Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stand Placement

Rambuck took this video during a recent two and a half day hunting trip with clients. He estimates that the hunters he videod had shots at over 25 deer, including the nice buck at the end of the video (more on that deer later).

The video illustrates several points.

First and foremost, hunting a dominant tree dramatically ups your odds of getting within shooting range of a deer. The dominant trees on this trip were all white oaks that were actively dropping acorns. In three mornings and two afternoons, the hunters had shots at deer every time they were in the stand.

The second point that it makes is how close you can get to deer if you know where they are feeding. As a matter of fact, you can easily get too close. Notice how often the deer in the video are directly below the hunter. Despite Rambuck's advice to move about 20 yards away from the dominant tree, the hunters elected to climb trees that were only 5 - 10 yards away. Getting too close creates several problems:

  • A straight-down shot is more difficult to execute due to the awkward angle
  • A straight-down angle makes it much more difficult to get a double lung pass through or a heart shot
  • Deer coming to the dominant tree are much more likely to spot you as they approach
  • Deer are more likely to smell where you have walked around and laid your gear on the ground as you prepared to climb
  • Deer that you don't intend to shoot but that are feeding directly beneath you are likely to detect hunter movement and spook (Murphy's law says that this will happen as the shooter buck you've been waiting for approaches. The buck in the final few seconds of video approached while several does were directly under the hunter and videographer, handcuffing them long enough for the buck to get out of range)
Once you've put in the time to locate a dominant tree, make sure to spend a few minutes considering your stand placement options before picking out a tree to climb. Here are a couple suggestions. Sometimes you will be able to find a stand location that meets all the following criteria, sometimes you can only satisfy a couple. Usually you will have to make some tradeoffs.
  • Remember that deer will often favor one side of a dominant tree. If you notice that the freshest sign is concentrated on one particular side of the tree, choose a stand location that is favorable for a shot to that specific area.
  • Try to find a tree that is about 20 yards from the heaviest feeding area, not the trunk of the tree. Some large trees have limbs that spread out 10 - 15 yards from the trunk. If you are located 20 yards away from the dominant tree's trunk, you could end up with a 5 yard shot or a 35 yard shot if the deer are feeding on the near or far side of the tree respectively.
  • Choose a tree that is downwind of the feeding area and the likely approach route
  • Choose a tree that is on the opposite side of the feeding area from the likely approach route so that the deer don't have to pass directly under you on the way to feed.
  • Choose a tree that is uphill of the feeding area to give yourself a little extra elevation
  • Remember the western movies where the gunfighter tries to position himself so that the sun is to his back? Gunfighter's delight works as well on deer as it does on bad hombres. If you can find a tree to the east for morning hunts or to the west for afternoon hunts it can work to your advantage. Deer don't like to look into the sun
One final note. When you are hunting a dominant tree, be prepared to shoot at any time. If you are bow hunting, that means standing up as soon as you hear deer approaching and all the while there are are deer nearby. You don't want to have to ease up out of your seat for a shot at the buck you've been waiting for when there are several wary does just a few yards away. Oh, and don't forget to be still. This post has some video footage of the heartbreaking consequences of breaking that rule.


Unknown said...

At twenty yards away from the hot and nasty area of a dominant tree with the wind in your face, how high should a hunter get? I don't like to get higher than 20 feet, that's the length of my pull up rope.

Pursuit Hunter said...


Twenty feet up is plenty in most cases. You might even want to go lower than that if there is better background cover at say 15 feet. On the other hand, if the tree you are climbing is downhill from the dominant tree 20 feet may put you pretty close to eye level. The beauty of hunting a dominant tree is that the deer are typically pretty relaxed unless they get a whiff of you so you should have ample opportunities to draw your bow or raise your rifle undetected whike the deer have their heads down feeding.

Anonymous said...

I saw on your Viper Stand video that you have a pack that also held your bow. Can you please let me know the name or brand of the pack. I'd like to get one. Thanks.

Pursuit Hunter said...

I'm assuming that you are talking about the short scene where I'm pulling my gear up. Although it looks like the pack is holding my bow, it is actually just the way that I tie my pack and bow to the haul rope. I run the haul line through the grap loop on the top of my pack then tie it off around the grip of my bow.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

How would you incorporate what you've shared here with hunting from the ground? Thanks.

Pursuit Hunter said...

I don't normally set up on the ground to hunt a dominant tree. When I'm hunting on foot, I'm usually still hunting which is a whole 'nuther subject. If for whatever reason, I had no choice but to hunt a dominant tree from the ground, wind direction and cover/concealment would be my two over-riding concerns.

Anonymous said...

where's the video?

Pursuit Hunter said...

Up there ^