I hate moving a tree stand during the hunting season.
And no, it’s not the work, the sweat, or even the lost hunting time that I mind most.
Sometimes re-hanging a stand right in prime time is a necessary evil for deer hunters.
When I move a tree stand in season, the existential reality is that it almost always cascades a negative, disrupting effect on the local whitetails … exactly those deer that I hope to superimpose with my pins or crosshairs.
Like many deer hunters, I have a number of tree stands, some are hang-ons, others are ladder stands and they each are placed in a favored trees on various hunting properties for a variety of tactical and strategic reasons.
Most are in prime movement zones, between the local whitetail’s food and cover. Others key on rut sign, placed near perennial scrapes and licking branch setups, tight for bow hunting. And still others are more observation stands, often near field edges and inside corners, rifle stands where we can reach way out. And most have a figurative if not literal notch in their belt.
But all these tree stands have one thing in common. They have been placed at the very least, weeks before the deer season opens so that they have a chance to season, lose their artificial man smell and become one with the whitetail’s world.
I like to look at tree stands as needing seasoning, or age in a location to perform optimally.
Whitetails, especially the older bucks and does, take particular notice to any disruption at all in their favored environs.
This behavioral characteristic of the whitetail is very evident to anyone experienced with moving trail cams. Deer get used to our cameras after a while, obviously feeling it’s placement if not copacetic, is at least not a direct threat. When our cameras are first hung, we invariably get those deer nose or antlers that look like trees pictures.
I remember a few years ago a 12-point buck got caught in the act of scent-checking the tree I had shinnied up to bend down an overhanging branch for a licking-branch setup.
So when a brand new tree stand, or ladder, climbing sticks, etc. are fresh out of the box and hung on a tree, they are in effect, a danger signal to all whitetails.
That’s why I try as soon as possible, the moment I get home with a new stand or ladder, whatever, to get it out of the box and in the woods ASAP, even if it is just resting on the ground against a tree next to camp until I can hang it. In that way the chemicals, the scent molecules, the newness if you will, wear off and the stand itself becomes more acceptable to whitetails that flare their nostrils and stamp their front hooves at the slightest change in their world.
Preferably, (though it might seem a bit over the top), I even like to keep stands in the same woodlot, or hunting area, if possible, because the ambient scents there are differ.
Stands to reason that a woodlot near town has a different odor than one back in the woods a mile or so. By keeping stands in the same woods, they seem to season or detox at a quicker rate, becoming more satisfactory to Mr. and Mrs. Whitetail. Same with trail cameras for that matter.
But due to circumstances in our ever-changing woodlots and forests, the stand has to be moved immediately.
Sometimes a tree stand has to be moved for negative reasons, such as the owners of the land, or adjacent land decide to put an access road, or bulldozed hiking trail next to the stand. Obviously, the stand has to be pulled. Other less obvious reasons for changing the location of a tree stand is the change in a food source, whether natural or manmade, from crop fields being picked or plowed to an early apple drop.
And then our light bulb goes on, and we say to ourselves, “I’ve got to pull this stand,” no matter how productive it has been in the past.
And then there are the positive reasons for relocating a stand such as the wonderful discovery of a cluster of oak trees, loaded with acorns, evident by the fresh caps littering the ground and new rubs and scrapes, popping up, big tracks, and deer droppings all around.
Some new spots just beg for a stand … so we have to sacrifice. Another tree stand has to be pulled from somewhere else because we can only buy so many tree stands (smile here.)
Oak Duke writes a weekly column appearing on the Outdoors page.