Hunting mature whitetails is like a chess match: You have to plan several moves ahead and use each of the pieces at just the right time. As hunters, we all find ourselves trying to decide which stand to hunt at some point in the season. This year, try planning ahead and preparing treestands and/or ground blinds that cover all four of the following categories.
1. Intelligence Gathering / Backup Plan
These stands are located away from primary deer travel routes but close enough to allow you to observe and learn movement patterns. They are very low-impact locations that are easy to reach and hunt with short notice, so they are great stands for when the wind is wrong at your planned location or when you’re running late. Great locations for these stands are on large fields, on utility rights-of-way like powerlines, or up on a ridge looking down into a valley or swamp. They are good for early season scouting and can really help you define deer movement and devise a plan for moving in closer. Having a few stands like this – and having the self-control to stay seated in them – can go a long way in keeping us from blowing out a good stand because the wind is wrong or we slept in a little bit.
2. Fringe Benefits
These are stands where the wind must be considered, but they still have minimal impact on deer movement if hunted correctly. As long as a low-impact access route is established ahead of time and wind direction considered before each hunt, these stands can be hunted repeatedly throughout the season with a good chance of success. Stands like this are placed just off the edges of food plots, in the fringes of travel corridors, or in pinch points. Even though there is a good chance to shoot a deer out of these stands, they must be used with caution so as to avoid alerting deer.
3. The Honey Hole
This is the stand that requires the stars to align and the wind and all variables to be just right, but this is where we move in for the kill. It is perhaps only hunted once or twice a year. Usually these stands are located on the edges of bedding areas or a particular buck’s core area. They are generally only hunted during the rut, and all-day sits are almost required, although if used correctly it shouldn’t be long before you are following a blood trail. Try to hang these stands in late summer or early fall. Do not enter these areas until you hunt them, not even to set up a trail-camera.
4. The Truck Bed
This portable stand in the back of your truck is ready to go at all times whenever you spot a pattern or location in mid-season and can move quickly to capitalize. It is possibly the most important stand a hunter owns. I try to hunt by the “three strikes” rule during season. If you see a buck do something once, good. If he does it twice, move. If you allow him a third time, then you have struck out.
We can sit and hope a mature deer walks within range, and that’s fine, but if a buck shows you he likes walking a different trail or is using another part of a field, then move. When I’m hunting, if I ever think “Man I wish I was in that tree over there,” the next time I go to that area I will move to that new tree. The portable in my truck bed helps me do that.
Sit down now and ensure you have prepared stands to cover all four of these categories. While you’re doing that, write a list of criteria or conditions for hunting each stand. For example:
The Big Oak Stand:
- Must have prominent west wind
- Only if there is enough time to access through creek
- Can only be hunted in the evening
This will help when it comes down to deciding which stand you will hunt, and it will help you avoid a bad last-minute decision.