By Cody Altizer
There will always be a hunt or two each season that will drastically change your outlook on hunting, and provide you with insight or intelligence that can make you a better hunter moving forward. It can be something tangible, like watching a mature buck sneak past you using a terrain feature you overlooked in your scouting. Or it could be something more emotional, like watching a loved one harvest their first deer and being reminded why you hunt in the first place.
In 2008 I had one of those experiences that would fall more in the tangible category. It was late October, and a brilliantly overcast and damp afternoon bow hunt found me sitting less than 100 yards off of a food plot in an old homemade ground blind (at the time, this was my most familiar hunting strategy). I watched, helplessly mind you, as deer after deer entered the food plot from a direction that I had never seen them access the food plot before. Obviously, I was handcuffed for that specific hunt, but a more concerning realization set it soon after; those deer seemed very comfortable and relaxed using that trail, but I couldn’t do anything about it. Why couldn’t I do anything about it, you ask? Because I had zero tools at my disposal in which to move in on those deer and hunt them. I realized that day I needed to become more mobile, stop hunting off the ground, and get up in the air. Since then, my success level has increased exponentially.
Since the 2008 season I can count on my hands the number of times I have hunted from the ground, and I’ve learned a lot about treestand placement and strategies along the way. This weekend, in fact, I’ll be hanging 8 different tree stands in preparation for the 2013 season. In this blog post, I’m going to highlight some treestand hanging tips to make sure your stands are hung safely, securely, and in the right places so you’ll be ready to rock and roll come hunting season.
Hang Them Early
You might be thinking, “Dude, it’s only May. Why in the world are you hanging treestands now? You should be turkey hunting!” Well, since I couldn’t call in a turkey if my life depended on it, I figured my time is better spent preparing for the upcoming whitetail season. However, the primary reason I hang my stands this early in the year is because I am the biggest stickler in the hunting world when it comes to putting unnecessary pressure on deer. By hanging them early I give the deer plenty of time to get accustomed to their presence, settle down after any disturbance I may cause in the area (trimming shooting lanes, leaving scent, etc.), and accept the stand as part of the natural environment. Hanging tree stands can also be hard work, and I’d rather hang them this time of year when the temperature is in the 70s with little humidity and without fear of bees and snakes as opposed to waiting until later in the summer when all risks become very real realities.
Further, by hanging them early, you can take your time while hanging them. This allows you to be safer, and pay more attention to detail. The cooler weather allows you to keep your wits about you and exhaust every measure needed to make that stand successful. You can take your time trimming lanes and making sure the stand is completely safe before moving on to the next one.
Find a Buddy
Like I said earlier, hanging tree stands can be tough work, especially all by your lonesome. It can also take significantly longer when you hang them by yourself as well. It’s for that reason alone, that whenever possible, my brother and I hang our stands together, even during the hunting season. I would rather get them hung quickly and safely with two people in the area, than having one person slave away going up and down the tree multiple times while stinking up the stand location.
My brother and I have a pretty efficient system, and it’s by no means complicated. Simply, I’ll start with a climbing stick at the bottom, and he’ll toss me the rest of the sticks while I shimmy up the tree always locked in with my linesman’s belt. Once all the sticks are hung, he tosses me the hoist rope attached to the treestand, and I hang the stand. Next, he tosses me the trees strap, and I then lock myself into the tree, while he tosses up the bow hangers, and gear hooks. I then point out branches and trees that need to be trimmed, and while he clears shooting lanes, I make sure the tree is prepared. I then shimmy back down the tree and that stand is hung, fully prepared with hangers, hooks, tree straps, and ready to hunt, while the surrounding area is completely trimmed and cleaned. Depending on the tree, this process now takes around 30 minutes, not because we rush through it, but because we’re familiar with it and know what to expect from one another. Finally, and most importantly, having a buddy there to help can be the difference between life and death should an accident occur. Safety should always come first when hanging tree stands.
Take a Notebook and Compass
This is actually something that I am going to start doing this season, and I will use the two hand in hand. Here’s why. In the past when I got to a spot I wanted to hang a stand, I would guesstimate what winds I could hunt that particular stand with. I would think to myself, “Well, I can definitely do this with a West and North West, probably a North too. We’ll see.” In short, I was leaving a lot to chance, and often times what I thought would be due west would be south-south west, and where I hunt such a slight directional change can make or break your hunt. Beginning this year I’ll take my compass (iPhone compass, that is) so I will know the exact directions in which I can hunt that stand. Further, I’ll log these coordinates into my notebook, as well as any other noteworthy information I want to chronicle about that stand location. I’m excited to see the difference it will make.
Be Aware of Your “Scent Print”
If you’ve read just one of my posts here on W2H over the last year, you know how paranoid I am about spooking deer and putting pressure on the local whitetails. I’m fully confident that I could drop in a shameless segment on scent control and limiting human pressure even while writing about something as irrelevant as washing your car! Nevertheless, it’s a topic that I always feel should be addressed and discussed when talking hunting strategy. Even though I hang my stands earlier than most, I still play close attention to my “scent print” to make sure I leave as little evidence as possible of my existence at the stand site. This means wearing rubber boots, rubber gloves, a long sleeve shirt (regardless of the temperature) and spraying down completely with scent eliminator before hanging each set. I also like to spray down the bottom two sets of sticks with scent eliminator once I’ve finished hanging the set as well. You can never be too careful! Also, if possible, hang your stands on a high-pressure day so whatever scent you do leave behind will evaporate more quickly. Hanging your stands just prior to a rain shower is ideal.
It may be May still, but I believe it’s never too early to hang stands. There are several advantages to hanging your stands early that may seem unimportant now, but can pay huge dividends come fall. Still, if you follow these tips whenever you hang your stands, I feel very confident in saying that you are greatly increasing your level of potential success. And remember, ALWAYS WEAR A SAFETY HARNESS!
By Cody Altizer, CodyAltizerPhotography.com