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Successful hunting is more than having the best gear or pictures on your trail cam. Success in the field, or treestand, is measured by a filled tag. Often, the difference between success and failure does not come from making the perfect shot. Instead, it comes down to having a shot, to begin with. To do this, you must answer the question, "Where do you put a treestand?"
Deciding where to put your treestand is one of the most critical decisions a hunter can make. Select the right spot, and you can pick a target. Select the wrong site; your tree stand is nothing more than a place to nap in the woods.
Far too often, inexperienced hunters will do little more than guess when selecting a tree stand location.
Usually, this involves finding what they think is a deer trail and a nearby tree and placing their stand. While they may get lucky and harvest a deer, it is a gamble. Let us show you how to make at least this guess and educate one by reviewing some of the more popular tree stand locations and how to hunt each.
Deers spend the majority of their time doing two things – eating and resting. Setting up on the travel corridors between a food source and bedding is one of the most popular hunting strategies. Once identified, this trail will produce plenty of deer if the food source is viable.
After identifying a nearby food source, you will notice many trails leading to and from the site. Not all will lead to the bedding area. Some will be secondary trails. Others will lead to staging areas just inside the tree line where deer often wait before entering a feeding area. The main corridor will be more heavily used, include plenty of deer signs, and continue past the staging area.
Your tree stand should be placed approximately 20-30 feet off the trail, well camouflaged, and allow you to be downwind from approaching deer - something that's best achieved with a climbing treestand. An ideal site for set up will have a prominent cross wind that helps you to hunt deer going to or coming from both the food source and bedding area.
As the name implies, these are locations where deer are "pinched" or forced into a narrower travel area. This is especially popular in pastures or other open areas where another site would allow plenty of deer sightings but risk unshootable ranges.
Look for anything that blocks a deer's travel path and identify an opening. This could be a hedgerow, high earth bank, or even a fence line. Even if the obstacle can be jumped, something deer are very good at; they will still look for the easiest route of travel.
Once the pinch point is found, it is time to place your stand. Ideally, you want to be in an area that offers the best observation of the approach. This will allow you to target deer as they slow before entering the pinch point, especially when multiple deer approach simultaneously. Again, make sure that you are downwind from the approaching deer.
Open fields are a great place to see deer, especially at night, but there are better places to hunt. This is because deer often only enter an open field once protected in darkness. However, fields can still be hunted. To target a field during hunting hours, move to the edges. This is where deer will travel to avoid exposure, providing a perfect opportunity to target many deer.
Trails will be just inside the wood line or other cover available. If there is no tree line, look for creek beds or gullies – any area that allows deer cover as they pass the more open field. Again, the main trail should be easy to identify.
Your selected tree should be about 20 feet off the trail, preferably with the field to your back so you can see more of the travel area and be well hidden.
Planting a food source can be a game changer. Not only does it draw deer to your property, but it also allows you to predict behavior. This is the perfect combination for having a perfect tree stand location.
For smaller food plots, hunting directly over the plot itself is possible. When doing this, identify the main entry point, which you can also control by building an artificial obstacle and a pinch point. Set up, so your best field of view and shooting lanes target this point.
If hunting a large food plot, one where you can not see or target the entire plot from a single location, you will need to identify a primary and secondary location. The primary location will be similar to that used for small plots – targeting deer as they enter/exit the site. The secondary location will target deer once they are actively feeding. This second location will be within shooting range of deer that have entered the plot, started feeding, and dropped their guard slightly.
Most stands will be located the typical 20-30 feet off the food plot and downwind of the food plot. However, if you can safely access it, an elevated stand or tree in the plot is a great way to target many deer.
Aside from food and rest, there is one more thing that all living animals need – water. If you have a water source on your property, this is an excellent place to target big deer. Remember, a water source can be either natural or manmade. If you have a small creek, large river, pond, or cattle trough, nearby deer will likely drink there.
Significant water sources can be challenging to target. Search the banks for low spots that are easier to access. Now look for the deer sign. Once you find a likely drinking spot, it's time to look for a tree stand spot. The ideal location will offer camouflage and good wind and provide as close to a broadside shot as possible.
We also have a popular blog summarizing Where To Put A Deer Blind!