Follow the step-by-step plan below to set up the perfect ambush. On the opener, you’ll be ready to pluck a trophy from these fruit stands.

Step 1: Speed-Scout

Scope out the orchard at midday, when you know bucks are bedded. Use scent-reducing spray, wear gloves and rubber boots, and avoid crowding suspected resting areas. Bucks lying close to food sources are easily spooked.

Step 2: Find the Tree

Some trees drop their fruit earlier than others; deer prefer certain apples over those from nearby trees for mysterious reasons. Abundant tracks and partly chewed chunks will reveal the favored spots. Look for buck sign, too. Low-hanging apple branches incite scraping, and rubs may appear on nearby brush and saplings.

Step 3: Nail a Buck Trail

Several trails may lead to the fruit. Follow each for a short distance until you find one with large tracks, rubs, or scrapes. Although few apple trees will accommodate a tree stand, many orchards abut mature timber. If there’s a suitable tree within easy range of the buck trail, hang your stand.

Step 4: Stay Low

Lacking such a site, set up a ground blind within shooting distance of the buck trail or hot tree. Hide it well with brush, and give deer a few days to accept the odd shape before you settle in to hunt. Another option is to nestle a tripod stand into the crown of a nearby apple tree, cutting just enough limbs for a clear shot.

When the season starts, get to your stand or blind in early afternoon. The deer are not yet heavily pressured at this time and may head to the orchard several hours before dusk. Be there waiting, and you’ll have venison in the freezer before the season even gets in gear.