By Chris Eberhart

As luck would have it I gained access to three small tracts of land to hunt this week, the week before the Michigan bow season opener.  The three areas total thirty acres. Gaining permission was mostly luck, but also the result of my endless search for hunting access. One of the tracts changed owners this summer, and the other two disallowed previous hunters in my favor.  Wanting to get the properties set up as expediently as possible I rushed out and scouted each thoroughly.  Since each piece had been hunted the first thing I did was take a look around for previous stand set-ups.  This is often great information on a new piece of property.  Other guys may have been hunting them for years and picked up on not so obvious deer movement patterns.  Looking at the other guys stands did reveal some great spots, but even more obvious was just how dismally prepared their spots were.  This is a common situation I run into all the time. Most guys pick great spots, but their setups simply suck. By this I mean for instance that in one spot four runways cross close to one of the trees, but that guy only had a shot to one runway. So what happens to all the other deer that pass through? And what if the buck of a lifetime crosses on the wrong runway?  The problem is that most guys don’t seem to put as much thought into their actual stand set-up as they do in their stand position.  Being set up to take advantage of that position is critical and takes time and a lot of work.

The mere work of clearing out eight trees on my new properties took me almost twenty-four hours of hard work, and this doesn’t include the footwork and internet study to find the actual spots.  Thinking about the time I put in brought me to the topic of proper tree prep.

Tree Prep – Sweat the Details

Proper tree prep isn’t covered much in outdoor media. In fact, the subject is probably considered boring and overdone. And what could be easier than slapping a couple of climbing sticks, and treestand on a tree, or a ladder stand can be propped up in mere minutes. Snip a few branched for a shooting lane and you’re done, right? Sure if that is how you want to hunt fine.  But if you want to regularly get opportunities at mature bucks there is a lot more to it. On average prepping a tree takes me about three hours, depending on how complicated the situation and how much trimming has to be done.

I hunt out of a Tree Saddle and prepping trees means running steps, or climbing sticks up a tree, placing steps around the top to stand on, setting up the saddle, and then clearing shooting lanes to every runway 360 degrees around the tree. But that’s not all. A big chunk of work is done on the ground. Shooting lanes are a lot of work, but blocking and opening various runways to funnel deer past my tree takes a ton of time, and planning and sometimes clearing an entry and exit route as well. This is a lot of work, but once finished a tree is set up for virtually as long as you have permission to hunt a property.

I will spare a few details here, but if you aren’t spending at least a couple hours on each tree you set up, you are probably skimping somewhere. (I cover tree prep in extreme detail in my book Bowhunting Whitetails the Eberhart Way.) Not sweating the details and getting everything perfect will end up costing you in the long run. I can say from experience that mature bucks often come from unexpected directions, and when they do – you have to be ready. The extra hours of work will be worth it.

– Chris Eberhart,

If you want more great whitetail hunting information like this, check out Chris’ latest book, Bowhunting Whitetails The  Eberhart Way