Determining the best place to hang your treestand for consistent success can seem daunting. However, a few easy tips simplify the process and ensure you perch in ideal locations throughout hunting season.
The chief consideration when hanging treestands is ensuring your quarry — usually white-tailed deer —can’t easily spot you. Deer have great eyesight. They’ll detect any movement from above if your outline isn’t broken up. Successful bowhunters nestle their treestands between leaf-covered limbs, with nearby trees behind them to provide back-cover. These setups ensure you have cover in front of your treestand and behind it to disguise your silhouette.
The ideal tree for hanging treestands is about 18 inches in diameter. This size ensures the tree is sturdy enough to support your weight, and wide enough to cover the width of your shoulders. When standing on your platform with your back pressed against the tree, you minimize your outline as deer approach. That reduces the odds deer can spot you when you’re standing and waiting, ready to shoot.
After finding a tree that can safely support your treestand and hide you, determine how high to hang it. Most bowhunters hang treestands 17 to 20 feet up the tree. However, that’s a general rule, and doesn’t apply to every situation. Remember: Use cover to conceal your outline and movements. The less cover you find, the higher you should hang your treestand, within reason. Do not go higher than 25 feet. With abundant cover, you can usually hang your stand much lower and stay concealed. For example, a short cedar or pine with abundant limbs provides more cover than a tall walnut tree with no lower branches.
Realize, of course, that bowhunting season coincides with autumn, which means leaves are changing colors and falling. Tree species lose their leaves at different times and rates, making some bare long before others even start dropping their foliage. Red oaks, for example, hang tight to their leaves well into November. In addition, coniferous trees — pines, firs, spruce and cedars — carry needles and fronds that never fully shed, which makes these trees great places to hide from deer. When possible, take advantage of these details by hanging your stands in trees that hide you in an otherwise bare woods on frosty mornings.
Always hang your treestand so the sun is behind you. For example, hang your stand facing west if you expect to hunt there in the morning. That way the sun won’t blind or hinder your vision when it rises. Meanwhile, deer approaching from in front of you will struggle to see you with the sun in their eyes. That also ensures less light hits your face and clothing, eliminating or reducing game-spooking glare.
After determining the most likely places deer will appear, hang your treestand to ensure minimal movements when executing a shot. For example, right-handed bowhunters should keep known deer trails to their left. They can then pick up their bow, draw and shoot without readjusting their feet. Left-handed bowhunters, of course, do just the opposite.
In addition, keep your stand 15 to 20 yards from where you expect your shot opportunities. Closer is not always better when bowhunting from treestands. If you’re too close, the shot angle reduces the size of the deer’s vital area. Instead of setting up so deer walk directly beneath you, back off far enough from the trail for an ethical shot at fully exposed vitals, yet close enough that you can shoot with confidence.
One final, vital tip: Never forsake treestand safety. Treestands are great for boosting your hunting odds, but check your stand’s straps and cables before each use. Also, stay connected to the tree at all times by using a full-body harness attached by a tether to a lineman’s rope that anchors above your stand. As you ascend and descend, slide the tether along the rope on a sliding prussic knot. Use these tips, and you’ll always have safe, exciting hunts from above!