6 Proven Tips for Fooling a Whitetail’s Eyes

How to make your next treestand or ground blind disappear right before a whitetail’s eyes.

6 Proven Tips for Fooling a Whitetail’s Eyes

Setting up a treestand just off a trail and in a shrouded canopy gives you ample invisibility from deer.

As kids, we used to play hide-and-seek on our neighborhood block after dark. Already then, I was a master of dissolving into the shadows of a building’s drain trench, under the hedges of a church hedge or even slipping into the canopy of low-hanging branches of the neighbor’s tree. Maybe those early wins involving inconspicuousness prepared me for my whitetail career ahead. 

Staying invisible takes a multi-prong approach of erasing scent, controlling your noise and hiding your human form. Since most of you hunt from an affordable treestand, the latter becomes increasingly important. If you haven’t noticed, whitetails have an excellent awareness of their surroundings. 

Whitetails have a field of view that encompasses approximately 310 degrees. Built with predation in mind, your front-mounted eyeballs have a field of vision capturing only 180 degrees of the world. That will suffice, but by only missing 50 degrees of a whitetail’s overall surroundings as they roam around, whitetails miss few dangers, high, low or in between. 

With that in mind, take a moment to ensure your treestand or ground blind melds into the surroundings like the hide-and-seek champion Bigfoot. He has yet to be found!

Even if you do not have vegetation to brush in a blind, setting it up early and off a trail helps it become invisible to area deer.
Even if you do not have vegetation to brush in a blind, setting it up early and off a trail helps it become invisible to area deer.

1. Give Them Deer Dementia

The following moves will help your stand or blind disappear, but even if you cannot completely make your hideout evaporate, time alone works wonders. Deer simply ignore an object over time that appears daily in their environment if they do not sense danger. Get it set ASAP! 

Your treestand should be veiled somewhat by its already situated height. You cannot do that with your ground blind. And sometimes, you don’t have the proper flora to stash a ground blind into the vegetation to make it disappear. You know the locations. Open croplands, field edges, rolling pastures and the like have little backdrop to make a blind disappear, much less anything to help lash a blind to so it does not become an extra in “Twister 2.”

Placing blinds or stands a week before your hunt is likely a minimum, and a month beforehand is better. If you cannot make those deadlines, consider popping blinds next to parked farm machinery, an old outbuilding, a field junk pile or other anomaly that has been a part of the hunting property for more years than you can remember. Tuck it in, let it sit for a few days and use it only when ideal wind conditions prevail. Next, get detail oriented. 

2. Time to Visit the Greenhouse

When you start mulling new trees for your yard, you visit the local landscaping greenhouse. To find the ideal location for a stand or blind, you also need to visit the greenhouse, i.e., your hunting property.

You can easily begin the search for an ambush location at home using your hunting app. When I fire up my HuntStand hunting app, I immediately search for edges, pinch points (funnels) and other terrain, or manmade features that direct deer to a specific area. After noting a handful of these possibilities, it is time for boots on the ground since even the best hunting apps do not provide the details required to pick the perfect location.

With a treestand, you need a stout hunting partner. Nix skinny trees unless that is the only game in town. Mature trees offer more than just a stable foundation to withstand swaying winds. They typically have the character of brawny limbs and a heavy canopy. Tallied together, these features help you disappear in the maze of bark and leaves. If luck follows you, your candidate may be an oak that casts a net of acorns, also adding to the attractiveness of a location.

For ground blinds, seek out x-marks-the-spot positioning defined by brush, deadfalls, rocky nooks or knolls that provide an obstruction when viewed from a trail. By submerging a blind in a tangle of brush or dead limbs, or tucking it behind a terrain obstruction, it provides blending that can be accentuated by adding additional vegetation around the blind. 

3. How Far Is Too Far?

While simultaneously choosing the right tree or nook to stake a blind, keep distance in mind. Some of you might be launching at practice targets beyond 100 yards, but even so, few reasons exist to set up shots beyond 40 yards. The average whitetail shot is still approximately 20 yards. That distance is doable even with an overload of adrenaline rocking the boat. 

The right distance equals a range you feel comfortable shooting, yet not too close whereas you unintentionally reveal your game plan. Ten yards and less puts you right in the zone of any whitetail’s ADT security system. Even if you are in a tree, whitetails are apt to catch movement with their high degree of visual scanning noted above. For treestands, consider trees approximately 15 to 20 yards off a major travel route. Although you are still close, being off the trail and waiting for a quartering-away shot provides you with additional indiscernibility from deer with a focus forward toward their next step. 

Ground blind hunters need to heed this same advice. Even if you have a blind hidden better than a politician’s true motives, setting up off the trail and having your main shooting lane covering a suspected quartering-away shot increases the odds of your ruse. Savvy ground blind hunters already sit far back in the corner of their blinds to allow blackness to veil their draw. Even so, you could make slight noise while drawing the bow or adjusting to make a perfect shot. Any slight noise will cause deer to flee or worse yet, set them up to jump the string. Farther away decreases sound, especially when muffled inside a blind.

4. Peek-A-Boo From Your Position

Take this next piece of advice for what it is worth depending on your tree and associated forest inventory. Consider setting up your treestand on the backside of a tree instead of squarely in the front. This gives you the trunk of the tree to utilize as a visual obstruction while maneuvering for a shot. You can use the trunk to block a deer’s view as you draw, and if you set up in a timber setting with several trees between you and the shooting lane, you have several eye-blocking opportunities to draw as deer pass behind other tree trunks. 

I rarely sit after I spot a deer approaching. The urges of the rut cause deer to abandon a trail on a whim, and standing gives me the ability to slowly rotate in the stand, possibly cloak myself behind the trunk and be prepared when the deer presents a new shot opportunity. With a treestand hung out front, it increases the odds of being detected as you move for the shot. 

Those same tree trunks that give you draw cover from above work when hunting eye-to-eye with whitetails. You may have every aspect of your ground blind accounted for, including sitting in a corner and only opening one window for the shot, but having a deer pass behind a trunk blinds them for the second you need to draw. Remember, too many windows open in any blind allows wind to disperse your scent greater and illuminates the inside of your blind in a revealing manner.

Hanging a stand in a lone tree isn’t ideal for concealment. If you must, then be sure to climb at least 20 feet.
Hanging a stand in a lone tree isn’t ideal for concealment. If you must, then be sure to climb at least 20 feet.

5. High Enough, But No Oxygen Required

Do you still discover treestand archeology from the past? You know, those treestands that you can slide your lunch onto the platform while standing on the ground and the whole assembly is supported by aging 2x4s hammered into bark. 

Think modern for treestands and consider placing them at a height just above the average whitetail’s curiosity zone. That is advantage No. 1. Next, your view is usually better giving you a few seconds headstart to prepare for a shot. Adding to the advantages is the fact elevation places your scent in a stream slipping high and away. Even if your scent does eventually pool down to deer level, it will likely be hundreds of yards away and not to surrounding deer underfoot. Finally, being higher places you in a zone where more branches could act as concealment.

How high should you go? We’re not talking Colorado cannabis, but for feet, consider approximately 20 feet. I rarely climb higher than 25 feet.  

Remember that the higher you go, the steeper the shot angle. Moving your stand away from the shooting lane, noted earlier, aids in overcoming that, plus aiming to hit the first lung high so the far lung exit route is low for great blood trailing. Also keep in mind that stands placed on steep hillsides could put you eyeball to eyeball with deer traveling on your elevation level despite your concealment efforts.

The author with a mature buck shot from a well-concealed hang-on treestand.
The author with a mature buck shot from a well-concealed hang-on treestand.

6. Keep Your Camouflage Content

Lastly, make sure your camouflage hunting attire has company. Leave plenty of vegetation for it to blend with; don’t saw or prune foolishly. By trimming more vegetation, you open additional shooting opportunities. That said, your inner landscape designer creates the possibility of deer spotting movement at treestand or ground blind level with the added exposure. 

You need to ensure no stray limbs, twigs or branches have arrow deflecting opportunities. Trim prudently keeping in mind that as fall progresses, leaves will be dropping by the minute. Natural foliage aids in you disappearing into the backdrop, and any breeze causes the dry foliage to provide background din that also helps in masking your movement. 

One of my favorite treestands sits along a dry creek bed in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The hang-on style treestand vanishes in the jumble of gnarly limbs of an ancient oak likely having a centennial birthday any day. Bucks and does follow the edge of the creek bed, and one foggy morning I watched a behemoth of buck materialize from the foggy bottom. He approached my backside, and the massive trunk of the oak gave me cover to grab my bow from the hanger and pivot for a shot.

After he paused to pummel shrubbery, the scent of Golden Estrus I placed on a wick predawn grabbed his attention. The shot was as steep as any I had taken, but it was still only 20 yards and I watched him collapse into the wetland cover 60 yards away. Luck came together that foggy morning, but the proper setup of the treestand added another win to my hide-and-seek bowhunting career. 

Sidebar: Range Ready

As you place treestands and blinds, remember to add your rangefinder to your gear list to bring along. I always carry a laser rangefinder. It helps me while contemplating hideout positions and how far the anticipated shot will be, but I also use it to pre-range all shooting lanes. Obviously, pre-range anticipated shots, but look over the scenario closely and range shots that may occur farther out. 

In open situations, I often set logs, rocks or even hunting property junk down a shooting lane to mark pre-ranged distances. If the environment is a bit more cluttered, I have used surveyor’s tape or flags to mark the distances. Regardless, set up a system so you always start with 10 or 20 yards and work outward in 10-yard increments.

When encounters unravel fast, you may not have time to pick up your rangefinder, but with a glance you will have your distance in the ballpark by viewing your yardage markers.

Photos by Mark Kayser


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