I’ve hunted from stands 30 feet in the air.
I’ve hunted from stands 8 feet off the ground.
Both were precisely the right height for where they were positioned. How’s that possible?
Hanging a treestand at the “right height” is not an exact science. It’s something that changes depending on many variables, including the height of available trees in the area and density of surrounding foliage.
That 30-foot-high stand was in a stand of tulip poplars the resident deer were cutting through each evening to head to an adjacent crop field. All the trees were mature poplars, which means the woods looked like a collection of telephone poles, with very little ground foliage.
To get out of the deer’s line of sight, I had to go high. Otherwise, I would have stuck out like a sore thumb at, say, 15 or even 20 feet. My goal was to be able to allow does to pass within 10 yards of my tree as I waited for the bucks to show at the end of the evening migration.
Had I been lower and a wary old doe busted me, my hunt basically would have been over right there. There were no low branches to hide among, so my only option for cover was to go up. And it worked. I arrowed a nice 8-pointer after several sits in my sky-high perch.
Conversely, the 8-foot-high stand was situated in a skinny little tree that stood only about 25 feet tall in the middle of a swamp. It was the only tree within shooting distance of the main deer trail that offered any sizable trunk for holding a hang-on stand. But 8 feet off the ground was as high as I could go before the tree really started tapering down and the branches started growing really close together.
The 8-foot boost, however, gave me just the right amount of lift to see over the surrounding cattails. I knew a deer was coming long before it got within bow range, which allowed me plenty of time to get ready for a shot or to freeze, depending on if the approaching deer was a shooter or not.
And quite honestly, while the deer coming through my poplar woods always seemed to be scanning for danger, the dense ground vegetation of the swamp seemed to make those deer feel very comfortable. They never looked up at my tree, and as long as my wind was right, I never once got busted in that stand.
I never had the right deer come by my swamp setup, unfortunately, so I never shot a deer from it. But I sure passed a lot of deer that I easily could have shot.
The moral of the story is, you hang your stand to suit the conditions surrounding it. Do what it takes, as the saying goes.
Having said that, if you take special circumstances out of the equation, and suppose that I am hunting a basic, normal woodlot, I like my stands to be 20-25 feet high – favoring 25 feet over 20. Why? That just seems to be the height where it’s easiest to avoid detection by deer on the ground.
I hang those stands as high as I do to not shoot deer. If my plan was to shoot the first deer that walked up, then stand height would be irrelevant. But I believe you have to think about not shooting deer. You have to consider that the deer you want to shoot might be the fifth, 10th, 15th, etc. deer to walk by your stand. And that means you have to avoid detection by the first four, nine, 14, etc. deer.
From experience hunting eastern hardwoods like we have in my home state of Pennsylvania, I’ve found it’s very hard to escape a deer’s eyes and nose when I’m under 20 feet. Even when I freeze like a statue while hugging the tree to minimize my silhouette, I’ve had deer peg me at 15 feet or so. Add another 10 feet, though, and I can get away with almost anything.
Be aware, the higher you hang a treestand, the more you need to think about shot angles. A 10-yard shot while you’re 12 feet in the air is nearly perfectly broadside. A 10-yard shot from 25 feet up is nearly straight down. You have to think about where to place your arrow to hit as much of the vital area as possible.
Ideally, you want to put a hole in both lungs. Well, from 25 feet up shooting at a broadside deer 10 yards out, you’re probably going to have to aim a little below the spine on the side of the deer closest to you. That should allow you to hit the close lung and then catch the far lung as the arrow slices diagonally through the chest cavity, exiting the bottom of the deer’s body on the opposite side.
Still, some people don’t like heights. Or they don’t like taking steep shot angles. So maybe you want to hang a stand at 12 or 15 feet. That’s okay, so long as you have cover. Put your stand in the middle of some branches to break your silhouette. One of my favorite tricks is to find several trees growing close together and hang my stand in the middle of them to help with concealment.
So in conclusion, the best height to hang your treestand for hunting whitetails is whatever suits the environment you’re hunting in, and whatever you feel comfortable with. It’s really that simple.