The Deer Hunter's Playbook: Stand Hunting

There is a lot more to a perfect ambush than just sitting.

Field & Stream Online Editors

** Get to Your Stand Undetected**
This is critical, and it starts with site selection. If leaf cover is sparse, look for a cluster of trees rather than a single one that will make you stand out as a black blob in the sky. Deer do look up.

If you can't go to and from the stand without crossing key game trails or contaminating a crucial piece of cover with human scent, find another spot. Try to set your stand or blind well ahead of the season. You can then trim away brush and remove much of the noisy ground cover along the route. Use a creek, which will cover your noise and scent, to approach the stand if possible. Don't touch any brush with bare skin, and douse yourself thoroughly with a scent-eliminating spray before coming and going. Always walk slowly, looking and listening for game. Mark the route with reflective tacks or ribbon so you can find it easily in the dark.

Build a Ground Blind
Find an area that is slightly elevated above where you expect game to appear. If you're too low, it may be difficult to spot deer as they approach. But watch that you won't be skylined or right in the middle of a primary game trail. Once you have the general area, look for a piece of natural cover to construct your blind around. It can be a large rock or boulder, a fallen tree, or a stump. At the very least, you want a tree at your back because it's important to have cover behind you. It's also nice to be able to lean against a comfortable trunk. Next, gather deadfall, leaves, and brush, and build it into a wall around where you will sit. Drive sticks into the ground if necessary for support. Your main goal is to shield your hands and lower body and to break up your outline. Don't make it so high that it obstructs your view, and give yourself adequate shooting lanes and plenty of room to move your gun or bow.

** Shoot From a Tree Stand **
Everyone knows that you should shoot a rifle off a rest, but in a tree stand that can be more complicated than it sounds. There are models that come equipped with a bar that wraps around a seated hunter. If yours does, great. It makes a superb gun rest. Improve it by padding it with a piece of foam pipe insulation to reduce noise. If yours doesn't have a bar like that, buy one of the commercially made monopods designed to support a firearm; some are intended specifically for use in a tree stand. Add a piece of old carpet to the stand's platform to support the monopod and you're in business.

Silence Your Stand
What sounds like a squeak at home becomes a piercing shriek in the woods. First, give your stand a preseason makeover: replace worn parts, tighten loose screws and bolts, and lubricate all joints and movable parts with grease. Cover the seat (and your seat cushion) with fleece material (old hunting clothes work perfectly). Top the platform with an outdoor carpet that will keep your boots from scraping across bare metal. Wrap exposed chains and cables with an old hose or foam pipe insulation.

Sit All Day
Deer move all day, so keep a day-long vigil by making sure your stand is comfortable. Bring enough food and water. A paperback book or a notebook to jot down thoughts will help pass the time. Finally, if you need a quick break, climb down and stretch. In a few minutes you'll be refreshed and focused.