A proactive approach to punching your deer tag.
The warm afternoon, coupled with five previous days of zero mature-buck sightings, had my optimism tank running on fumes as I trekked into a new location, stand on my back and bow in my hand. Since time was running out on my South Dakota bowhunt, my plan was simple: find a likely spot, hang my stand and hunt it immediately. I reasoned that the approach would be less intrusive than conventional treestand tactics.
A lone evergreen near the border of public and private lands soon held my Lone Wolf stand, which would serve as my perch for the remainder of the day. I settled in, nocked an arrow and basked in the afternoon rays. Five days earlier, temps were well below freezing with blizzard-whiteout conditions and 50-mph wind gusts. I was digging these balmy temps, but were the deer? Time would tell.
Does trickled out of the cattails across the fence, loading up in the adjacent cornfield.
I soon spotted glimpses of antler through the trees, and when he entered an opening, my throbbing heart rate confirmed he was a buck I’d happily kill. A smaller buck was first to hit my shooting lane 43 yards away, and when the larger buck cruised the same trail — heading for the private land — I acquired him in my peep sight, then mouth-grunted to stop him. Two seconds later, carbon was heading downrange, and it slammed tight behind the buck’s shoulder crease. Ten seconds later, I heard him crash as my knees quivered. My mobile plan produced, and it could do the same for you, especially if your conventional approach isn’t working.
Why the Hang-and-Hunt Method Works
I believe some of the nation’s renowned deer experts would agree with me that the first time hunting a stand — conditions ideal, of course — is often the most productive. In this case, it’s true because you’re making one trip in and hunting immediately, which creates far less commotion and impact. It gives you a solid chance to capitalize on unsuspecting deer. For sure, the element of surprise is effective in the whitetail woods. In other words, don’t give them a chance to peg you by making trips in and out before you hunt. Go in, find a spot and begin hunting.
Hunt the Fringe
When I hang and hunt, I usually position myself on the fringe of the property in question, although I’ve occasionally been more aggressive when I have nothing to lose and time is running out. The benefit of hunting the fringes is that you not only cause fewer disturbances, but in many cases, the fringes offer you the ability to observe with the possibility of a shot opportunity. That is exactly the type of stand that produced the abovementioned buck.
An observation stand lets you play “deer chess.” You make an initial move. Then, you observe their movements before you make your next move. This is an excellent, low-impact way to learn a new public parcel without educating deer, and it keeps things exciting because you’ll most likely move around and hunt some different stands.
Of course, desperate times call for desperate measures. If you’re seeing very few deer during daylight, you may want to sneak in tight to a bedding area, hang your stand and hunt. This risk-versus-reward approach can pay off, but you must be silent as a Christmas mouse — no metal-on-metal resonances allowed. And, you must know which feeding area the deer will be heading to in order to spike your odds of choosing the best travel route. I highly suggest you save this approach for a last-ditch effort, as you certainly risk bumping deer. But the goal, of course, is to catch deer during daylight that aren’t arriving to your other stand locations near food until after dark.
The obvious choice for folks who hunt hardwoods in the Midwest is a climbing stand, but rougher country with scrubby, branchy trees calls for tree pegs or ladder sticks and a hang-on treestand. Be mindful of regulations if hunting on public lands. For example, sawing branches may be illegal, likewise with using screw-in tree steps.
I prefer Lone Wolf stands for all of my hunting. The climbing models are incredibly quiet, and they fold flat for easy packing. The hang-on models are quiet and lightweight, but more importantly, they secure more tightly to small trees than any other I’ve used.
On one occasion, I had two hours to hunt before dark, but no stands set up for the evening’s wind direction. I grabbed my bow, a Lone Wolf hang-on stand and a few tree steps, then pointed my vehicle toward a private parcel I had permission to hunt.
After quickly scouting the fringe of an alfalfa field, I located a few likely trails leading into it. Minutes later, I had my stand hung only 10 feet above ground level, but with enough cover to keep my frame concealed.
Just before dark, a real nice 9-pointer read the script. In fact, I was looking at his tan fur through my treestand’s platform. Best of all, he had no clue I was practically standing on his back! Unfortunately, he was just a smidge small for me to shoot, but the encounter was wildly exciting.
Hang and Kill
Like most whitetail-hunting tactics, the hang-and-hunt technique is easier said than done, and it’s not always successful or even the best way to get your buck. However, it puts you on fresh deer sign when your pre-hung stands are showing you little to no action, and if you hang your stand quietly and climb in right away, you’re able to take deer by surprise because you’ve only made one trip in. Hanging and killing in one day is a tall order, but when you do it right, it’ll likely be your most memorable hunt.