When it comes to cutting shooting lanes, half of hunters insist that sparing the saw spoils the shot. The other half argues that too much hacking spooks deer. Who’s right? Both sides are–but only about half the time. That’s because an either-or approach doesn’t allow for the fact that proper trimming is highly situational. Here’s how I cut it:

Prune the Perennial Producers
Many of the stands I hang are located near a terrain funnel or pinch point that isn’t apt to change: the head of a wash, a brushy fenceline, or a creekbottom connecting cropfields. Because such spots dictate deer movement year after year, I brush them thoroughly, using a small chain saw. I don’t worry that the obvious alterations or residual scent might temporarily spook deer. They will be back.

Ideally, this task gets done in the off-season. But even after the opener, I’ve found that I can hunt the setups within a couple of days, because they’re usually situated some distance from buck bedding or core areas. If I’m worried about leaving too much scent, I trim just prior to a rain.

Don’t Hack the Hotspots
When in-season scouting or hunting observations tell me that a certain spot is suddenly hot with buck activity, I trim as little as possible. I have no idea how long the action will last, and there may not be a funnel or pinch point to force the deer under my stand, which means I can’t afford to alert them. So I search for a fairly open spot to hang my stand, such as a tree in mature timber or along a field edge.

If I feel I have to set up in thicker cover, I enlist a partner. One of us hangs the stand, gets in it, and directs the other, who uses a telescoping pole saw to remove the absolute minimum. I’ve found that I can hunt these spots successfully within a day. In fact, several good bucks have volunteered to prove it.