Just what is “clean air”? You might have heard people referencing the term in regard to whitetail hunting but it may be unclear as to just what they are talking about. Such was the case for me for quite some time. I could never seem to find a set up where “clean air” existed. It seemed that in order to sit this or that stand there was no way around contaminating a portion of the woods which the Whitetails could appear from. Now, part of my problem was that I wasn’t hunting beds and so the further away from bedding areas I positioned myself, the more opportunity the deer had to branch out on more unpredictable travel routes. The other problem I was running into is that certain types of terrain prove easier to find locations where you can hunt with clean air.
Simply put, a stand with clean air is one that allows the wind to carry your scent into an area that the deer do not utilize, or, even better, can’t utilize. A stand can also have clean air if the wind can carry your scent out over an area which may be utilized by deer, but this area is so far down wind that the scent is so diluted by the time it reaches the deer that it is a non-issue.
Finding Stands With Clean Air
Mature pine plantations with little under-story can provide an area that is undesirable for deer to travel. Because the deer may not want to travel through the open pines, the change in landscape within a larger woods can create a subtle edge or even a pinch point when it converges with other terrain features. Setting up on the edge of the pines, with your scent blowing into them can keep your air clean and increase your chances of avoid detection by the deer using the area. Inside corners of crop fields can often work in similar ways, providing an open area for scent to flow into and dissipate and creating a natural funnel effect as deer will move around the inside corner of the timber to avoid exposing themselves in the open food source during daylight hours.
One of the most extreme and dynamic terrain features that can provide a hunter with clean air is a bluff or point in hill country. A hunter positioning himself off the side of a point next to a deep cut can enjoy the benefit of falling evening thermals into the cut, a place where deer are unlikely to travel. Creeks and steep ravines off the end of those points also provide the opportunity for a stand with clean air because the prevailing wind can carry scent a long way before it drops to the valley floor. Cuts provide natural funnels and points often hold bedding, so finding a way to capitalize on these features by positioning a stand that has clean air can be deadly.
A Real Life Example
For example, consider this property which a friend of mine will be hunting for the first time this year.
Bucks utilize points for bedding purposes in hill country because of the security these features provide. Setting up off these points while considering the prevailing wind and thermal activity can provide near bulletproof set-ups that can be hunted multiple times because of the hunter’s ability to remain undetected by the deer using the area.
When walking the property we located what appears to be a buck bed off the point of one of the ridges. The terrain here is very dramatic and the drop is almost a sheer 40′ cliff. The deer are unwilling or unable to easily move across the side of this hill and so the movement is concentrated at the top and bottom. Like the face of the ridge, the deep cuts in the side hill are sheer and in addition they are very thick with vegetation and fallen trees. This serves to funnel the deer movement around the top edge of these cuts while the field line creates a pinch point, making the available travel corridor along this top section no more than 15 yards wide at any one place. The trail below follows the base of the hill until it reaches a place where the bottom narrows as the hill drops off directly into a deep creek. At this point the deer have to either cross the creek or head up the side hill at a slightly less steep angle. The trail going up the side hill was very worn and on top of this hill was the large buck bed. From this position, the buck can see the creek bottom below, he can here anything coming up the side-hill trail, and he can smell anything coming through the field behind him. In two steps he can be down over the hill and out of sight, or if something is coming from below he can exit the bed via the trail along the field edge, heading in either direction.
Making a Move
Typically in early season, you aren’t going to beat a buck to his bed, and if you do get in early enough he is likely going to bust you when he J-hooks downwind to scent check the area. In pressured situations all this typically happens before daylight and you may never even know you blew the opportunity. While keeping that in mind, I believe that the stand location on top of the hill, which actually overlooks the buck bed, is an exception to this rule. Facing the treestand away from the approaching trail will give the hunter cover, and in this situation, the buck has a very limited approach to the bed. He will be unable to get downwind from the hunter because the hunter is positioned on the extreme edge of steep drop off. In the early morning the hunters scent will be carried by the prevailing wind out over the creek and will fall to the valley several hundred yards downwind in an open crop field.
Accessing the Stand
The hunter can access the stand via the creek and climb the deep cut on the left side of the aerial photo. This access will leave no ground scent anywhere were an approaching deer with encounter it. Hunting this stand in the morning would require the hunter to get to his stand and settled at least 2 hours before daylight or else he will risk bumping the buck as it comes back to bed. I would hunt this stand once or twice at the very beginning of season when the bucks may be still in a predictable feed-bed-feed pattern before local hunting pressure mounts. It is also possible that earlier in the season a buck will be returning to bed a little later than you would see come mid October. After giving the stand a sit in early season, I would back off the spot and wait until the pre-rut kicked off in late October and hunt the top trail (further to the right of the aerial photo) in the later morning after the thermals kicked in. There is a good chance a buck will be cruising from one piece of timber to the next, and this area is the only cover connecting the two pieces. A cruising buck wishing to stay concealed will be funneled along this top edge because of the deep cuts in the terrain which should serve to provide a 10-15 yard shot. It is possible to get several sits in at this location if access is carefully planned because of the clean air it provides and the opportunity to stay undetected by deer traveling by, even if a shot opportunity does not present itself the first time.
Do you look for stands that provide “clean air”? Let me know your thoughts below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org