BOWHUNTERS HAVE VERY LITTLE WIGGLE ROOM when it comes to tree-stand location. You need to plan your shots precisely in this game, and a stand that’s even slightly in the wrong spot–a little too high or low, or a tad too close to or far from the hottest sign–can cost you your deer. The perfect setup is shown here. Study it carefully, and try to re-create it when you hang your own stands this fall.

Adjust the height of the tether on your safety harness so you can’t fall below the stand, making it easier for you to get back in if you do slip.

Whenever possible, pick a tree with branches and possibly foliage that will help keep you obscured, and don’t prune unnecessarily around the stand.

Hang your backpack and/or rattling antlers on a branch or tree step within easy reach of your nonbow hand, but out of the way of shooting lanes.

Hang your bow on a holder within easy reach of your bow hand.

Before you ever hunt from a stand, you need to determine precisely where to sit, then give yourself a clear shot. Below are three important considerations.

1. Height Matters
The surrounding terrain and vegetation should factor into how high you position your tree stand.

Hang your stand 20 to 25 feet high or more if the leaves are already down or the skyline is bare, if you’re positioned on a sidehill, or if deer will approach it from the front.

You’ll want to hang it 12 to 18 feet high, however, if you’re in thick cover with plenty of background foliage to break up your silhouette, or in a tree with lots of branches, or on a knoll.

2. A View to a Kill
Create three shooting lanes: two to the front of your stand and a larger one behind you, which makes it a little easier to turn around and shoot. Prune for complete arrow clearance, cutting saplings at ground level and using an extension pole to cut high branches.

3. The Dead Zone
Choose a tree that puts the hottest deer sign (as well as any deer scent you use) between 15 and 25 yards away from your stand. This is the dead zone. For most hunters, anything beyond it is a little far for easy, clean kills; anything closer creates a very steep shooting angle.