As the leaves begin to drop, leaving the woods open and making it harder to conceal your stand, hunters must adapt and become even more strategic about hunting locations.
Choosing stand sites that correctly align with wind direction, deer movement, and concealment is a matter of knowing your deer and your land. Utilizing trail camera footage and long-term observation of deer bedding areas and food sources will go a long way toward helping you pinpoint the best stand locations.
When it comes time to hanging stands as summer turns to fall, there are a few strategies to keep in mind.
1. Break up your silhouette and avoid direct lines of sight.
Tim Kent, a Whitetail Properties Land Specialist in New York, shares that line of sight is key when placing your stand. Using terrain and topography, as well as tree structure is helpful when finding the perfect spot.
“I avoid sitting directly on field edges and will take up vigil in a tree that sits 5,10, 15, or even 20 or more yards off the edge. Breaking up my silhouette can come in many forms, including finding a tree a large truck or with multiple trunks, an oak still hanging onto its leaves late into the season, or a strong conifer. I might also align myself with a split in the tree or a tangle of limbs or vines. I look at a number of other factors related to the actual tree I intend to sit in.”
Tim also suggests utilizing back cover, shadows at certain times of day, and height position to take advantage of ample views while staying out of the deer’s line of sight. As with trail camera positioning, it’s important to position your stand so that a deer doesn’t see you head-on while they’re feeding or moving along a trail.
2. Use a trusted tree stand with the right features.
Vertical Treestands offer durable, secure equipment that also provides ample options for comfort and concealment.
When Tim Kent has used Vertical Treestands in the past, he’s enjoyed their comfort level and the ease with which they hang, along with the adaptability to adjust and add accessories. This is essential when hanging your stand in a tree that might provide the best concealment while having some placement challenges. “The steps are solid, and I like the multiple sections as they let you get into trees of all shapes, even with multiple leads.”
3. Limit movement and use camo.
Even when natural cover isn’t available, hunters who practice reducing their movements as much as possible while wearing effective camouflage can mitigate the lack of cover.
“In this case, I’ll take the right tree over the wrong setup 100% of the time. I once shot a nice 10-point and was only 9 feet off the ground on a hang-and-hunt spot downwind of a bedding area. The tree I was in was a scrawny walnut, but I did my best to wedge myself into its young crown to help break up my silhouette. I was backlit and kept my movement to a minimum. When the buck came in to scent-check the area, I sent an arrow through him at just 16 yards. He never even knew I was there,” says Tim.
For more detailed insights into deer biology and the ways in which deer see, visit our Landbeat video featuring wildlife biologist and Chief Conservation Officer of the National Deer Association, Kip Adams.
4. Adapt to the time of year and phase of the rut.
Tree selection often comes down to the phase of the season, weather, phase of the rut, and specific hunting location, including proximity to cover, bedding, or food plots.
Tim shares, “I’m a sucker for a conifer tree, so I tend to lean toward them, but if they’re not available, I look for trees with some sort of branch, leaf, or trunk structure to break up my silhouette.”
In addition, there’s no shame in altering your hunting location following a shift in deer movement or behavior. October is a key month for these shifts to occur based on changing food sources and weather, so be willing to adjust throughout the season.
5. If necessary, consider a blind as an alternative to tree stands.
If you are unable to get into a tree comfortably and safely, choose an adjustable blind like those from Rig ‘Em Right Outdoors.
“Blinds conceal your movements, keep you warmer, and allow you to hunt right where you want to be.”
6. Take your entry and exit routes into account.
Even the best-placed stand or blind will spook the deer if you haven’t planned your exit and entry points to avoid their lines of sight and scent.
Tim offers, “I try hard not to enter or exit through fields or food plots if I can avoid it. I also use terrain features to hide my movements or travel so deer can't pattern me or get bumped while entering or exiting. I also try and enter with the wind and/or thermals in my favor so as not to alert deer to my presence. If this isn't possible, I'll swing wide or higher in elevation to have human scent dissipate or float over their heads. This helps to not alert them in advance and look for danger more readily.”
Adapting to the changing landscape of your hunting land
As your season progresses and the terrain shifts, the strategic placement of your tree stand becomes even more crucial. Adapting to the dropping leaves and open woods requires carefully considering deer movement, wind direction, and concealment to increase your chances of success.