The essence of bowhunting is getting close to animals, which requires bowhunter to know the area and their quarry.
Treestands can help by concealing bowhunters and offering a great vantage point as deer come into range, but first you must know where to place your stand to reap those benefits and fill your tag. That means choosing one tree in a vast area to get within 20 yards of a deer. That sounds like a lofty goal, but it’s realistic if you know deer and their habitats.
Know Your Prey
Studying animals you hunt is a vital part of bowhunting. The more you know about their habits and favorite foods, the better your odds for success. Read about deer biology, learn the habitats they prefer, and find the signs they leave behind. Once you start understanding a deer’s daily life, the more reliably you’ll choose sites for your treestand.
Food, Water, and Shelter
The three things all animals need are food, water and shelter. Those essentials provide important information for bowhunters because if you can find where deer eat, drink and rest, you hold the key puzzle pieces.
Favored food sources for deer are crop fields, acorns (especially from white oaks), young plant shoots, apples and berries, and nuts like pecans, chestnuts and hickory nuts. During droughts or hot weather, water sources can be deer hotspots. Ponds, streams, swamps and livestock tanks all provide water for deer. Shelter cover for deer typically means places that hide them from predators, and shield them from cold and wind. Good deer cover often features thick brush or tall weeds, as well as low-hanging boughs of cedars, spruce and other conifers.
Deer like to take paths of least resistance when traveling to food, water and shelter. Hunters can use that trait to their advantage by selecting fence crossings or pinch points created by terrain.
For example, check out every dip or “saddle” in a ridgeline. These low points create easier travel routes to the ridge’s higher portions. These terrain features often create ambush opportunities because they force deer to walk through a small area that gets you close enough for a shot. Likewise, three- or four-strand barbwire fences with a missing strand or collapsed section create funnels deer can’t resist.
Deer and other animals love edges, a place where two types of habitat meet. This could be an edge where woods meet a field, or where thick brush meets open hardwoods. Deer like these edges because it’s where cover and food “collide.” Edges also provide deer several options for food, and who doesn’t like options?
Scent and Confidence
You’ve found a good spot for your treestand, but you’re still unsure about your plan. A trail-camera can help you decide if you’re hunting the right spot. Trail-cameras are motion-activated devices that strap onto a tree. When a deer walks in front of the camera, it snaps a picture. This photographic evidence also tells you the time of day.
If you have a great spot that deer visit regularly, don’t blow it by leaving lots of human scent nearby. Deer have an incredible sense of smell, and if you spend too much time in your favorite bowhunting spot, they’ll disappear.
As a rule, bowhunters should not visit the same area too often, and don’t check your trail-cameras constantly. When scouting, hunting or checking trail-cameras, wear clothing washed with scent-free soap. Also, wear rubber boots to reduce the scent you leave behind.
Also consider wind directions when choosing treestand sites. Wind can carry your scent to nearby deer or away from them. To use the wind to your advantage, set your stand so the wind blows your scent away from where you expect deer to approach. Ask experts at your nearby archery store, or check your area’s weather records to learn autumn’s prevailing wind directions. Whenever possible, hang two stands at a given site to take advantage of different wind patterns. Always check daily weather forecasts for the wind direction to help decide which stand to hunt from.
Choosing a site for your treestand isn’t a science, so don’t get discouraged if your plans don’t work. Just move your stand and try again. Deer are far better at surviving than we are at hunting, but that merely confirms the fun challenges of bowhunting.
When a bowhunting plan comes together, you won’t stop smiling, maybe because you know you’ll never taste sweeter success. If you have questions or need a treestand, safety harness or trail-camera, your archery store is there to help.