Hanging Treestands With Your Old Man


Hanging Treestands With Your Old Man

I’m not refering to the brand of treestand here, literally I am talking about hanging treestands with my father.  Depending what kind of ground you hunt each fall, your set-ups may vary.  I’m not a huge proponent of pre-hanging public land stands.  I think it invites company, and also provides theives with a pretty good opportunity to score some free gear.  That being said, every summer my dad and I head into the woods on some private property in New York and try to predict where our stands will need to be come Fall.  (And then we inevitably move a few when we find out we were wrong.)  We do this based on observations and past experiences gathered from hunting the property.  Over the past several years I have tried to hang our stands earlier to avoid disrupting the woods so close to season and I believe that this is a necessary practice when you are hunting pressured whitetails if you plan to use pre-set stands.  Dad usually thinks we’re being crazy, and most of his contemporaries wonder why we are at camp prepping trees so early.  Most times he humors me, though, and off we go into the timber with climbing sticks, treestands, safety ropes, and polesaws.

My dad is part of that generation that is what I call task-oriented.  They want to get things done so they can check them off the list and move onto the next thing.  I think my dad loves making lists just for the opportunity to cross the items out.  This approach is really good for accomplishing a lot of things, but you also run the risk of forgetting to enjoy the ride.  I think this was my approach to hunting for awhile, and this year I can happily say that we both slowed down a little bit when we were selecting our stand locations for the Fall.  Since we were dilligent in getting stands up much earlier than normal we were able to make some valuable scouting observations and choose better stand locations.


This year it just seemed like less pressure.  In years passed we would rush to get as many stands up in one day as possible.  We had this expectation of hanging 8 or 10 sets in a day because we were on limited time, and I felt like we needed to get in and out of the timber as quickly as possible because we were only a month from opening day.  Hitting the unavoidable snag here or there was always frustrating and at some point in the process we would be barking at each other. Or, I would be barking at Dad.  Slowing down this year was made possible by a couple factors, one being that I spent countless hours assessing better ways of access and more agressive stand locations than we have ever implemented before.  I probably overevaluate these things and my dad probably underevaluates them, so we are a good mix.  However, one thing we both love about hanging stands is that awesome, anticipatory feeling that THIS may be the very place where you connect with the buck of a lifetime.  Anyway, since I’ve been bending his ear about all my new ideas since last January, I think he was a bit more receptive and maybe a little more mentally prepared for the extra work that changing almost every stand location would provide.

So, after a day and a half, we had 7 well-thought-out stands hung in the highest percentage areas we have access to.  I had sore feet from hanging off tree ladders all day and Dad had a sore neck from looking 20 feet up into the trees all day long.  I think he was getting sick of cutting shooting lanes by the end and the constant “No, not that branch, THAT one, no not that one, to your right, your other right, that’s your left!”  So even though I think I actually only got a little P.O.ed one time about shooting lane cutting miscommunication, I gave him the opportunity to sit in the treestand and order me around with the polesaw.  Maybe I was trying to give him a break from the work, or maybe I was subconsciously giving him the chance to issue some verbal abuse payback.  Either way we had a safe and sucessful trip and made more memories that will stay with us for years to come.

-Reuben Dourte



Michigan Buck

Daylight Walkers

Even in high pressured areas, catching a daylight walker is possible every once in a while.  Typically, the time to capitalize is early in the season, specifically the first days of archery season.  Early doe seasons and youth hunts in Michigan have decreased the odds of catching a daylight walker at the beginning of season, but, its still possible.  In this particular scenario, I had observed a buck utilizing a cornfield edge along the property line of a small piece of property I owned in Michigan.  The buck used this edge in the evening and would travel South to North, although the pattern was somewhat inconsistent.  The total acreage was just over 9 and the wooded portion totaled about 4 1/2 acres.  While there was not a lot of real estate to deal with, what did exist were several edges the deer liked to use in their travels.  Since there was no bedding on the property I was forced to hunt transition lines that provided travel corridors between bedding areas.

Michigan Property Aerial

As the deer moved into and off of the property, they were funneled around an inside field edge.  The swamp edge to the north created an additional transition line exaggerating the inside corner pinch point and any deer moving into the property from the west followed the edge of a mature pine grove, (which can be seen on the left side of the aerial), and used the inside corner to enter the corn field in the evening as it was the lowest spot in the field and provided maximum scent benefit due to the falling evening thermal drafts.  Because this particular part of Michigan is mostly flat farmland mixed with swampy lowlands, the deer utilize their bedding areas less because of a specific wind direction and more because of the security cover present on the high ground within the swamps.  The predominant wind in this part of Southern Michigan came from the Southwest during this the fall of the year and this did allow the deer in the swamp to scent check my whole property before moving into it and scent check the cornfield before coming to feed in the evening.  Consequently, I believe this caused much of the deer movement I observed to be North to South and created a difficult hunting situation for me with my limited land availability.

On October 2nd, the wind shifted from several days of SW and came out of the North Northwest.  This wind would allow me to stay undetected by the deer bedded in the swamp to the North and the small amount of West in the wind would provide a just-off wind so that a deer traveling out of the South end of my property, into the prevailing wind, would not be able to smell me as it traveled the trail on the inside edge of the woods.  I believed there was a chance that the buck I observed in September would use this North wind and feel secure traveling out of the South if he had the wind to his advantage.

After a noneventful evening sit, yielding only one doe sighting, I had foolishly given up hope with 15 minutes of shooting light left.  As I stood up to take my bow from the hanger to lower it to the ground, I noticed movement to the South.  When I put my binoculars up I noticed a rack coming down the trail toward me.  The buck was browsing as he made his way toward me, and in less than five minutes he entered my shooting lane.  One well placed arrow later, he expired just 60 yards from my stand.  This was the earliest I had ever filled my archery tag, and I was able to do so on a small parcel by catching a daylight walker before the surrounding pressure pushed him to more nocturnal habits.  Sometimes hunting funnels and pinch points which relate to bedding and feeding areas can be productive early in the season.  A little bit of luck never hurts either.

Let me know your thoughts.  Email me at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com.

-Reuben Dourte


A Field Edge Exception

Usually, field edges are unproductive on pressured ground.  The deer, and specifically the bucks, don’t venture into the open until the cover of darkness provides some relief from the hunting pressure.  Most times, the sign we see along field edges is night sign, and hunting it is a waste of time and serves to just leave scent and further educate the does and young bucks who arrive at the food source as the hunter leaves his stand at last light.

Sometimes though, there are exceptions to this rule, and mostly they apply in situations where the field edge is adjacent some other cover, such as terrain features, standing corn, etc.  This serves to give the deer added security while moving along the edge, and thus the field edge becomes more of a simple transition line.  The bad thing about banking on movement in the buffer between the timber and standing corn is that the farmer will likely harvest the corn at some point during the archery season and throw a wrench in your plans.  This has happened to me too many times to continue to rely on these spots for anything more than an early season sit where I am trying to take a doe and have little impact on the rest of the property.

This past season I located a spot through the use of an observation stand which I feel will position me for a good chance at a buck and also allows for covert access into and out of the stand.  The spot it situated more on a field edge than I would normally hunt, but a couple unique features serve to keep me enthused about this location.

southwest stand aerial

First, this spot is adjacent to bedding cover in the form of an overgrown orchard.  Observation stands have confirmed that the deer predominately use the West-central part of the orchard for bedding.  In the evenings, the deer venture off the hill to the food plots east of the bedding area.  I have noticed that the deer use this bedding most with a Southern wind.  There is also a good many deer who travel off the side hill, out of the orchard and down into the creek bottom, where they cross the creek, pass through a primary scrape area under an apple tree and enter a CRP field on the way to a destination crop field food sources beyond the CRP (currently in alfalfa).

The deer that do not drop down into the creek bottom cross an old barbed wire fence where it has fallen down (Just West of the Black “X” marking the stand location) and work either due East or Northeast.  To the East are food plots planted in alfalfa and turnips.  A layering approach intended to provide desirable food sources into the late season, and perhaps the topic of another blog.  The deer heading Northeast are moving into the same destination alfalfa field as those traveling through the CRP.

The creek bottom contains dense cover and any deer moving along the trail on the west bank of the creek is completely shielded from view due to the vegetation cover of the creek bottom and a sharp 20 foot elevation change in the goldenrod they are moving through.  Once they get to the elevation change they completely disappear from sight and you will be lucky to see them again before they get to the alfalfa at dark.

Last year, I positioned a stand on the North side of the creek, overlooking the CRP field.  Unfortunately two things were wrong with my set up.  First I was hunting down in the creek bottom and my wind was being constantly affected by swirls and drafts because of how the current related to the water temperature as well as how it eddied off the structure of the tree line I was in after moving across the open CRP field.  Secondly, I was too far from bedding, and the deer were getting to me in the waning minutes of shooting light.  Additionally, I did not have a good exit route and after a few hunts and bumping deer off the food source on my way out, they began to approach the area with more caution and later in the evening.  Buck sightings dropped off dramatically after a few sits.  What I did notice were bucks utilizing the cover of the golden rod and the elevation change in the terrain on the South side of the creek to conceal their movements as they used to creek bottom as a travel corridor connecting two pieces of cover.  Last year I witnessed a buck use this piece of cover as he traveled West to East on a South wind early in the morning so he could scent check the hillside for bedded does without ever leaving the cover.

The new location, indicated by the black X, solves multiple problems.  First it takes advantage of the natural funneling effect the creek bottom has, making it a good spot to catch a cruising buck in late October.  Secondly, it is in closer proximity to bedding cover, positioning the hunter closer to the “hub” of the wheel rather than sitting at the end of a “spoke”.  This gives you the opportunity for more deer to pass your location before they branch out and utilize different trails which lowers your odds of encountering them.  Third, I can hunt a South wind with little chance of detection.  Deer that do travel North of the stand location are 30 feet below me because of the 20 foot elevation change (the stand is only 10 feet off the ground), allowing my scent to travel over them. A fourth benefit is that I am in a tree with much better cover and I am set up for a 12 yard shot, instead of the 25 yard shot I would be required to make from the tree I set up in last year.  In addition, the deer have more cover and a buck can move by the stand location without committing to entering a relatively open CRP field which borders the roadway.

Normally field edges are unproductive in high pressure areas, however, finding areas that deer are comfortable utilizing in daylight hours can prove productive.  In this case, this is the closest I can push the bedding area because of property boundaries, but it still allows for a reasonable chance for a shot opportunity.

What are your thoughts on hunting field edges?  Do you think there are exceptions to the rule?


Hunting a Terrain Rut Funnel

Taking advantage of terrain features can be highly productive and is a necessity in high pressure areas.  Funnels can be valuable tools for hunters who are trying to close the distance on a cruising buck this archery season.  In the past I hunted these areas by default because they were where I found sign- trails, random rubs, etc.  I was also unknowingly hunting them at the wrong times during the season and in the wrong wind conditions.  This spring I found what I consider to be a rut funnel on a piece of New York Property I hunt and I drastically changed my approach to this spot.  I prepped a tree and I plan to save this spot for when the bucks start cruising during the last days of October and into the Beginning of November.

Here is a picture of the setup:

stand aerial description





The black “X” indicates my treestand placement and I believe this spot has multiple things going for it to make it potentially very productive as a late morning sit with a Southern wind.  The funnel is created by a 30 yard wide bench with an old logging trail, situated 20 yards inside the woods, running parallel with a large alfalfa field on top of the hill.  To the north side of the bench is a steep hillside that was clear cut a few years ago and is incredibly thick with regrowth.  (Note: The photo is rotated 90 Degrees counter-clockwise.)  In this area, the deer typically utilize the top 1/3 elevation or the bottom 1/3 elevation.  Very few trails run parallel with the hillside at center elevation.

During the early morning hours I would expect the deer to travel at the bottom 1/3 of the North facing slope taking advantage of heavier cool air and still-falling thermal drafts.  However, I do not have access to this part of the woods, so, because the North facing slope will take longer to warm in the morning than a South facing slope, the thermals will kick in later in the morning, making a later morning access a better option for this spot.  I plan to ask the adjacent landowner to the East for permission to access this stand by way of the open alfalfa field after first light so as to avoid spooking any deer who may have returned to bed in the woods before daylight and likewise, to avoid spooking any does who may be feeding in the alfalfa field in the dark.

A South wind will have does bedded in the clear cut so they can smell anything on the hill behind them and see anything approaching from below.  This same South wind will allow a rutting buck that is cruising in the later morning hours in search of bedded does to walk this terrain funnel and scent check the bedding below him due to the rising thermals while also being able to scent check the alfalfa field for any late feeding does without exposing himself in the open field.  He also can avoid moving through the harder-to-travel clear cut and steep grade by following the terrain funnel.

Additionally, the only cover connecting this piece of timber with the piece of timber to the East is a brushy fence row.  A buck moving from East to West has to use this fence row or expose himself in a wide open hay field.  This will also help to naturally funnel deer travel routes to the higher elevation.  You can see this fence row in the photo.

The one draw back of this stand location is that it has to be hunted in a Southern wind (S, SSW, SW) which will allow a deer approaching from the East to smell the hunter at about the same time it will enter the shooting lane.  This kind of just-off wind can be advantageous in that the deer will feel secure moving through the area because it will feel the wind is in its advantage.  To avoid getting busted, I put another section on the climbing stick and will hunt approximately 4 feet higher than I usually do.  By hunting higher, I allow the prevailing Southern wind to take my scent over the top of the backs of any deer walking on the trail 25 yards to the North of the stand and out into the valley below.  This is where utilizing milk weed seeds can help to tell the story of what the wind currents are doing and help you more effectively take advantage of those “just off” winds.

So, what do you think?  Have you located any terrain funnels on the land you hunt?