Tree Stand Hunting Preparation and Tips
Let’s imagine something quickly. Just before dawn, you’re sitting in your tree stand with your bow in hand and hopes high. You’ve put in a lot of work to get to this moment. Just after daybreak, you hear leaves rustling and branches breaking as a brown silhouette works its way towards you. Within minutes, it’s all over and you’re looking at a mature buck lying on the ground. All because you took time to improve your tree stand hunting odds. Hopefully we’ve all had an experience like this at some point because it’s thrilling.
As hunters, we all want an ideal outcome from a day-long sit in our tree stands. The general hope is obviously seeing and flinging an arrow at a mature buck before the sunlight fades into the darkness of another night. But how much of it can be controlled and how much is just plain luck? You sometimes hear stories about people who do everything wrong and still luck out with a massive deer. Sure, it happens. But way more often, hunters kill big bucks because they took time to plan everything out to the last detail and put in the work to see the plan through.
There are a few things you can do this season to make your tree stands for hunting even better. Generally, you can do so through mechanical means or behavioral changes. Let’s look at some ways you can make your tree stand hunting more effective.
Tree Stand Maintenance
One of the worst things that can happen with your climbing stands or lock-on stands is obviously a complete failure that sends you plummeting from the tree. If you’re crippled on the ground, you’re not going to have a good day tree stand hunting any time soon. Take care before the season starts to really inspect your stands for any old or worn parts that need to be replaced. Common items that should be replaced include straps, cables, or bolts. If you notice large rust spots, seriously ask yourself if it’s time to replace the whole thing. While safety harnesses can mitigate some of the risk of a fall, is it worth taking that chance? We don’t think so.
Have you ever been in your tree stand hunting all morning with no issues, and then right as a deer approaches and you rise to grab your bow, a massive creaking sound echoes from your stand, sending the deer on high alert and out of your life? It’s a terrible feeling, especially if you knew that it could be an issue before you hung the stand in the woods. Take time to correct any noise issues while you can. For example, use a non-scented lubricant on all metal on metal parts to reduce the friction and sound. Cover exposed metal rails or platforms with a foam insulation or several wrappings of duct tape to dampen any noise if you were to bump your bow limb or arrow against it. A loud clanking noise is sure to scare a deer off quickly, and there’s just not an ethical shot at a deer when it’s running away. Luckily Muddy tree stands come silenced, due to silent rubber washers, and silent coding on the tree stand material!
The next one to tackle is the visual game. Deer don’t have excellent eyesight, but they can see well enough when something doesn’t blend in. If you can find a tree with lots of natural cover (branches, leaves, etc.), use it to your advantage by breaking up your outline. If you can’t find a tree with those characteristics where you need one, take a few minutes when you set up your stands to cover them with some type of camouflage materials. Using a tree stand blind or wrapping it with some camouflage canvas or burlap is a great way to both hide your presence and stay protected from the wind. It also allows you to dig through your hunting backpack for that last candy bar without exposing your movement to the watchful eyes of the forest.
Another thing you can add to increase your camouflage is branches. If you’re in a relatively bare cedar or pine tree, pick up a few fake Christmas tree branches to hang on and around your stand. This will break up the outline and add more structure to hide within. Simply tie them on with some twine, tape them in place, or use zip ties to secure them. If you’re in a hardwood tree, cut down a few branches from other hardwood trees to hang onto your stand. As you cut a few shooting lanes, this can be a good use of the branches.
One of the best ways to make your tree stand hunting better is to hunt smart. Scent control and management is critical to remaining hidden from a deer’s keen sense of smell. Start to develop and stick to a scent control regimen, which consists of showering with scent elimination soaps the morning of your hunt, dressing in scent absorbing clothing, and spraying down with a scent eliminating spray in the field. If you can remove most of your scent and stay camouflaged, you should be pretty invisible to a deer in the woods.
Another way to manage your scent (and therefore be more successful) is to sit for longer periods of time. When you go out once in the morning and sit all day, you’re not laying multiple scent trails down around your tree stand hunting area that can be picked up by wandering noses. If you’re bringing lightweight climbing tree stands into remote areas, this is a must. Each time you access a remote location, you risk spooking the wary deer that live there. For that reason, climbers can be one of the best bow hunting tree stands you can have because they are so versatile and comfortable.
Being in your best tree stands longer also means you’ll be there when a bruiser of a buck goes on his midday stroll between doe bedding areas. But to do an all-day sit, you need to have a comfortable hunting tree stand underneath you. If you’ve ever tried to sit still in an uncomfortable stand, you know what we mean. Both ladder stands and climbing tree stands come in very comfortable options. Muddy Outdoors® has a Woodsman climber with padded armrests and seats that packs out at 20 pounds for bringing into remote areas. If you prefer more permanent options, the Prestige ladder stand is definitely an all-day stand with 3 inch foam seats and a wide platform. For an even simpler option, grab a couple Muddy hang on stands and set them up in a few key locations.
These simple changes to your routine can make a huge difference to your hunting success in the long run. They don’t take long to do and they become second nature very quickly. You probably already do at least one of these on your own. But if you can start doing all of them, you may find yourself behind a very respectable buck sooner than you think.