TREESTAND PLACEMENT FOR MONSTER WHITETAIL BUCKS
by Darrin Bradley
Some things in life are guaranteed. Stand placement, for the purpose of intercepting mature whitetail bucks, is never a sure thing. I couldn’t begin to count the times I have set up a stand location, thinking a particular spot would offer an opportunity for harvest, which resulted in failure. I have also set up stand locations which consistently deliver each year. What makes one location superb while another is an absolute failure? This is one of the most popular questions surrounding trophy whitetail hunting today.
In an effort to address the topic of stand placement, I carefully reviewed my game diary. I calculated every imaginable statistic in an attempt to discover correlations of successful stand locations. My personal game diary contains over five years of data collected in the field while in pursuit of mature whitetail bucks. I composed a section in the diary which specifically contains stand location data. This section contains thorough records surrounding every location I have hunted for the past five years. For identification purposes, I give every stand location a name and tabulate a win/loss record for each. A win, or successful hunt, is a hunt in which I view deer from a stand location. A loss, or unsuccessful hunt, is a hunt in which I do not see deer from a stand location. I record the number of deer, and the number of Pope and Young bucks viewed from each location.
I have hunted 363 times from 155 different stand locations over the past five years. On the average, I hunt seventy two times from thirty-one different stand setups each season. I have been successful in harvesting several record book bucks, however, I have experienced more failure than success. Eighty five of the 155 stands, I have hunted from, produced more successful than unsuccessful hunts. I have viewed fifty-five Pope and Young bucks in my hunting career. Sixteen of the fifty-five animals were seen during preseason scouting. I do not utilize stand locations during preseason. I purposefully watch deer through high-power optics from long distances to prevent spooking them. No actual hunting stand is erected for harvesting purposes during preseason. As a result of my preseason scouting strategies, I am unable to utilize the sixteen preseason Pope and Young sightings in stand placement studies. The remaining thirty nine Pope and Young sightings occurred from only twenty-six of the 155 different stand setups. One hundred twenty nine stand setups were unsuccessful in producing record book buck sightings. Some stands produced multiple Pope and Young sightings. My mission is to study the twenty six trophy buck stands in an attempt to discover the similarities they share.
I have always suspected mature bucks travel to and from bedding areas in a different manner than other deer. My experience has led me to believe mature bucks leave the foodsource in route to bed areas earlier in the morning, and leave bed areas later in the afternoon in an attempt to utilize the darkness. Some book bucks are totally noctural. Based upon this theory, I have learned to hunt as close to the bedding area as possible without running the risk of alarming bedded deer. My studies reveal twenty-four of the twenty-six successful trophy buck stand locations (92%) were positioned within 150 yards of a bed area. Hot trophy setups are seldom far from bed areas.
Learn to utilize topographical advantages. Pay special attention to funnels, corners, bottlenecks, lowspots, ridgeramps, and shelves. Whitetails faithfully use these vantage points to avoid detection by predators while traveling the least restrictive route to a given area. Twenty-two of the twenty-six trophy buck stands (85%) were positioned in some type of topographical advantage. My research shows one should utilize corners when hunting fields. In the timber, funnels are your best bet.
For many years, I have been torn between devoting more time to stands inside the timber, or stands on the field. It’s always recreational to hunt on the edge of an agricultural field. Along a fields edge,you have a greater opportunity for viewing deer. My studies reveal stands positioned along field edges offer more deer sightings, however they offer less opportunities for placing yourself within bowrange of Pope and Young bucks. Fourteen of the twenty-six successful trophy stands were positioned on fields. These fourteen field stands produced twenty-seven Pope and Young sightings, however only four (14 percent) of the animals were in bowrange. Twelve of the twenty-six successful trophy stands were inside the timber. These twelve timber stands produced twelve Pope and
Young buck sightings. Eight (66%) of these animls were within bowrange. The bottomline is if you want to see bucks hunt in the field. If you want to kill bucks, hunt in the woods.
After careful review of the successful trophy stands, a correlation in foodsources was discovered. The nearest foodsource to seventeen of the twenty-six stands was corn. Five of the stands were located closest to clover. Four of the stands were positioned near beanfields. It is no conicidence that 65% of the trophy stands were positioned near cornfields. Only 42% of all 155 stand locations were positioned near a cornfield. Corn produces more heat for animals than any other grain or legume. Corn aids an animal in adding more fat prior to the winter than any other agricultural crop. Not only does corn offer more of a nutrional aid to animals striving to live through the hardships of winter, corn also serves as cover. A standing cornfield is literally a an unhuntable maze prior to harvest. Mature bucks are drawn to areas containing standing cornfields for defensive purposes. Bucks will relocate core areas to locations possessing standing corn. After harvest, the deer intially drawn to the area will remain faithfully until the rut or until the mature animals are forced out by hunting pressure or predators.
As spoken of earlier, I have composed a section in a personal game diary which addresses the topic of stand placement. In this section, I ranked my top ten stand locations. The locations are ranked in accordance to their success records. The following top ten list is based solely upon deer sightings, not Pope and Young sightings. The list is as follows:
Ranking Stand Name Successful Unsuccessful Foodsource Bed Area In 150 Yards Topo. Advantage
1. Brickhouse 8 0 Corn Yes Yes
2. Launch Pad 7 0 Clover Yes Yes
3. Slaughterhouse 7 0 Corn Yes Yes
4. Waterway Funnel 7 1 Corn Yes Yes
5. Gold Funnel 6 0 Acorns Yes Yes
6. Airstrip Ridge 6 1 Corn Yes Yes
7. Hadley’s Flatop 5 0 Corn Yes No
8. Inside “L” 5 1 Corn Yes Yes
9. Hadley Point 5 1 Corn Yes Yes
10. Log Road 4 0 Corn Yes Yes
Virtually the same pattern exists among these stands as well as sthe Pope and Young stands. Eighty percent of the stands are located closest to a cornfield. One hundred percent of these stands are located within 150 yards of a bed area. Ninety percent of these stands are positioned in a topographical advantage.
Early in my hunting career, I was discouraged when faced with hunting near a standing cornfield. I felt deer were bedded in the corn which left me helpless in the pursuit. I have devised a strategy I use prior to harvest, which I refer to as “Cornfield Acorn Hunting.” I scout the wooded perimeter of the standing cornfield in search of a colony of white oaks dropping acorns. I study the ground to see if deer are feeding there. I look for droppings and large rubs in the oak colony. After discovering the oak colonies, I setup stand locations, and hunt from them on a rotation. You might be amazed at what comes out of those standing cornfields.
On Columbus Day, 1998 I tied my bow to the suspended rope dangling from the most successful stand location I had ever positioned in my life. I climbed up the massive oak trunk, and my anticipation mounted. I fastened my safety belt, and sat down on the lonely portable stand to fantasize about big antlers. At first light, a buck worked his way out of the cornfield toward my direction. I quickly decided this was a buck I wanted to harvest when I viewed his mature rack. I launched an aluminum shaft his way. After I recovered the animal, I sat down on the forest floor beside him in amazement of the productivity of my stand location. The “Brickhouse” location had yielded 132 deer sightings, 10 buck sightings, and 30 shooting opportunities in its short eight hunt history. The stand had never been unsuccessful. The “Brickhouse” is located within 150 yards of a bed area, and positioned in a topographical advantage, with the closest foodsource being corn. Although some things in life aren’t guaranteed, you’ll enhance your odds at harvesting Pope and Young bucks by paying closer attention to their behavior. I guarantee it.