Setting a tree stand location is a very delicate thing.
Only a difference of 20 yards one way or the other can be the deciding factor between great success and a stand where no one over takes a deer.
There are many variables such as backdrop, prevailing winds, accessing and exiting the stand without alerting the deer and so forth, but this tip is going to be concerned with the viewing area from the stand while rifle hunting – which will also address something that I feel very strongly about – edge cover.
Deer love edges… they weave in and out of these areas, particularly if one of the edges is that of a denser area, like a thickly overgrown stand of woods next to a pine plantation – or a thicket that borders a swamp – where there is more open land above the thicket and then also inside the thicket where the swamp opens up.
When positioning my stands, I find it is very beneficial to get a long view and a short view – by that, I mean that I want to have one area where I can see a fairly good distance – hopefully at least 100 yards – and then another view that allows me to look down into a thicker area.
Hopefully, in both of these types of habitat, there is deer sign that caused you to want to put the stand there in the first place, be it trails, scrapes, food sources, an abundance of tracks – well, you get the picture.
The deer will use the open areas when they feel all is secure – but they know they have the thicker area to escape to when danger threatens. The added factor is that some deer, and most importantly bucks when they are not crazed by the rut, tend to creep through the thicker areas as travel lanes… heck, oftentimes a wise old doe will do the same thing.
A good example of this type of area would be a stand I hunted in 2009. This was an area in a fairly large club that was more or less overlooked… there was an incredibly dense planted pine plantation that was entirely overgrown with briers… I mean you literally could not walk through it – forget walking a pine row, it was not like that at all. The trails leading into and out of these pines were walked slick – they looked like cattle paths. Along the north side of the planted pines, there was a stand of mature hardwoods and the mast drop was very good that year. I located a spot along this seam, where I could look west along the edge that these two types of cover created - for as much as 300 yards – and then I found a small crease into the planted pines where I could look in a southerly direction and see what was likely an old skidder path… I could see about 35 yards into this crease. It was very thick - but you could see down into it, particularly from an elevated stand.
This allowed me to have a long view down the “edge”, where acorns were abundant and also afforded a short view into the crease to my left, which contained a great many rubs – there were 12 – 15 in that small area.
I had found a good area and I knew it… I had my long and my short view and I was ready to hunt!
This was in mid October when I discovered this area – I trimmed a very few limbs out of the way and set up a few days later.
I knew if I could find the does – the bucks would be there!
I hunted the stand two full days… in that time period, I saw 55 deer – 11 of which were bucks. One of the bucks was a serious shooter (about 130”) but I just could not get on him. There were several other 8 pointers that I saw that were 15” or less. The does were seemingly endless as they poured out of the pines and into the hardwoods.
Here is what is key, though… of the 55 deer seen, 17 of them were seen in the crease to the left – and of this group, 9 of them were the bucks.
Had I not had my short view, I would still have seen 38 deer in two days, which would have been great – but I would have only seen 2 bucks – although, the big buck that I could not get on was not one of the ones in the crease to the left - he was about 200 yards down the "long" view.
So much hangs (pun intended) on where you position your stand… you are banking an entire hunt or series of hunts in the selected area.
In some instances – you are setting into stone a stand position for the entire year – for stands like a large tower stand, big leaners and even a stand that is built permanently into position.
Consider very closely your views when you set it up - and if it is in a good area to start with - and you can have a long view that affords a fairly large viewing area, but you also get a view down into an area with good cover - you may have just found your new honey hole!
Below is a photo from 18' up in a gum tree... if you look closely, you just can see a beaver pond through one opening and then the hay field on the other side. This shot was taken looking left out of the stand. The dense woods right along the edge of the pond create a great edge... I failed to capture a good image of it - but there is a good 100 yard view right out in front of the stand. This is one of my favorite stand sites - but is not the one described above...
Good luck and happy hunting!