Deciding When Tree Stand Locations Need to Change
One certainty you can count on during deer season is seeing your fair share of the unexpected. No matter how much you have invested in scouting and preparation, there will be days when you end up hunting in less than ideal tree stand locations. Factors such as changing deer behavior, rut stages, food availability, weather and your impact in the woods can make a hunt out of any stand vary significantly from day to day. Perfect preseason deer stand locations may dry up quickly leaving you with only one decision – to move your tree stand.
Generally, tree stand placement is related to seasonal changes during deer season. Areas are scouted and stands are hung for the early season, rut and late season. Early season tree stand locations focus around food sources like agricultural fields. As the early season wanes and the phases of the rut pick up, tree stand locations shift to hunting rut patterns. Finally, late-season stand locations shift to hunting available food sources.
But what happens if it all doesn’t go as planned? You are not seeing deer close enough for a shot or not seeing deer at all? How do you decide when it is time to move your tree stand?
Trail Cameras Can Clue You on When to Move
Following a deliberate trail camera schedule throughout the entire year is critical. Your trail cameras provide a wealth of information and that doesn’t stop just because it is hunting season.
Every tree stand placement strategy should include trail cameras. Here are two ways those in season images can help decide if it is time to change your bow stand plans.
First, camera dates, times, moon phase and temperature all factor into a decision to change your stand location. For example, a buck may be showing up out of range or not at all even though you have him consistently on camera before the season. Camera data can pinpoint exactly when he is showing up. If he shows up in range in the morning but never when you are in the stand, perhaps your stand is positioned incorrectly for the morning conditions. Think morning winds or your approach in accessing the stand in the morning. This is just one example of where a Muddy® trail camera can assist in deciding to change your tree stand location.
Second, camera data can be used to ambush a buck that keeps giving you the slip. The scenario is a buck comes out a different spot each evening. Here you can use trail cameras to pinpoint the most likely place to ambush a buck and move your stand accordingly.
Changing Tree Stand Locations Throughout the Season
A consistent theme when deciding to move deer stand locations during the season is reacting to what the deer are telling you. Combine that with the time of year and your choice to move will result in some of the best tree stand locations you will hunt from.
- Early Season – The field edge is hard to beat as an early season tree stand location. Acorn concentrations and other food sources should also be part of your bow stand plans early on. Figuring out when you have to change locations in the first few weeks relies on food availability and deer activity. If the food dries up or deer activity decreases consistently, it is time to move your tree stand. Any stand changes this time of year should be done mid-day to avoid disturbing early season deer patterns.
- Pre-Rut – Pre-rut signs like active scrapes and early chasing activities are signs it is time to move. Focus on fresh, well-used deer trails and active scrapes. Either take new tree stands or reposition early season stands for pre-rut hunts. The chances of bumping a buck while changing your tree stand placement are greater as more deer movement will occur throughout the day. Consider low impact ways to get in and out of areas as quick as possible.
- Rut – The rut can be crazy and patterning deer is difficult. It pays to be as mobile as possible. Changing tree stand locations can potentially occur several times a day depending on what rut activity is in your area. A hang and hunt tree stand strategy allows you to focus on the freshest rut sign. Rut action will vary from day to day and location to location and stands should as well. Shift tree stands accordingly to deer funnels and pinch points that force deer, and most importantly does, to concentrate. Deer stand locations downwind of reliable bedding areas also offer a place to move during the rut. Bucks will frequently check for an estrus doe downwind of bedding areas as the peak rut starts to slow down.
- Late Season – Observing the rut coming to an end means you have to move back to the food. Agricultural fields are mostly barren now and easy acorns have been gobbled up. The best tree stand locations post-rut are late season green fields. Recognizing the transition to post-rut early lets you preempt your move to surprise a buck returning to eat. Deer can be moving all day in the late season including some straggler rutting bucks and does. Moving stands has to be deliberate and fast to avoid getting busted.
New Location, New Tree Stand Option
An option worth mentioning when you decide to move hunting locations is to use a new tree stand. Muddy® hang-on stands are easy to carry and they set up quickly. Utilizing another tree stand helps to reduce the disturbance in taking down your existing stand and saves time during the season. Two important considerations when you decide on making a move in season.
Tree stand locations can change and they should change during the season. Use your trail cameras and recognize signs of when it is time to shift your tree stand placement to stay one step ahead of the deer.