Chapter 20: Positioning Your Stand

Another chapter from by forthcoming book. Comments and criticisms appreciated.


Setting up treestands requires some thought and some physical exertion.

The first thing is to select a tree in the general area that you want. A climber will require a nearly straight tree devoid of branches. A hang on stand, with ladder section steps needs a straight tree, and a hang on stand with screw in steps can go up nearly any tree.

The tree should be at least nine inches in diameter for any style of stand. I’ve tried going up trees that are as small as five inches in diameter, but they are way too wobbly and you can’t get up high enough.

The tree should be alive. Lots of trees will remain standing for years after they die, but you will not know when they will fall, and you won’t want to be up a dead tree when it does decide to fall. Adding your weight fifteen feet up a tree probably does not help the stability of a dead tree either.

When using a hang on stand, or a ladder stand, you may want to go up a tree that has lots of branches. Branches are good for cover. A big part of stand hunting is to be concealed, and being surrounded by branches is a great help in being concealed.

When my dad and I look for stand locations we argue the merits of more branches or less. He prefers to be surrounded by more branches in order to be more concealed. I prefer fewer branches because branches get in the way of shooting. Branches are particularly troublesome when hunting with a bow, because you’ll need room for both limbs of your bow.

Once you put your stand in the tree you’ll want to sit in it to make sure that it is in solidly and you’ll want to trim some branches. Many branches may need to be cut from the stand. While sitting pretend like you are drawing your bow and then cut the branches that would seem to be in the way. Then stand and cut the branches that would seem to be in the way.

A deer that is behind you cannot be shot while sitting, you’ll need to stand in order to turn around enough. This will affect your branch trimming.

Ideally you will sit in your new stand and direct someone else to cut branches that you cannot reach from your stand. Don’t yell, or talk loudly, while doing this. You always want to be quiet while in your hunting area.

You’ll need to decide whether to put your stand op a branchy tree or a less branchy tree, and you’ll need to decide whether to trim more or less branches. But usually there will be a tree that is obvious for a stand and you’ll need to live with the number of branches that it has. The location is what is most important, not the number branches.

Trees with branches are usually what you will have to work with, but don’t overlook trees with multiple trunks or clumps of trees. My Favorite Tree (capitol letters for a proper noun) has two trunks that split at the ground, another big tree to my left, and a small one behind. None of these trees have many branches, which is good for shooting, and yet the number of tree trunks on all sides means that I am never an obvious thing for the deer to see. There is always another tree trunk behind me.

There are all sorts of trees that you may sit in, consider the best spot and fit that tree you your hunt. We may prefer hang on tree stands to go up straight trees and a straight stick steps to go up and down, but it is good to have a stand meant for going up angled or crooked trees and some screw in steps. It would be a shame to not hunt the best tree because you don’t have the equipment to do so.

The two most important things in staying out of a deer’s sight are to not move and not be silhouetted against the sky. You can guess where the deer will be and then you should want to have a branchy tree behind you. If you are in a heavily wooded area this will not be a concern, but you will not want to be in the only tall tree in the area either. If your only tree option does make you silhouetted, then you will want to trim fewer branches away, and maybe add some braches around you.

Once you have selected your tree you will want to decide on which direction to point it. This requires more thought than you might think and will often seem to be wrong.

The angle of your treestand is very important. The biggest buck that my dad has ever seen from a tree was straight behind him and he was not able to twist around the tree enough to get a shot. Smaller trees are easier to twist around, but they are less stable.

First decide about where you think that most of the deer will be. From there we will arrange the stand.

Think of an analog clock face: 12 is straight ahead of you, six behind, 3 is the right and 9 is to the left.

You do not want to point your stand straight at where you expect the deer to be. You will want to angle your stand to the right of that place. (Reverse this, and the following directions, if you are left handed.)

Your left side (if you are right handed) will be what faces the deer when you shoot. Shooting a bow and a rifle change the angles a bit, but you will be easily able to shoot from 7 to 11 without moving below the waist. You will want to have the left front (away from the tree) stand corner to face where you think that the deer will be. You may want to error on the side of the front of the stand facing the deer, because you will spend most of your time looking straight ahead and you are more likely to see deer that are in front of you.

You want the deer to be in front of you to see them and to your left to shoot them.

Many trees will not give you options for the ideal angle. Other trees’ big branches will often prevent your ideal treestand angle.

One more important thing to think about is the lean of the tree. A tree with a stand in it can go straight up, or it can lean away from where your stand faces. Even slight lean forwards can make a sit become very uncomfortable. You will not enjoy feeling like you are leaning over the edge of your stand. Leaning to one side, a little, is not too bad, but leaning forwards at all, or to a side a lot is unacceptable.

For the most part, you pick your ideal stand location, then pick the best tree that is there. The trees available will decide how you face your stand, how high you go up, and how many branches that you need to trim.

Pick your spot. Then take the most appealing tree available from which you can shoot to your left from, and then improve what you can.

Hunting from your new stand will show you a lot. Once you hunt from it you may want to point it in a different direction or move trees altogether, and you will, almost certainly want to remove more branches. Move it if you want to, but wait until the next day, don’t move your stand around during your prime hunting hours.


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