Shifting Tree Stand Locations During Deer Season

Deciding When Tree Stand Locations Need to Change

One certainty you can count on during deer season is seeing your fair share of the unexpected. No matter how much you have invested in scouting and preparation, there will be days when you end up hunting in less than ideal tree stand locations. Factors such as changing deer behavior, rut stages, food availability, weather and your impact in the woods can make a hunt out of any stand vary significantly from day to day. Perfect preseason deer stand locations may dry up quickly leaving you with only one decision – to move your tree stand.

Generally, tree stand placement is related to seasonal changes during deer season. Areas are scouted and stands are hung for the early season, rut and late season. Early season tree stand locations focus around food sources like agricultural fields. As the early season wanes and the phases of the rut pick up, tree stand locations shift to hunting rut patterns. Finally, late-season stand locations shift to hunting available food sources.

But what happens if it all doesn’t go as planned? You are not seeing deer close enough for a shot or not seeing deer at all? How do you decide when it is time to move your tree stand?

Trail Cameras Can Clue You on When to Move

Following a deliberate trail camera schedule throughout the entire year is critical. Your trail cameras provide a wealth of information and that doesn’t stop just because it is hunting season.

Every tree stand placement strategy should include trail cameras. Here are two ways those in season images can help decide if it is time to change your bow stand plans.

First, camera dates, times, moon phase and temperature all factor into a decision to change your stand location. For example, a buck may be showing up out of range or not at all even though you have him consistently on camera before the season. Camera data can pinpoint exactly when he is showing up. If he shows up in range in the morning but never when you are in the stand, perhaps your stand is positioned incorrectly for the morning conditions. Think morning winds or your approach in accessing the stand in the morning. This is just one example of where a Muddy® trail camera can assist in deciding to change your tree stand location.

Second, camera data can be used to ambush a buck that keeps giving you the slip. The scenario is a buck comes out a different spot each evening. Here you can use trail cameras to pinpoint the most likely place to ambush a buck and move your stand accordingly.

Changing Tree Stand Locations Throughout the Season

A consistent theme when deciding to move deer stand locations during the season is reacting to what the deer are telling you. Combine that with the time of year and your choice to move will result in some of the best tree stand locations you will hunt from.

  • Early Season – The field edge is hard to beat as an early season tree stand location. Acorn concentrations and other food sources should also be part of your bow stand plans early on. Figuring out when you have to change locations in the first few weeks relies on food availability and deer activity. If the food dries up or deer activity decreases consistently, it is time to move your tree stand. Any stand changes this time of year should be done mid-day to avoid disturbing early season deer patterns.
  • Pre-Rut – Pre-rut signs like active scrapes and early chasing activities are signs it is time to move. Focus on fresh, well-used deer trails and active scrapes. Either take new tree stands or reposition early season stands for pre-rut hunts. The chances of bumping a buck while changing your tree stand placement are greater as more deer movement will occur throughout the day. Consider low impact ways to get in and out of areas as quick as possible.


  • Rut – The rut can be crazy and patterning deer is difficult. It pays to be as mobile as possible. Changing tree stand locations can potentially occur several times a day depending on what rut activity is in your area. A hang and hunt tree stand strategy allows you to focus on the freshest rut sign. Rut action will vary from day to day and location to location and stands should as well. Shift tree stands accordingly to deer funnels and pinch points that force deer, and most importantly does, to concentrate. Deer stand locations downwind of reliable bedding areas also offer a place to move during the rut. Bucks will frequently check for an estrus doe downwind of bedding areas as the peak rut starts to slow down.
  • Late Season – Observing the rut coming to an end means you have to move back to the food. Agricultural fields are mostly barren now and easy acorns have been gobbled up. The best tree stand locations post-rut are late season green fields. Recognizing the transition to post-rut early lets you preempt your move to surprise a buck returning to eat. Deer can be moving all day in the late season including some straggler rutting bucks and does. Moving stands has to be deliberate and fast to avoid getting busted.

New Location, New Tree Stand Option

An option worth mentioning when you decide to move hunting locations is to use a new tree stand. Muddy® hang-on stands are easy to carry and they set up quickly. Utilizing another tree stand helps to reduce the disturbance in taking down your existing stand and saves time during the season. Two important considerations when you decide on making a move in season.

Tree stand locations can change and they should change during the season. Use your trail cameras and recognize signs of when it is time to shift your tree stand placement to stay one step ahead of the deer.

How to Make Tree Stand Hunting More Effective

How to Make Tree Stand Hunting More Effective | Muddy Outdoors

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!

How to Make Tree Stand Hunting More Effective

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.

Behavioral Changes

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.

How to Make Tree Stand Hunting More EffectiveBeing 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.