Make the Most of Your Whitetail Stands

Not all whitetail stands — ground blinds and treestands — are created equal. Now is the time to review past deer hunts to optimize the plan for your next sit.

Make the Most of Your Whitetail Stands

Having cut my whitetail bowhunting teeth in cottonwood country, I’m fully aware of the twisted-tree syndrome. Why cottonwood trees always grow at angles in a crooked fashion is one of Mother Nature’s cruel pranks. Unlike the cool, refreshing sip of a Twisted Tea, a twisted tree leaves you frustrated, and perhaps with an ensuing backache. It’s a chiropractor’s dream. 

Of course, the “only” location for a successful ambush includes a twisted tree in the “exact” spot you’ve scouted out. As you gaze upwards, your mind is working more angles than a high school geometry teacher tutoring a student barely holding on to a “D” grade. Next is the climb that can be as dangerous as any while you adjust your safety line more than a dozen times to accommodate every bend and curve during the ascent.

Once you land at the ideal limb level, it’s guaranteed the tree will be leaning one way or another, but hopefully not forward. Some stands can accommodate those slight slants, but do they ever level just perfectly? Finally, you sit down, and as suspected, the stand isn’t level, it’s leaning a tad forward. Already sweating like a Peloton peddler, with a frustrated shrug, you decide it’s good enough and put the distorted seat out of your mind until autumn.

On a cottonwood river-bottom I hunted several years ago, I spent nearly 10 hours in a contorted sit. It was less comfortable than sitting on a splintered fence post with bent nails. Luckily, at dusk, a buck emerged on an adjacent edge prompting me to stand in preparation for a shot and give my butt a reprieve. I nudged the buck onto a trail junction in my direction with a soft grunt. When the buck hit the mist of Golden Estrus scent I had left hours before, it was all I needed to settle the pin for a 12-yard shot. Faster than a fireman down a pole, I was on the way back to camp for an ibuprofen remedy.

There are many potential answers to treestand troubles: you could purchase a stand designed for adjustability such as the Summit Featherweight Switch Hang-On stand, scout for the straightest tree, and/or go straight to plan B: stake a ground blind early and brush it in. But as you will see, these tactics come with their own downfalls without proper planning.


Scrunched in a Blind

Who are these ground blind designers anyway? Were they the munchkin extras from The Wizard of Oz? Much of my complaining about ground blinds comes from sharing the limited space with a camera person to film a whitetail hunt.

Scrunched and cornered leaves you and the camera operator with one window each for entirely different views. Without some divine intervention, it’s questionable whether you both will have a clear view of a whitetail when it passes within bow range. Partner aside, the confined spaces mean you could accidentally bump the ceiling as you draw, or catch the front of your blind with a razor-sharp broadhead even before the draw. With a mechanical broadhead, a slight nudge could spell disaster and deploy a blade unnoticed. Watch that misguided missile careen into a tree crash or, worse yet, a wounding shot.

One of my most extreme sits in a ground blind occurred over several days while watching a small meadow. The only suitable place to stake the blind was on a swampy edge. That left my feet dangling in icy, semi-frozen sludge all day while hunched over like that Notre Dame dude from my mini-dome prison. The rut was in full swing, so all-day sits were in play. In between daydreams and handfuls of M&Ms, I’d peer out the window from the musty confines of the slough setup. One glance almost caused me to spit out my confectionery — a buck was checking a field edge scrape 30 yards away. Lifting my bow, I re-checked the arrow and my single-pin sight and then drew slowly. Adjusting my gaze back to the buck raised my frustration level. The buck was gone, and so was my candy after four days of sloppy misery. 

To avoid a trash-compactor hunt, shop for the roomiest blinds available. Models like the Primos Double Bull or the Summit Viper are large enough to dance in while remaining portable. Next, test before the hunt. Set it up and match the blind to the perfect chair. Move around, draw your bow and scatter gear about to ensure it’s ready without bumping anything. Toss the small stakes and purchase ample foundation materials to win any wind battle. Lastly, bring plenty of M&Ms.


Skyscraper Nosebleed

Have you ever peered out of the window of a 100-story skyscraper? It’s an eerie feeling and a sensation you sometimes experience in those ridiculously high treestands. Cloaking a camera person and merely hiding from upward gazing whitetails has prompted me to hang treestands higher and higher over the years.

Extreme everything arrives with extra height. First and foremost is safety. Hang a high treestand, especially in a curvy tree, and safety becomes your first concern. Take all precautions to guarantee safe ascents and descents while climbing like Jack and the Beanstalk, and bowhunting the clouds. Second is the weather. Your higher perch exposes you to more wind and possibly more inclement weather, depending on the surrounding canopy. Shakes, shivers and sopping wet conditions could shorten any hunt. Worse yet, it could cause you to miss your shot when you add chattering teeth to a case of buck fever. Review your cold weather clothing strategy and update it now if needed.

Right at the top of the list, however, is arrow trajectory. Steep angles change the path of your projectile. How big of change depends on the steepness of the angle and target distance. Utilize an angle-compensating rangefinder to confirm distances. I trust my Sig Sauer KILO1800BDX rangefinder, but I’m not trustworthy enough not to practice steep shooting angles at my pasture shooting range. Nearly all steep angles result in high hits unless you compensate with a lower aiming point. To trust in your rangefinder and your aiming point, you need to practice shooting the steep angles concurrently while ranging during summer sessions.

In the whitetail woods, I also add in a daily shot. I keep an arrow tipped with a Judo point stashed in my quiver. Under 30 yards, the flight is identical to my broadhead, and in the afternoons, I launch a test shot at a standout leaf. In the mornings, when I’m stiff from hours of sitting, I also take a practice shot before I climb down to test my strength and accuracy.

Summer is the time to minimize those extreme sits with appropriate planning. The preparation will hopefully make the sits only moderately intense while increasing your odds for success.


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