Opening day will be here before you know it. Time to tighten up and make some plans
Have you been inadvertently making one of these goofs when you set your bow stands? If so, fix it from day one this season and your odds of shooting a big buck go up.
Your Ingress Sucks
You haphazardly lug a treestand and steps on the way to a stand site, heavy metal clanking every step of the way. You lumber along and crack sticks. You bull through a patch of cover and jump as a deer boils out of there and runs off. Even a moderate amount of human intrusion can and will cause a mature buck to change his pattern. By the time you finally hang your set and start hunting, a big deer might have moved over to the next ridge to travel or bed.
- The Fix: Batten down a stand, steps, tools, and all your gear in a tight backpack so you don't make a clink on the hike to a stand location. Study maps and try to avoid funnels, draws, and cover pockets where you might bump into resting deer; chart a downwind path that avoids and flanks high-traffic deer areas. Plan and execute smart, quiet, and scent-free ingress every time you go to hang a treestand or climb up to hunt, and your chances of seeing and sticking Mr. Big double.
You're Too Focused on Sign
When you find a ridge or creek bottom laced with leg-size rubs and smoking-hot scrapes, it's human nature to rush in and set a stand close to that sign. But hang and hunt too tight to a high-traffic deer spot, and a doe is apt to see or smell you and start blowing like mad. Any old buck in hearing distance will slink off and hide, and he's likely to change his route and skirt your setup in the following days.
- The Fix: After finding big, fresh buck sign, consult an aerial and plot a plan. Look for a potential setup 100 to even 300 yards downwind of the heaviest core of rubs and scrapes. Back there, hide your stand along a deer trail, cover edge, draw, or similar funnel. Try to ambush a buck coming or going to or from the high-traffic sign. Since you don't pressure deer this way, you can hunt the stand over and over, until you finally see a shooter one day on a natural pattern. You can watch the movements of deer coming and going, and creep your stand closer to the sign if you think you need to.
You're Stuck in a Rut
Way too many of us hang a couple treestands in August or September, then sit those stands for days, weeks, or months, maybe all season. Sometimes this pans out and you or I kill a good buck, but more likely we're missing out on multiple new opportunities.
- The Fix: No doubt, fixed-position stands and especially ladders are a hassle to move. Pulling, moving, and re-hanging them in new spots requires a lot of time, sweat, and dedication. But do it! Acorns drop, crops are cut, frost beats down vegetation, does come into estrus a half-mile away, pressure heats up.… As the weeks fly by and the woods change, deer patterns change too.
The best way to see more bucks is to stay mobile. As bow season progresses, scout for fresh sign every day all over your hunting area; observe deer patterns in new areas, and move a stand or two every week to take advantage. If the woods you hunt have big, straight trees, using a mobile climbing stand or two will help you stay in the hot seat.