Anticipating the upcoming season all year, you’ve done some early season deer scouting, checked your trail cameras, and perhaps planted some food plots – now it’s time to put it all together.
The location of your treestand or ground blind will be crucial to the success of this hunting season. Assuming you’ve read the 101 deer hunting tips on prevailing wind, pinch points, bedding areas, food sources, and travel routes – the next question is “when do I set my tree stands” or “how early?”
One of Two Choices
There isn’t a whole lot of information out there on “when” to set your tree stands so let’s take it from the top. The goal of any treestand or ground blind location is to put yourself in a position to see as many deer as you can – or to have a chance at a trophy buck. After all, you did your homework and have a great tree stand location picked out. You need to sneak in there, set your ambush point, and get the heck out.
We all know how anal a big buck can be about pressure. If they see, hear, or even smell that you’ve been there, it’s sayonara sucker! In my opinion, this leaves you with one of two choices – set your tree stands a few months before hunting season or sneak in closer to or during season and set your stand leaving no evidence behind.
An Early Decision
Setting your treestands months before hunting season can be one of only a few times a mature buck will tolerate some pressure – rut being the other. Mature deer know when humans are a threat and when they aren’t. Walking in and setting a stand in August isn’t going to tip off a buck nearly as much as it would in October.
I hunt where deer are somewhat accustomed to humans, dogs, farm equipment, and so on. Because of this, I like to go in with an ATV, set my stand, saw down limbs and do whatever I need to do without being shy about it. I think this time of year its better just to let them know I’m there instead of being sneaky. I’ve seen plenty of deer while chopping wood or planting food plots and it doesn’t seem to bother them during the summer months.
Make a Move
As the season shifts from early feeding patterns to pre-rut, I will have observed the bucks enough to know where I want to move next assuming I still have my buck tag. I am not one to sit in a spot all year and just watch bucks from a distance. Tweaking a stand’s location is an overlooked art in deer hunting.
I will wait for the right wind direction and a cooler day (to keep from sweating). I suit up and go through my whole scent control ritual before packing a stand into my new spot. I will be sure to go in a couple of hours early and take my time setting the stand, trying to keep noise to a minimum. Then I will hunt that stand the rest of the afternoon hoping to surprise a mature buck.
Don’t Be That Guy
Earlier I stated that you basically have 2 choices as to when to set a stand, but I should have added “2 choices if want a chance at a mature buck.” As far as when to set a stand, you obviously do have other choices, which unfortunately too many hunters opt for. Set the stand a week or less before hunting season, move a stand with no care for scent, pop up a blind where a good buck was seen the day before, and so on. You can’t be that guy if you want to harvest a trophy buck.
Setting a few stands months before opening morning will add to your success. From there, don’t be afraid to tweak your tree stand using the advantage of wind direction and scent control to ambush a mature buck this season.