LAST UPDATED: May 8th, 2015
It’s summer. It’s hot. It’s humid. Perhaps the farthest thing from your mind is the thought of sitting on stand – a chilly, November breeze stinging your face – bow in hand– watching the sun rise over your favorite creek bottom.
But guess what? If you want a thick-antlered whitetail to come cruising by within bow range this fall, you’d be wise to start thinking ahead to that November morning. Start by getting out in that creek bottom now and hang your stands in order to boost your odds for success later.
You’d notice if someone came into your living room and planted a new chair in the middle of it, right? Deer are no different, except their living room is the very woods in which you bowhunt. Whether you hang a stand now or in the middle of November, the resident deer are going to take notice, although the main thing they’re going to focus on is the scent associated with your stand. The question is how will they react to this new piece of furniture in their home?
Young deer are likely to walk right up to it, take a sniff and continue about their business. But a mature buck that has survived a few hunting seasons is sure to be a bit more disturbed. He might leave the area altogether and not return, or it might just make him extremely alert to the fact he is being hunted. Neither is a reaction you want to provoke if your hopes are to eventually put your tag on him.
Hang your stands now, however, and all the resident deer will have months to get used to the disturbance. They can be totally freaked out by your stands now….it doesn’t matter because you’re not hunting them yet. And, they’re not likely to get as spooked now because deer tend to be more tolerant of human intrusions during the lazy days of summer.
If you’ve ever had an experience with spooky deer during the season that left you thinking, “Man, it’s like they know they’re being hunted now” then you know what I’m talking about. Well during summer, deer often act as though they know they’re not being hunted. Take advantage of that calmness. Get your stands up now. Just remember, if you put stands out in the elements for a long period before you actually hunt from them, be sure to check them for damage when you return for the hunt. Squirrels can chew on straps, rust can weaken support cables, and the sun can rot nylon material.
Trimming shooting lanes now while cover is thick, can encourage deer to start using those clearings now and well into hunting season.
The Past is Your Guide
Most of us hunt the same properties year in and year out. Absent some drastic change in the landscape where you hunt, like a timber cut or development of some sort, the resident deer by and large are going to move through the property the same way from year to year. They have their favorite trails. They’ll bed in the same thickets, and bucks will make scrapes under the same trees.
That’s not to say they absolutely won’t adopt a new travel pattern, but if you’ve watched bucks cruise the same creek bottom year after year, once they start looking for hot does the odds will be good they’ll do it again. That’s should make that spot a likely candidate for a couple of stands to be hung. Maybe you hang one there every year anyway, but you’ve typically waited until the season opens to put it up.
Hanging stands now doesn’t mean you’re locked into hunting only from those trees. You can always take them down during the season if it turns out the deer aren’t using a given area as usual. Or, you can hunt somewhere else using a climbing stand. Personally, I’ve hung stands in summer and then never hunted from them once during the season.
Yes, hanging stands during summer can sometimes be a gamble. You’re betting the deer will show up in those places when you’ve got a bow in your hand. But if they don’t, or you find an area with more action, by all means move. However, if a buck does show up on that frosty November morning, exactly where you expected and ultimately hung a stand for—-then you’ve got him right where you want him.
Using a pulley to hoist your stand up the tree is a real back saver.
Hang your stands now based on what you’ve seen deer do in the past during bow season. Try to face them in the direction that you believe will give you the best shooting opportunity. Go a step further and hang more than one in a given area so you can hunt no matter what direction the wind is blowing.
Personally, I love cutting a few shooting lanes at this time of year for two reasons. First, the vegetation is usually so thick now, that when a clearing opens up, the deer start using it. So you can encourage deer to make your shooting lane the preferred corridor of travel through an area. Second, limbs and brush are going to continue growing through the summer, so anything I cut now is that much less I’ll have to trim once hunting season begins.
Just be careful not to go overboard with your trimming, though. You don’t want to create a clear-cut that will make the deer uneasy when traveling through or near it once the leaves are gone. You can cut a shooting lane that looks tiny when the woods are thick with leaves, but once those leaves fall to the ground, your shooting lane could look like a highway that the deer naturally avoid. Just trim a few holes here and there around your stand.
You don’t have to worry so much about stealth when hanging stands now, because the season is weeks, if not months, away.
Take Some Help
Since hunting season is months away, and “stealth” is of little concern, I like to have a buddy come along with me to hang my stands in summer. It makes the job of carrying in and setting up stands much easier carrying. The method I prefer most is to set up my climbing sticks, and then use a pulley that I strap to the tree above the spot where I want to hang my stand. Then, I run a rope from my buddy on the ground, up through the pulley, and back down to the stand. My buddy will tie one end of the rope to the stand, pull the other end and haul the stand up to me in the tree. Lastly, I can attach the stand to the tree from there. Of course, I’ll be strapped to the tree by my climbing belt at the top of my stick ladder.
Because you will be doing this when it’s hot and humid, you’re going to sweat and you’re going to “stink up” the area with your odor. But don’t worry. Hunting season is not right around the corner, so the deer have time to get over your invasion. However, that doesn’t mean you and your buddy can’t minimize your disturbance.
Both of you should wear gloves. Your hands are one of the sweatiest and “smelliest” parts of your body. Everything you touch with your bare hands is going to stink to a deer’s keen sense of smell so cover them up. Also, spray down with a scent-eliminator before you go into your area. Again, you don’t need to take the same precautions you would when you go hunting, or like you would if you were hanging a stand during the season, but it’s always a good idea to keep your scent to a minimum in the areas where you hunt. At the very least, it can’t hurt.
If you decide not to hunt one of your pre-hung stands, you can always opt to hunt a different area using a climbing style treestand.
Friend or Foe
If you share the property you hunt with others you don’t know – or if that property is visited by trespassers – then hanging a stand in summer can have good and bad repercussions. If you understand that going in, then you can prepare to deal with the negatives. Hanging stands now could possibly deter others from hunting in that area once the season rolls around. I know when I’m looking around for a place to hunt, if I see a tree stand, I move on. I don’t want to mess up other hunters by getting too close, nor do I want that hunter fouling my chances for success. Even if the spot is a good one, it means little if the other guy is a sloppy hunter who smokes and urinates out of his stand. He can easily ruin that so-called good spot the first time he hunts it. I don’t want to hunt near him, so I’ll move away from the area around his stand. Others might think the same thing about your stand, and leave the area all to you as well.
On the other hand, finding a stand in summer could entice someone else to steal it, since they know you’re not likely to be around for weeks. It’s an unfortunate fact that tree stands get stolen every year, and sadly they are often stolen by other hunters. This should persuade you to take the appropriate measures. Even if I am the only person with permission to hunt a given property, I always lock my stands and ladders to the trees when I hang them in summer. POSTED signs mean nothing to trespassers who are more likely to steal a stand than someone who has legal access to the land. Yes, I’ve had locks cut, so they don’t guarantee that your gear won’t be stolen. But if someone is going to steal from you, you might as well make it as hard on them as possible.
Never attempt to hang a stand (or hunt from one) without using the proper safety equipment such as a Hunters Safety System lineman’s belt, life-line and safety harness. It’s also a good idea to bring along a friend if possible.
Don’t miss a great opportunity to get the drop on an old swayback buck by waiting out the summer heat from inside your air-conditioned living room. Get out there now and hang a few sets that could very well put you in the proverbial catbird seat once archery season finally rolls around.