It is 5:30 A.M. opening morning, you have been waiting all year long for this day. You have set up trail cameras, tracked deer, kept the feeder full, and now it is time to shoot the big buck. You are in your tree stand and the waiting begins. You wait, and wait, and wait, and before you know it, it’s 11:30! By this time you are ready to get down and go grab some lunch to tie you over until the evening. But wait, you did not see a single movement from any animal, how could this be? It is a beautiful morning and you have heard gun shots in the distance. This is most often a sign that other deer are moving. So why did you not see one? This question is one that drives every hunter absolutely crazy. This very situation happened to me the very first year that I conquered deer season on my own. I chose the spot, I put up cameras, and finally I set up my tree stand. My cameras showed that deer moved through the area frequently so why did I not see any? After looking through articles upon articles and making numerous phone calls to other hunters I came to a conclusion. The major reason that it boiled down to was that I did not set up my tree stand correctly.
Step 1: Step 1: What You'll Need
In this project you will need a few things. I used a store bought tree stand, so if you don't feel like building one, you need to buy one. I got mine on sale for around $100. Then you'll need the perfect spot for the stand. You will also need a battery-powered drill and a really long wood bit that will drill into a tree. You will need a pair of 7/16 inch wrenches. The rest will all come with the tree stand itself.
Step 2: Step 2: Find the Perfect Spot
When looking for a location to place the tree stand you must consider a lot. There are so many factors out there that can cause a certain spot not to work. Weather is a major factor in the hunting world that cannot be controlled. According to Scott Bestul, “to ambush a mega buck, you need to hunt each spot when it’s hottest, and only when the wind allows”(Bestul). Bestul continues by describing ten different spots for your tree stand. There is one stand that Bestul describes that is more universal and is the best bet for a low maintenance stand. This idea is that there is no need to relocate your stand during certain parts of the year. A creek bottom funnel is a location that is suggested for this prime spot. This type of area is a place relatively close to a creek or pond where the water rises and the overflow runs off. It is a very well vegetated area that has a lot of established native grass. Some brush and berry bushes can also be found here, which is a great food source for the deer. There is normally trees along this area and quite often there is a noticeable deer trail that is well traveled. Trails are the highways for deer and these trails are the best spot for amateur and beginning hunters. Reason being, deer are less alert while they are walking on the trails because they are primarily focused on their destination. When you are determining if the trail is one that is traveled often you need to follow the trail and be looking down. You will be looking for tracks that look like two half-moons facing each other with a small gap in between them. There may also be a small circle imprint behind the moons, this gives signal that particular deer is a buck. To know if the trail is currently used you can do a couple things. First, you can set up a trail camera to take pictures of the deer as they walk by. If you don’t have the funds to purchase a trail camera or the time to wait for the pictures you can look for the freshness of the tracks and a couple other signs. To determine if the tracks are fresh, a good indicator is if there is a fine dust around the track. You may blow on the tracks and see if the dust is easily moved. This is caused by the deer dragging their feet on the ground. Knowing how to determine if the particular trail is untraveled or isn’t traveled by a lot of deer is important as well. If the grass is starting to stand back up instead of being pressed down towards the earth this is one sign. Another sign would be the fact that there is still grass on the ground instead of the trail dwindled down to just the dirt layer. Along these trails there are a few things that you should keep an eye out for. One feature you are looking for is a bare spot on the tree. It may be to the extremity where the tree is lacking an entire area of bark and you are able to see this inside of the tree. This is called a rub or scrape and comes from when buck rubs his antlers continuously on the same area of a tree enough to where the bark fell off and left a scar on the tree. These scrapes are easy to detect if they are fresh or even if they have been there for a while. The inside of the tree may still show some green from the tissues behind the bark when fresh. And when they are not as fresh they don’t show any color, instead they look like they have experienced weather and could possibly be cracking from being open without a coating. The old scrapes will have a white color versus the new scrape will look like a piece of wood you would build a project out of. Another thing to look for is broken sticks and twigs. If there are a lot of sticks along the trail that aren’t big enough to become an obstacle and are fragile enough to break but are still intact this shows that there is no activity moving through the area. An active trail will make these said twigs look like confetti almost. Now that you have found a scrape and broken twigs with a path is wore down to the dirt, you have found the trail to follow until you find a group of trees to choose from. Before we get into picking out the tree there are some other things in this area that you need. Considering you want to make this area the spot that you use as your prime hunting stand for the entirety of the season. When you find an area with possible stand trees you need to walk around and find some types of bushes and thickets, which hunters and farmers call brush. These bushes might have berries of all colors on them, which the deer enjoy stopping for a quick snack along the walk back to their bedding area. This is ideal because when they stop it is the perfect time for you to take your shot to hopefully harvest the animal of your dreams.
Step 3: Step 3: Choosing the Perfect Tree
Now that you have found the perfect spot you need to find the perfect tree. Unfortunately, you may have a perfect spot found but you look around and there is not a tree close enough, big enough, or sturdy enough. An article written by Mark Kayser, explains what tree is best for putting a tree stand in. Kayser says “Mature trees are better stand trees than young ones. Their canopies are generally fuller and the trunks are sturdier” (Kayser). Mature trees, in my view, are the safest bet when putting a tree stand up. However, there is also the mature trees that are too mature and could be hollow in the middle and can be more dangerous than a young tree. Kayser also states “mature trees sport thick trunks that reach higher, giving you the option to place your stand 20 to 25 feet off the ground” (Kayser). Aside from safety, this is the biggest advantage of the mature trees because the young trees tend to sway all over when there is even the slightest amount of wind because their trunks can rarely handle your weight 20 feet up their trunk. Mature trees have very thick and solid trunks that hold their place and don’t have the flexibility to bend due to the wind. If you start swaying too bad you can very easily miss the shot on the deer that you have been putting all this hard work into this past year. Safety is obviously the most important thing when it comes to doing anything that could be remotely dangerous and hanging a tree stand is no exception. I finally found a tree I wanted to try after I went through the entire process I explained earlier. The tree has an 8 foot base and a trunk that slowly grows smaller the higher you go. At 20 to 25 feet the truck is roughly 6 ½ to 7 feet in diameter but I never truly trust the tree being solid until I do another test. The test I do is to test if the tree is solid all the way through and no hollow spots in the center. I take a battery powered drill and a very long wood drill bit that you can find at any hardware store. I drill into the tree to at least 12 inches and as I do this I am looking for constant wood shavings coming from the bit. I am also looking that I do not hit a spot with the drill bit that seems as though I am drilling into nothing and that I have hit a hollow spot in the tree. If this test goes well, I then feel comfortable with putting my stand in that particular tree. This test is something I feel is very important and could possibly save you from very serious injury if the tree would break from the weight and being hollow.
Step 4: Step 4: Assembling the Stand
Now I have my spot, I have found my tree, it is finally time to assemble and hang this tree stand! I assembled the ladder first by using the four pieces that are provided. These four pieces consist of sections five feet long each. Putting the ladder together does not take but a few minutes being that they all hook together quite simply. They hook together by sliding the pressed end of the ladder into the bottom of the next piece and then using the 5/16” bolts to put through the holes. These bolts help hold the pieces together. Once the bolt is in the hole you will want to tighten it with a 7/16” wrench. I proceeded doing this until I got all four of the pieces connected. With this tree stand it gives you the option of not using all of the pieces of the ladder if you so choose not to. This option makes it so that you can have the stand at whatever height you want within five feet increments. Now it is time to attach the basket or seat part of the stand to the ladder. I connected the ladder to the basket by doing the same thing I did to connect the ladder pieces together. I used the same bolts and wrench to finish securing the stand together. Now we have a complete stand that is assembled on the ground, next it is time to hang it up in the tree.
Step 5: Step 5: Hanging the Stand in the Tree
Hanging this tree stand is very tricky and you almost have to have another person there to help you lift it in order to get the correct positioning. This is also the most dangerous part of a tree stand because you do not have everything secured and you have to climb all the way to the basket to secure it completely. So my friend and I lifted the stand together by laying the stand as if it fell straight down off the tree. This would mean the front of the ladder was lying face-forward on the ground. We positioned the very bottom of the ladder to the place we wanted it and then we picked up the basket and lifted it above our heads. We then kept lifting and started to walk our hands down the ladder while advancing toward the tree. This in return made the basket get higher and essentially closer to the tree with every step we climbed down the ladder. Finally, we have the basket against the tree and we are ready to secure everything to the tree. In my box, that the tree stand came in, also came a piece of square metal tubing with a Y-shape on one end and an open U-shape end on the other. This piece goes in between a step on the ladder and the tree. The U-shape goes over a step on the ladder and so I put the piece on the step and secured it with a 5/16” bolt to hold it in place. This piece is also convenient because it stretches to any length. This helps so that I can put the Y-shape part against the tree to keep the ladder from bowing in and collapsing. After determining how long I needed to stretch the metal piece, I tightened the bolt to make the piece hold that certain length. Now it is time to pull the stand closer to the tree. To accomplish this I use ratchet straps and tighten them as much as possible to the tree to keep the stand from sliding around and possibly falling off. Now I carefully and slowly climb my ladder all the way to the top to the basket with one of the ratchet straps. Underneath the basket there is a Y-shape just like the one that is on the metal brace that is on the ladder and that Y-shape has a hole on both ends. I hooked one of the holes, I then swung it around the tree and caught the other hook and proceeded to hook that side into the other hole. I then began ratcheting until the strap was too tight to crank anymore. Lastly, I climbed down and did the same thing for the brace on the ladder. Now I have a safe and secure tree stand and according outdoorchannel.com, “when you find the right place from the ground and get your stand set, part of that preparation should include practicing your movements. Stand up and sit down, paying attention to any squeaks”(Howto) So I did some movements just to make sure there were no squeaks and luckily there wasn’t and now I have finally completed my project.