November 2013
Talkin' Huntin'

Climb to Reach Your Goals

Eight Guidelines for Treestand Success

  Most hunters feel you have some advantages in a tree stand over hunting from the ground - better sight, whitetails can’t see you as well and your human scent isn’t concentrated at the same level as a deer’s nose.

If you hunt whitetail, you probably own one or more tree stands. Whether you hunt with a bow or gun, more whitetail are tagged each year from a tree stand than by any other method. The type of tree stand you choose and how you use it will have a large impact on your success. Creating an effective ambush site may be more of an art than a science. Every setting is different and there aren’t any rules where there aren’t exceptions, but I’ve been lucky enough to have learned some general practices that lend a hand in most situations when placing a tree stand.

Nosebleed Territory

In most situations, you’re best to place your stand as high as you can without limiting your shot opportunities to a point. Anything above about 25 feet just doesn’t make sense. If you’re uncomfortable with heights, just go as high as you dare. Getting up the tree higher usually lets you see better, makes it more difficult for the deer to see you and, probably most prominently, your scent isn’t concentrated at their "nose level." If I had to pick a height, I would estimate most of my stands are 15 to 20 feet high - depending upon the tree and available cover.

Listen to the Breeze

Once you have your general area selected, pay heed to the wind and thermal current. I suggest mapping the wind direction each time you visit your locale and keep records. You want to remain downwind or crosswind of where you think the deer will be. That’s simple enough, but the wind currents also have a huge influence over when and where the deer will move. My first thought is: "Under what conditions will whitetail want to spend time here?" They aren’t going to spend a great deal of time in an area where they can’t use their nose efficiently. I want a buck to be comfortable with the site and the conditions before I decide on that location.

Be prepared in case they do swing downwind. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out they’ll do the opposite. I’m a big advocate of Wildlife Research Center’s Scent Killer system - I’ve seen these products fool a mature buck’s nose time and time again. It protects me from mistakes and from the unexpected. It’s not possible to be completely "scent-free" to a sense of smell as sophisticated as a whitetail’s; however, I am positive you can reduce odors to diminutive "trace levels" that even mature bucks will tolerate in close proximity. A simple way to put it is: if a buck does detect you, he thinks you’re 400 yards away rather than 40.


Look for trees that lose their foliage late like red oaks, or trees that never lose their cover like conifers. Using the available cover goes hand in hand with tree stand height - in bald trees, I’m likely to go higher than I do in trees with good cover. Search for clusters of trees or trees with a "Y" in the trunk to offer extra concealment. Do whatever you can to break up your human form.

The trend in tree stand sales is towards higher quality, more comfort and practical options. Customers are asking for powder-coated steel for no slip, adjustable shooting rails, leveling platforms, footrests, drink holders and even attachable lumbar supports like shown here.  

Make Your Site Comfortable

The older I get, the more a comfortable vantage point makes sense. I can recall years ago a few hunts in stands leaning at an angle so severe I couldn’t have shot because I would have fallen out of the tree if I had to let go of it. One extra that has turned into a necessity for me is a platform that can be leveled. Mine has 60 degrees of adjustable leveling allowing the platform and the seat to be parallel to the ground even in a crooked tree.

When the time comes to do one of those "all day sits," I want a relaxing vantage point with a large platform and plenty of room to move around. Comfort is my most important consideration when purchasing a tree stand. Heck, now you can even get lumbar supports for your back that attach to the tree - now that’s what I’m talking about!

Easy Access

If you have a great spot but alert every deer within 400 yards by making a commotion while climbing your stand - poof, there goes your good spot! Make it so you can climb to your stand easily. Use enough tree steps or climbing sticks so you can scale the tree easily, safely and quietly.

The older I get the more I warm up to ladder stands. I’ve heard the claim that ladder stands are easier to see, both by deer and people. I would tend to agree that ladder stands are more difficult to camouflage, which generally makes them easier to see. However, I believe you can be just as effective while hunting out of any type of tree stand as long as you create an effective ambush site and a ladder stand can be placed and concealed in some cases where a regular portable stand cannot and they’re very easy to climb.

Safety First

What tree stand piece would be complete without mentioning the safety harness? Do I really use one? Absolutely - always. Has it saved me? Maybe - maybe not, but it has enabled me to make some shots I probably wouldn’t have made without it. While wearing a safety strap, I feel comfortable enough to lean out away from the platform - this gives me a much larger window to shoot around brush and other obstacles.

Snip That Hanging Branch!

Prepare your site to make the shot. What good does it do if you have a great location and a buck walks right past you within range, but you’re unable to make the shot? Take the time to trim some shooting lanes or "windows" where you can sneak an arrow through.

On the other hand, a mature buck can notice a lot of cutting and things that are out of place. I always wear clean rubber boots and trapper’s gloves when trimming lanes to reduce scent transfer and I carefully pick up the trimmed branches and pile them off the potential travel routes.

Blinded by the Light

Determine where the sun will be when you want to hunt your site. Do you like to look into the sun? Neither does a deer. In fact, we have a UV filter over our eyes, a whitetail doesn’t. This makes it especially difficult for them to see while looking towards the sun. Wind direction and cover are more important, but if you have a choice, position yourself "up-sun" from where you think the deer will be.


Tree stands are undoubtedly the most efficient method of hunting whitetails that we have. Granted, a good ground-blind set up can be every bit as lethal, but if you use these basic tree stand placement thoughts you’ll without a doubt put yourself closer to whitetails.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations for Mossy Oak BioLogic, Editor-in-Chief of Gamekeepers, Farming for Wildlife magazine and a habitat consultant.