Pushing the Limits
When setting up a treestand on the edge of a bedding area, how close is too close? Simply put, if the deer can hear, see or smell you, your stand is either too close or in the wrong location. There are plenty of additional considerations to be made, however. These include but are not necessarily limited to, time of year, your access route, and the area that you hunt. For example, if you find yourself fortunate to hunt an unpressured deer herd in a low pressure state, you may be able to hunt field edges for much of the early season and expect to see a buck feeding during hunting hours. In this scenario, there may be little need to push into thicker bedding cover to catch a mere 100 yards of buck movement at last light. Likewise, if you are hunting during the pre-rut or rut, you may be able to take advantage of travel corridors that funnel both bucks returning to or leaving their beds during daylight, and daylight walkers cruising for the next receptive doe in November. At this time of year there may be less to gain from hunting a buck’s bed and so getting close may not be as much of an issue. If your stand access is such that you cannot effectively push into a bedding area without detection, or the vegetation in the area is not conducive to providing an adequate visual barrier, you may be forced to hunt further away from a known bedding area than you would like. Still, timing is key, and early season may be an easier time to strike when a higher level of vegetation is available for concealment. If noise is the issue, choosing a rainy or windy day can help to conceal your movements. Furthermore, if you find yourself in hill country and your evening access requires stand entry from below a bedding area, it may be necessary to time your approach after the evening thermals begin to drop down the hillside.
With all of the above taken into consideration, our scouting efforts this spring yielded a new stand location with plenty of potential that proves to be an aggressive approach to hunting a buck bed on our property. Here is the bedding stand that we plan to utilize this year during early season:
The concept of this stand location is fairly simple. Here we are cutting off evening travel from bedding to food by getting approximately 85 yards from where the deer spend their daytime hours. The deer utilize the transition edge of the brushy thicket and the mature hardwoods for bedding cover. Several seeps keep this area wet enough that few large trees grow and the lack of canopy provides sunlight for woody browse and native grasses and forbs to flourish and make the area a tangled mess. What is not evident in the photo is that in addition to a cover transition between the mature woods and the bedding area, there is also a terrain shift where the hillside becomes steep. At the transition line on the right hand side of the photo, the terrain flattens a bit and provides ample areas for deer to bed. Along this transition is also where the majority of buck sign can be found.
Entering this stand for an evening hunt requires a slow and methodical approach. Although it is a short walk, I will be certain to give myself ample time so as I can walk quietly and the noise of my entry will not push deer out of the bedding area. By coming across the Ag field and small food plot, I am able to keep my path from crossing deer trails and my ground scent is limited to areas that deer are more accustomed to experiencing human intrusion or interaction. While it is impossible to see in the photo, this stand location sits atop a small bench; the elevation change is about 4 feet. This slight terrain change allows me to hide my approach from bedded deer less than 100 yards away. I may have to walk fifty yards or so in a hunched position, but this is better than having deer see me and ending the hunt before it has a chance to begin. To further hide my approach, I hinge cut the small trees and vegetation that was next to my stand to provide a thicker visual barrier to the deer that will be bedded uphill. This will allow me to get to the base of the tree with greater ease and even climb into position undetected. Scent detection will be of little concern since I plan to hunt this location on a Northern wind, and will wait to access the stand until the thermals have neutralized and began their thermal shift in the evening. Once the cooling air begins to fall down the hillside, there is no chance of my scent rising to the deer bedded above me. Shortly after this shift, I expect the deer to be on their feet and beginning to move and browse through the staging area around the bedding, making timing a very delicate calculation in this scenario. Hunts in this location will be very few, and very short, but they have a high potential for rewarding yields.
I selected the tree primarily based on location, but I was also looking for enough cover. I was able to trim out just enough vegetation to allow me to draw my bow and have a small lane to the one trail I can shoot to. Interestingly, I also have chosen to position this stand just 7 feet off the ground. Because most of the vegetation around this location is short thorn trees, going higher than this would actually have limited the amount of cover this stand would afford. Setting a stand twenty feet up the tree would also potentially allow for deer in the bedding area to “skyline” me and see me climbing into the treestand. Hanging the stand lower actually provides a better scenario for remaining undetected by both bedded animals and those traveling through the small shooting lane we cut.
After the Hunt
Since I am positioned between bedding cover and destination food sources, theoretically I could leave my stand after dark and get out of the area via an exit route through the woods. The presumption would be that the deer have transitioned into the nighttime destination food sources by this time, allowing for a deer free exit through the timber. Normally, this would be the approach I would take, however, in this case, it becomes very easy for the hunter to be picked up with a vehicle and additional ground scent does not have to be left or deer trails crossed. Deer are less likely to associate a vehicle with hunting pressure than they are a hunter walking on foot, or worse yet the scent of a hunter in their core area. In this area they routinely experience farm equipment in the fields so a quick vehicle pickup will leave the area less pressured than if the hunter were to exit the stand location on foot.
During your scouting sessions, determine how close you can be to the bedding areas you locate. Being too aggressive and pushing deer out of the area upon approach is counter productive, however highly pressured deer may not travel far from their beds in daylight. Setting up on the outskirts of a bedding area, just out of sight, sound and scent is the best way to intercept a whitetail during shooting hours. When you are determining how to hunt a new spot, be sure to consider stand access and how you can use terrain, cover, wind and thermal activity to your advantage. Aggressive hunting tactics can make for exciting hunts, but carelessness and the lack of attention to detail can end a hunt before it begins.