Without question, treestands are the most popular hunting method among bow hunters. The advantages of hunting from an elevated platform are many. Hunters can significantly reduce the likelihood of being spotted or winded by hunting from a treestand. The hunter also enjoys a much wider field of view when hunting from elevated stands. However, treestands aren’t foolproof.
Even though most hunters would agree hunting from these platforms is an advantage, simply being up a tree is no guarantee of success. If a whitetail hears, sees, or smells anything out of the ordinary, a hunter in a treestand is no more likely to succeed than one on the ground. Deer do look up and these crafty animals are just as skillful at dodging hunters in trees as those on the ground.
Treestands must be placed carefully to insure the hunter is presented with a shot that’s within bow range. Trails leading to feeding and bedding areas receive the heaviest deer traffic and make excellent sites for treestands. During the pre-rut period when bucks are actively making and tending scrapes, stands that guard active scrapes can also be highly effective. Once the rut gets under way, scrapes are a marginal stand site at best, because bucks become preoccupied with chasing does and pay little attention to scrapes.
In states where it’s legal, baiting is an effective method of luring whitetail deer within bow range. A hotly debated topic, baiting is embraced by many bow hunters and shunned by others. Be sure to check the regulations of your state before hunting deer over bait.
How high above the ground should a treestand be placed? For all practical purposes, a stand that places the hunter 10 feet or less above the ground, places the hunter well within a deer’s peripheral vision. Unless the stand is situated to provide excellent cover, the movement required to draw on an approaching deer is likely to result in the hunter being spotted.
At the other extreme, stands that are positioned 30 or more feet above the ground offer the hunter nearly perfect concealment in that deer will rarely wind or spot a hunter positioned this high. Unfortunately, the higher a hunter takes a stand the more difficult the resulting shots become. Shots that must be taken at a steep angle because of stand height often result in missed deer. Usually the shot passes over the animal.
Stands placed from 15-20 feet off the ground represent a suitable compromise. This height provides ample concealment so long as the hunter is careful not to move when deer are looking his or her direction.
As a general rule, available natural cover determines how high to place a stand. If a tree provides ample cover to break up a hunter’s outline, such as is typical with hemlocks, pines, cedar, spruces, or other conifers, the hunter need not exceed 15 feet when placing stands. However in trees barren of cover, such as maple, aspen, or hickory, the hunter is wise to position stands at least 20 feet above the ground if possible.
Summing It Up
Bow hunting clearly has something for everyone. Millions hunt with long bows, recurves, and compound bows annually. Many prefer to keep things simple with traditional archery tackle including wooden long bows, cedar arrows, and buckskin quivers. At the other end of the spectrum a growing number of archery hunters favor high-tech equipment in the form of speedy compound bows and carbon arrows.
At both ends of the spectrum bow hunting is a challenging and rewarding sport. Even with the best equipment modern technology can provide, hunting with a bow rarely finds the hunter at an advantage. Harvest success runs low compared to firearm hunting, but that hasn’t discouraged millions of outdoorsmen and women from heading afield with stick and string. After all, success is sweetest when the reward is earned.
This is the concluding half of Mark Romanack’s introduction to bow hunting.
Harvesting a whitetail buck while hunting on the ground brings out the true excitement of bow hunting. Whitetails are keenly aware of every tree, bush, and stump in their domain. This unique awareness of their surroundings, plus keen eyesight and an unmatched sense of smell, combines to make ground hunting a worthy challenge.
Besides the obvious difficulty in getting close enough for a killing shot, archery hunters who work from the ground are faced with many other obstacles. Swirling wind currents and arrows deflected by unseen brush and limbs are two of the most common problems ground hunters face.
Bow hunters normally employ two ground hunting methods, including stalking and stand hunting. Of the two methods stalking is the least popular. In defense of stalking, few bow hunters have discovered that stalking is a rare form of hunting that puts the hunter in control. A stalk hunter has the option of moving from one hunting area to another, slowly still hunting or taking up a temporary stand.
In fact, the most successful stalkers employ both still and stand hunting tactics. The art of stalking isn’t so much sneaking within bow range as it is getting to some place the deer are moving towards and waiting for the passing animal or animals to provide a shot.
In comparison, stand hunting limits the hunter to one small location. If the location is selected carefully and the hunter has the patience to wait out his quarry, taking a stand can be very effective. The best stands tend to be trails leading between food and bedding areas.
When bow hunting from a ground stand, some form of blind that conceals the hunter is usually employed. Wooden shacks, portable pop-up tents, and/or crude structures made from natural materials are just a few of the hides used by bow hunters.
Ideally, permanent or semi-permanent blinds should be placed in the field weeks before the hunting season to allow deer an opportunity to become accustomed to their presence. Check with local hunting regulations before erecting permanent blinds on public lands. Many states have special regulations governing the use of hunting blinds.
Portable tent blinds are handy and can be carried in and out of the field each day. It’s important that these portable structures be made of a camouflage material that closely blends with the natural surroundings. Also, the inside of the tent should be as dark as possible to shield hunter movement inside the tent.