Although we are technically in the off-season of deer hunting, for many of us hunting is a year round pursuit. To make sure we’re all staying up on our off-season tasks, I thought I would highlight a variety of important work that needs to be attended to in the months leading up to the fall and the crisp mornings of hunting season!

Today I thought we would cover the simple, yet important task of trimming shooting lanes and clearing out trees for your tree stands. Now is the perfect time to visit your old stands and do clean up work or put in totally new stand locations. What else could be more fun on a 90 degree day with swarms of mosquitos attacking your every inch of skin? Haha.

Trimming Up Existing Stand Locations

If you are attending to already hung tree stands, don’t forget to consider the new growth that can come up since last fall. The last thing you want to do is head to an old stand on opening day and find a freshly grown branch of oak leaves in your face. Check all of your existing stand locations and trim out new growth, keeping in mind the balance between good shooting lanes and maintaining adequate cover. Obviously you want clear lanes to move your bow/gun and eventually see and shoot a deer through. But at the same time you need to keep enough branches, leaves, etc surrounding you in the stand to break up your outline and keep you hidden. Having a great view of a deer won’t help at all if he is looking right back at you!

Try cutting the minimum amount to give yourself a good shooting lane or two in each direction, keeping as much cover as possible without severely hindering your movement and shooting options. Even when cutting lanes in the summer, you may still want to arrive to your stand in the fall prepared to trim a few bits of new growth. Bring a pair of pruners or a hand saw just in case.

Shooting Lane Considerations for New Stand Locations

Cutting shooting lanes is just important when putting in a new stand, but new variables must be considered.

When choosing a new stand location, keep shooting lanes in mind even before selecting a tree for your set-up. The ideal tree is one that provides ease of movement and many shooting lanes naturally, while also having enough cover and a good backdrop. Keep your eyes out for these types of trees and it will make your work cutting lanes much quicker. Once you have an ideal tree selected, sit in your stand and consider the expected travel patterns of deer in this area. Try and clear at least one lane in each direction that you expect to see deer coming from. Keep in mind the same need for balance between creating good lanes and maintaining adequate cover. A good practice is to cut lanes with a buddy. One of you should sit in the treestand, while pointing out limbs and trees that need to be cut to your buddy on the ground.

Disguise Sign of Your Work

Another thought to keep in mind when trimming shooting lanes, especially if you are cutting trees/limbs on the ground is the process of disguising your lanes. For many people who hunt public land, you don’t really want other people to know where your hunting locations are. Freshly cut limbs and trunks are tell-tale signs of another hunter, so try to keep this type of sign to as minimal a level as possible. Keep this in mind as well for any last minute trimming you might be doing close to or during the season. Big mature bucks are likely to notice obvious human sign such as this, so don’t make it any more noticeable than necessary.

Ideally, cut your lanes and adjust stand set-ups as far in advance of the season as possible. The more time you can give deer to adjust to your presence and work, the better. Your trimming and cutting can be much more substantial the earlier in the season you begin as well. When making last minute adjustments, make as few changes as you can while still opening up decent lanes.

If you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the house and put in some work towards knocking down a monster buck, getting out to cut shooting lanes is a great option. Whether trimming out an old stand or putting in a new set-up, having adequate shooting lanes will be of utmost importance. Getting a great deer into range is a huge accomplishment, so don’t be caught unprepared when the moment arrives. Hunting mature whitetails is all in the details and shooting lanes are a detail you can not afford to forget.

Now these are all pretty high level ideas about trimming our shooting lanes. That being said, I’m sure some of you have some interesting tricks or ideas that you’ve picked up on when cutting your own lanes. If you have any good suggestions, please share them with the rest of us!