?

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

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

Fall Turkey Tactics

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

fall turkey hunting from a tree stand | Big Game Treestands

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

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

Time for a Thanksgiving Bird

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

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

6 Tree Stand Exit Strategies for Hunting the Rut

Exiting Your Tree Stand Undetected While Hunting the Rut

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

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

Planning for an Exit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common Sense Ways to Exit Your Tree Stands

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

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

6 Tree Stand Exit Strategies

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

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

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

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

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

essential tree stand gear hunting accessories | Big Game Treestands

Which Hunting Accessories Do You Really Need?

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

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

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

Types of Essential Deer Hunting Equipment and Hunting Accessories 

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

Hunting Weapon-Related Gear

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

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

Hunting Clothing Items

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

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

Tree Stand-Related Gear

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

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

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

Other Necessary Hunting Accessories

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

essential tree stand gear hunting accessories | Big Game Treestands

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

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

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

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

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

hanging tree stands trim sooting lanes | Big Game Tree Stands

Hanging Tree Stands | How to Trim and Hunt Shooting Lanes

Cutting Shooting Lanes While Hanging Tree Stands

If you’re used to hanging tree stands in thick woods, you know the value of shooting lanes. Without them, you might be able to see a mature whitetail buck moving below you, but you could not ethically take a shot at it; this is especially true if you’re bow hunting. While natural openings work well enough in some forested settings, some are not well-suited for this. Some examples could include young aspen or conifer forests, which grow too densely together or have too many lower branches to effectively take a shot through them.

Conventional wisdom is to wait until the week before deer season opens before hanging tree stands and clearing new shooting lanes or cleaning up existing ones. This can be a problematic situation. Deer are far more familiar with their environment than many realize. Imagine if someone knocked down one of the walls in your house or cut down one of the trees in your yard. You’d realize it pretty quickly, right? Deer know their surroundings very well and can notice when something looks different. They can also smell the freshly-cut trees lying around with whatever other scent you leave behind. Depending on where you live, this might not bother them all that much or it might put them on high alert. For example, suburban deer might not hesitate to move through a disturbed area like this, but big woods bucks would certainly be suspicious of the area for several days, if not longer.

A better strategy is to go out in the mid-summer months to cut new shooting lanes and clean up old ones. If you hunt on private land, this is also a good time for hanging tree stands. Then, a week or two before the season opens, you can simply go check everything to make sure the lanes are still open and in good condition. Unless a tree falls within them, they should only require minimum work (and thus disturbance) to finish them. But first, let’s take a step back.

Planning Your Shooting Lanes

Before the chainsaw or pole saw comes out into the woods with you, you need to do some quick thinking. For help visualizing how the shooting lanes will fit into the surrounding area, use some desktop scouting software to map it out before you cut anything. Ideally, you should also climb into your tree stand and picture the best direction for a shooting lane to go. Which way would be the most advantageous for a quick shot? Also, how many do you plan to cut? You want to walk the fine line between not seeing enough ground and having too many lanes. Though each tree stand location will vary in its shooting lane requirements, a good rule of thumb to start with would be at least 2 to 3 lanes per stand. This way, you can cover three different directions to accommodate different deer travel patterns.  Be sure to remember this every time you are hanging tree stands.

The ultimate design or layout isn’t really important – it just depends on what you’re willing to do and how much the deer would be disturbed. If you’re going to cut a series of larger or longer shooting lanes, it’s best to do it now so whitetails have time to settle down and get used to the new openings. The simplest option is a basic V-shape extending out from your tree stands, so you can see in two different directions. Theoretically, if a deer walks in front of your stand, you should get one opportunity to spot the deer and one to shoot it with a quartering away shot. However, another popular option is the hub and spoke design, where there are several shooting lanes radiating out in every direction from the tree stand. This allows a hunter to intercept deer along any of these paths.

hanging tree stands trim sooting lanes | Big Game Tree stands

The ultimate length of each shooting lane will depend on your goals for that location too. For example, if you plan to only bow hunt from a given area, you really only need lanes that are at your maximum ethical shot distance. For most, that would be 40 to 50 yards in length. This helps you gauge distance without a range finger, and eliminates any temptation to take a longer shot. But if you plan on hunting with a rifle, you could easily have 200 yard lanes in front of you.

Trimming While Hanging Tree Stands

hanging tree stands trim sooting lanes | Big Game Tree StandsAs we mentioned, the best time to cut these lanes with the least impact is when you’re hanging tree stands. It doesn’t really matter which type of hunting tree stands you’re setting up. But if you’re going to go through the effort of cutting shooting lanes, it goes without saying that you should probably hunt it more than just once or twice out of climbing deer stands. The best tree stands for these lanes would be something more permanent, such as ladder stands. The Venture ladder stand has a wide, curved platform with a matching seat so you can watch several shooting lanes around you.

First, climb into your deer stand and locate the direction you chose earlier. Now pick a landmark tree off in the distance along your intended path. Stay between your tree stand and that landmark as you cut, which should produce a straight shooting lane. You can use a chainsaw for larger trees, but a simple hand saw and pair of pruning shears/loppers is usually all that’s needed for saplings and brush. Inevitably, there will be branches from larger trees extending into your shooting lanes that would interfere with a shot from up in your lock on stands. An extendable pole saw is invaluable for these situations.

How to Enhance Your Shooting Lanes While Hanging Tree Stands

Instead of simply piling the cut branches and brush off to the sides of each lane, consider using them to enhance your tree stand concealment. Wary whitetails often look down each side of a shooting lane before entering it. Your tree stands will really stick out if you don’t use some natural camouflage. Use zip ties or twine to attach some of the branches to your tree stands, which will break up your outline in the tree. Bring along a portable tree saw when you hunt, just in case something shifts in your stand. You can also prop cut trees up against your tree and attach them to the base so your single tree looks like a clump.

hanging tree stands trim sooting lanes | Big Game Tree StandsAdditionally, deer will sometimes use shooting lanes as short-distance travel routes since they offer the path of least resistance. But sometimes they will bolt right across them since they have no real reason to stay in the open. There are a few hunting methods to counter this tendency. The first would be hanging a scent wick where you want them to stop within the lane, and applying your favorite deer odor to it. Another, where legal, is to use a mineral block near the end of the lane to catch early season bucks.

Planting small food plot strips along your lanes is also great to hold them still long enough for a shot, this is something you should keep in mind when hanging tree stands and trimming shooting lanes. Provided your lanes get enough sunlight, simply use some herbicide on the existing vegetation, being sure to use one that will kill cut tree stumps (e.g., triclopyr) as well as the herbaceous growth (e.g., glyphosate). After letting the herbicide work for a few weeks, go back in and expose the soil using a hard-tined rake, roughing up the surface a little in the process. Broadcast seed that can handle your local soil, sunlight, and water conditions. Perennial clover varieties should work great on shaded trails with less-than-perfect soils. Remember, you’re not trying to make these shooting lane food plots into lush, ultra-attractive plots. Instead, you simply want deer to pause for an opportunistic snack while they’re walking through. Therefore, you don’t need to spend a lot of time and money making them look like one on TV.

You probably didn’t think much about shooting lanes when hanging tree stands before, except that they might give you a better shot at a deer, if you were lucky. But if you use the tips above, you should be able to increase their effectiveness many times over to put luck on your side.

tree stand blinds tree stand concealment | Big Game Treestands

Big Game Tree Stand Blinds | How to Create Tree Stand Concealment

Camouflage Cover for Tree Stand Concealment | Tree Stand Blinds

Imagine sitting in your tree stand on opening morning. As the first rays of sunlight start shining through the autumn leaves, you hear a branch break. Just as you imagined, you spot a deer walking down the well-used trail you found earlier in the week. It’s a brand new stand site and the deer should have no clue you’re there. But as soon as it enters a slight clearing, its head shoots up and aims right at you. You didn’t make any noise and the wind is in your favor. But still, the deer turns and disappears faster than you can do anything to stop it. All because you didn’t take time to hide your tree stand with tree stand blinds. If you’ve hunted long enough, you’ve probably had an experience like this.

Whitetails are remarkable at spotting differences in their environment. Their eyes are amazingly adapted at finding things that stick out from their surroundings; a new tree stand, for example. In order to beat this amazing sense of theirs, you have to take a little more care to hide your tree stand when you hang a new stand. This often includes installing tree stand blinds. If you’re hunting unpressured private land deer, you can probably get away with less. But the steps below are almost a requirement for public land hunting these days.

It’s no doubt that ground blinds can be much more easily hidden than tree stands. They are low to the ground and can be covered with all manner of camouflage patterns and branches. But they can be more difficult to hunt deer out of sometimes. You don’t have the height advantage on your side, for one thing, which inhibits your prey detection and prevents any longer shots. But there are some things you can do with tree stand concealment to hide it just as effectively as a ground blind.

How to Hide Your Tree Stand

One of the first tips if you’re using a really old stand is to either get a new one or freshen it up. If there aren’t any safety concerns, then painting a tree stand or just installing tree stand blinds could do the trick to help it blend in better. Grab a couple cans of spray paint, in black and various shades of brown, green, and yellow. Next, collect some natural materials (e.g., grasses, weeds, branches, leaves, etc.) from the area you’re going to hunt. Spray a light background color, such as sage green, all over your stand. Then either sparsely lay some of the natural materials on top of the stand, or tie them down with some twine. Once they’re tight against the metal frame, spray a mustard yellow or brown paint over the top. Add some more materials over the top of these, and lightly spray a black color over what’s left. You can experiment with the colors and which sequence you spray them in, but focus on colors that match the season you’re hunting in. In other words, no bright green colors if you’ll be hunting in late autumn. You can quickly camouflage a deer stand with a couple cans of paint and a few hours.

tree stand blinds tree stand concealment | Big Game Treestands

One of the best deer stand concealment steps you can take is to simply take advantage of the natural cover around you. There are no synthetic materials that can beat the natural vegetation in an area in terms of camouflage value offered. That being said, some trees are better suited to hanging a new stand than others. For example, trees with multiple trunks or lots of branches work great since they offer so much natural camouflage and structure that you can hide in. Pines, cedars, and oaks come to mind as excellent choices since they generally have a dense branch structure and maintain their needles or leaves through most of the hunting season or year-round. These trees are excellent choices for hang on stands, since you can tuck them right into the branches. With a good set of camouflage clothing, you should stay pretty hidden.

Deciduous trees with bare trunks (e.g., aspens, maples, birch, etc.) are great for ladder stands, but you tend to stick out like a sore thumb without any ladder stand concealment. If you must hunt from a tree such as this, you should definitely use a tree stand blind kit or camouflage burlap. Wrapping the seat and platform of a ladder stand is a great way to at least hide your movements while in the tree. Using fabric with loose-cut leaves is even better since it adds a natural look and motion. These tree stand blinds are simple to carry with you while hanging stands, and do so much to hide your profile. Simply drape the fabric or ladder stand blind kit around the shooting rail and use twine or zip ties to secure it thoroughly. Leave a slit opening at the front so you can climb into the stand with all your bulky hunting clothing and gear. There’s nothing worse than trying to quietly slither through a narrow gap on opening morning, realizing that a knife is the only way you’re going to get into your stand.

tree stand blinds tree stand concealment | Big Game Treestands

While this definitely helps hide your movement from keen eyes, a large bulky shape in the sky among a bunch of bare trunks still sticks out to deer. Another way to really hide your tree stand involves a more three dimensional application. Real or fake branches are excellent to blend into the surrounding area. Using tree stand concealment branches can be done in two ways. The first is to collect some actual branches from near your stand, preferably live ones with leaves still on them for deciduous trees (oaks tend to hold onto their leaves longer than many others), or coniferous branches for a coniferous tree. The other is to stock up on fake Christmas tree branches when they go on sale at the end of the year. Obviously, these are more useful for coniferous trees. Either way, attach the branches to your stand with twine or zip ties, spreading them out evenly to hide your profile. You want enough branches so that it looks natural and blends in, but not so many that it sticks out (when’s the last time you saw a ball of branches extending every direction 20 feet up a tree?). And you definitely want to make sure to leave yourself ample shooting lanes for close-range bow shots. Too often, we don’t know when to stop and suddenly realize we can’t see the ground from a sitting position.

Height Matters

The final way to really hide your tree stand is not so much a mechanical add-on or fancy camouflage system of tree stand blinds. It simply involves hanging your tree stand higher. Climbing stands and lock-on stands makes this is easily doable. Well-educated public land deer have come to expect to see hunters at the typical 10 to 15 foot range off the ground. So if you can sneak up a little higher, say 20-25 feet, you’ll be further out of their peripheral vision. If you go much higher than that, your shot angle can be too severe to get a double lung pass-through. Make sure to stay safe while hunting higher and always use a hunting safety harness. And of course, pay attention to your state hunting regulations as some states have maximum allowable tree stand heights.

While you’re out deer scouting this summer, pay attention to the surrounding trees and think of ways that you could hide your tree stand better. Using all of the steps above whether it is natural cover or tree stand blinds, it should leave you pretty invisible to all but the wisest whitetails. You’ll need a little luck on your side to get close to them.

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.