It's that time again. I'm starting to see tons of questions on forums and Facebook pages from people asking if 25' is high enough. The part that really gets me going is the answers these hunters are receiving from their peers. Like this one I saw just today to the previous question, "The higher the better." Really? You mean to tell me in every situation get as high as possible and that will increase my chances of killing a deer? Dumbest thing you've ever heard right? Probably not, but still pretty dumb. When you're asking questions from people online and they don't ask some questions in return, forget everything you hear. I'm going to cover some basics of where, how high, and what to look for when getting your stand hung for an early season sit.
Height is Relative
A few simple questions you must ask when trying to determine height of your stand is firstly, How good is my visibility? If you're in the middle of the thick stuff you'll need to be higher in order see down into it. If your tree canopy is low, and the ground is clear then there's no real reason to jack up 30' in the nearest pine tree. Your level of visibility and your ability to make a clean kill without mowing a ton of brand new trails and shooting lanes is key, especially when it comes to old weary bucks. The next question you must ask is, What is the layout of the land? Is your ground flat or are their some major topography lines running through your spot? If a deer was to come out 20 yards on the other side of the creek you're over looking you may need to be 25' up in your tree to get out of his direct line of site. Creeks, hills, and sloughs can make the height decision challenging.
Lots of different scenarios come into play when determining height. Get high enough to where you won't be the first thing they see. Stay low enough to keep from severely limiting your shot angle and kill zone to mere inches.
Cover is Absolute
You can be successful 1' off the ground or 20' off the ground. The trick is to use the natural cover to your advantage. Don't expect to see much if you're 15' in a pine tree on a ladder stand with a huge burlap wrap around it. "But I'm covered. They cant see me!" Right, but now you pitched a tent in the middle of their living room and expect them not to notice. I like to find forks, parallel trees or isolated branch growth to hide not only my stand but my entire silhouette. The fewer changes you make to the appearance of their natural environment the better off you'll be. Leave as many branches as possible around the platform of your stand, be it a climber or lock on. Rely on the natural cover already in place to mask your movement and only trim what is necessary to make your shot without bumping anything.
Ambush is Key
The deer are doing 2 things right now: Eating and Sleeping. If you want them to continue on that same pattern well into hunting season don't hunt right on top of either of the locations these 2 activities take place. Find them , and get in the middle. If you set up directly over your food plot, guess what they now associate to that food plot the first time you get winded? Danger. Now guess when they will stop coming to that food plot? Daytime. See you're getting the idea here. You definitely don't want this to happen with their bedding area since all other movement is based out of there. It's the place they feel most secure. Instead of putting an entire destination at risk, only put a single route at risk. Use your cameras and gps mapping info to find the route they're taking most and hunt that one! You'll want to make your best guest at wind direction that day and set up accordingly. If you get busted no big deal. They'll take a different route next time to the same food source. Adjust accordingly.
Lots of things to consider when setting up for early season. It's why many hunters can't seem to connect the dots until the big boys get love drunk. Use these tips to find early season success this year. Please remember to stay tied off the entire time you're off the ground. Be safe, and good luck!