“MUSICAL CHAIRS VS. DIGGIN A HOLE….TREESTAND STRATEGIES”
By Darrin Bradley
With hundreds of thousands of whitetail hunters across the nation, each and every whitetail hunter has some uniqueness regarding their pursuit of trophy whitetail bucks. All whitetail enthusiasts hunt trophy whitetail bucks, but we all have different approaches to a certain degree or another. Two strategies the whitetail hunter may employ include “Musical Chairs’, or “Diggin a Hole”.
“Musical Chairs” is a strategy wherein the whitetail hunter has a variety of tree stand setups from which he or she believes to be an ambush site a trophy buck may be harvested from. This hunter rotates from stand to stand never really hunting the same stand twice in a row.
“Diggin a Hole” is a strategy wherein a hunter believes a trophy whitetail has been patterned. The hunter has hung a tree stand site and continues to sit the same location repeatedly waiting for the trophy whitetail buck to stroll past the setup at which time the hunter will attempt to harvest the animal.
The question is what are the positives and negatives of each strategy and which strategy is recommended for today’s trophy whitetail hunter to harvest the buck of a lifetime?
“Diggin a Hole” presents more disadvantages to today trophy whitetail hunter but may be the only option a hunter has if they are severely limited to the amount of ground they can access. Obviously if you can only access 5 acres for hunting and on the 5 acres there is one draw then the hunter is handicapped or forced to having to hunt the same treestand over and over. Simply put, if its all you’ve got to hunt or your physical limitations prevent you from alternating to fresh locations then you don’t have much of a choice. You have to “Dig a Hole” and continue to sit in the same location waiting until a trophy buck happens to travel within weapon range of your position. Over the course of 7 years I personally performed a study entitled “Continuous Treestand Hunting”. My results showed that when a hunter positions himself in the same exact treestand more than three times in a row his or her odds of even seeing a deer decreases by 76%. Therefore as you might guess I’m no big fan of hunting the same tree stand over and over relentlessly. Each time you hunt an area you educate deer visually by entrance and exit. You educate deer auditorially upon entrance and exit. Each time you hunt an area whether you realize it or not even if you make it to the treestand undetected deer are certain to see you in the tree stand at some point and begin to “skirt” the tree stand area in an effort to avoid danger. Biggest of all each time you hunt a tree stand you leave molecules of human scent entering, exiting, and while on stand which sooner or later prevents deer or at least minimizes deer activity in the area. Especially trophy bucks. Trophy bucks don’t put up with much pressure before finding a new core area even if their move to another core area is just a couple hundred yards away from your position.
About the only time I “Dig a Hole” or continue to hunt the same tree stand repeatedly is when that ambush site is in a topographical advantage and then most often times I still won’t do it. For example if the hunter is lucky enough to discover a double or triple funnel accompanied by still maybe other topographical advantages deer are simply going to use it during the rut. Plain and simple bucks are gonna chase does through topographical advantages sooner or later. The philosophy of some modern day whitetail trophy hunters is to find a funnel, and sit it out until they get a shot. Due to the fact whitetail bucks travel up to nine miles during the rut in a single day any hunter who sits in a topographical advantage stands a chance to shoot a trophy whitetail. Continuously hunting the same tree stand over and over most often is the result of one of a few things.
#1. Laziness: The hunter has found a tree stand setup close to the truck and this hunter doesn’t desire to scout out new positions. This stand is simply the closest stand to the truck and his or her ability to go jump into after work each day is much easier than taking the weekend to find fresh stand sites. Laziness will diminish your odds of success in the whitetail world.
#2. The second reason the hunter continues to hunt the same stand over and over is due to the fact they keep seeing a trophy buck near the tree stand site. However obviously if they continue to hunt the same stand over and over they are not being successful in his harvest. Most often times this means the trophy buck is watching you walk in and skirting the area. Many times I have watched fields and seen trophy deer. I hunt a stand and every time I went in to hunt the tree stand I did not see the trophy buck. Then I would watch the area from behind a bush or from the truck and the animal would walk out right past the stand. Then I would return to fail again from that site. This means the animal is watching you walk in. Find another way to access the setup or pay the price again and again.
#3. Its the only location the hunter has to hunt. If this is the case continue to approach landowners until you can find a backup stand to hunt.
“Diggin a Hole” will almost always result in failure especially the longer it goes on. The more times you visit that site and don’t harvest a trophy whitetail deer the more times you continue to educate the animal you hunt.
Now that we’ve established that using multiple tree stand sites is the best strategy lets discuss how to implement the multiple tree stand setup strategy. Typically today’s whitetail hunter books one or two outfitted hunts a year but then also has a tract of ground he or she hunts in his or her homestate through leasing or simple permission to hunt from a local landowner. We will cover the different setups for the hunter is setting up stands on their leased tract as with an outfitter the stands should already be setup. A variety of setups are needed to be successful thus today’s whitetail hunter really needs a half a dozen setups or so to choose from. These should include food source ambush sites, routes between the bed area and foodsource, a bed area setup, and consideration of each and every topographical advantage point located on the farm, as well as miscellaneous tree stands in spots where trophy bucks are being sighted.
The beginning is obtainment of a quality aerial photograph. Aerial photographs are the whitetail deer hunter’s best friend and must be utilized for maximum success. IMB Outfitters chooses to use “myultimatemap.com” wherein any aerial in the United States of America can be obtained and printed from a home computer, however “Google Earth” is also a fantastic resource. The problem we have found with “Google Earth” is that icons to represent stand setups are so large they cover too much of the aerial and often times cannot be utilized as easily as “myultimatemap.com” For those that are not computer literate each county seat has an Agricultural Office wherein aerials of property can be purchased for about one dollar a page. Aerials can easily tell you where funnels and other topographical advantages lie. For information on different types of topographical advantages seek them out on IMB Outfitters Hunt Story Page with entitled articles about topographical advantages.
Of course scouting needs to take place. A great time to scout is in the late winter months when foliage is not present and obvious deer trails and travel routes can be seen as well as rubs, scrapes, etc. One of the first stands I hang is the bed area stand. This will be found in the densest cover the property offers and normally when looking at an aerial photograph these aerials are the locations wherein the darkest deposits of ink are found on the aerial photograph itself. Normally I hang two bed area stands. One on the North end and one on the South end so I can hunt in the morning no matter what the wind might be. Also this is a stand I never hunt in the evening in fear of spooking bedded deer onto the neighbors ground. Deer will simply not tolerate being spooked from bed areas too many times without leaving your area. Bed area hunts should occur in the morning and hunters should be on stand a good one hour before daylight.
Next I study the aerial photograph and locate all topographical advantages. Funnels, spider webs, log roads, inside L’s, low spots, ridge ramps, etc. I will literally hang a stand in every single topographical advantage so that I may alternate stands during the rut as not to over hunt any one tree stand. This can lead to a mandated purchase of up to a half a dozen treestands if your property is a small one. These are the most productive of the stands you will hang and must be placed.
From this point the hunter should have the stands hung inside the timber and leave them alone completely. Tree stands you are going to hunt should never be scouted from. Never and I mean never scout from a tree stand you plan on hunting from. Deer will pattern you no matter how good you may think you are or how advanced you believe your abilities are. As aforementioned now all the tree stands in the timber are hung and should be left alone completely. Don’t go in looking for sheds, or showing your friends, or for that matter even hanging cameras,. Stay out and leave the wooded area alone. If your state allows it you will want to put out salt licks and the best product available is manufactured by Evolved Habitats entitled,
Its now time to concentrate on hanging tree stands alone field edges and food sources. The whitetail hunter can count on deer entering mainly from the corners of agricultural fields. Deer enter from corners because when doing so they can take a look at the whole field without having to look around the field in many different directions for predators. Deer love to enter from corners. If you don’t believe it then take a stroll around the property and you will discover your main entrance trails into agricultural fields are in the corners, or in an area that I call a low spot. A low spot is a location on an agricultural field wherein an area lays 2 to 4 feet beneath the common field elevation. Deer feed from low spots so that they are not spotted during hours of feeding. The only two ways to know where to hang stands on a food source or field’s edge is to locate trails leading into the field or taking the time to watch the food source from long distances with high quality optics. To be successful you will need to take evenings in the summer afterwork and rush out to the farm and watch the fields in an effort to locate trophy animals in an attempt to pattern them.
If your budget allows it the whitetail deer hunter needs to purchase infrared cameras. After using many types of infrared cameras in my hunt outfitter business we have found Stealth Cam Infrared Cameras to be superior to all other companies and models. We recommend hanging infrared cameras on scrapes, rublines, and trails leading to and around the foodsource. While infrared cameras don’t tell the whole story they sure are fun and can educate the hunter to bucks in the area that they previously did not know they are there. Still my suggestion is visual observations with high quality Nikon Optics afterwork in the evenings. You must keep an eye on your area to be successful. Anything less is simply sloppy, especially for the modern day archery hunter.
In conclusion, the average whitetail deer hunter needs to book a hunt or two with a credible outfitter as well as obtain a piece of ground in his or her own area to hunt. These areas don’t need to be vast amounts of acreage. I’ve seen 60 to 80 acre tracts produce monster bucks if they lay in the right location and are being fed by neighboring land tracts by funnels, draws, and woodlots. Still though if you live in a state that doesn’t hold big monster whitetail bucks you can’t expect many encounters with mature whitetails. That’s where hunting outfitters like IMB Outfitters come into play. Cover bed areas, topographical advantages, foodsources, and locations where you are repeatedly spotting a mature deer with a fleet of stands backed by steady surveillance, only after using a quality aerial photograph. If you will do those things you will begin to put big deer on the wall, however the main thing is putting tons of time in the stand. I used to have a job that mandated many hours of work per week. It minimized my hunting. After I graduated college I obtained a job that was less demanding, and I was able to spend more time in the woods pursuing big deer. That’s when I put big deer on the wall. I cannot stress enough that if you live in a state that doesn’t hold big deer that you must utilize credible outfitters do get the job done. That’s where IMB Outfitters seen at www.imbmonsterbucks.com comes into play.