You hear the echo against the woods at the campfire, the debate between the hunters in deer camp about which hunting stand is best.
Is it one elevated overlooking the terrain or one positioned on the ground for an eye level viewpoint? What do you guess the outcome will be?
Everybody has their personal preferences for which type of deer hunting stand they like best. However, savvy deer hunters remain flexible, knowing conditions change rapidly during the season. They keep their options open and use the best type of stand according the spot being hunted. Sometimes, other factors dictate what stand type to use.
A lot of hunters like all kinds of different types of hunting stands for a lot of different reasons. Let’s examine the ups and downs of using elevated stands or ground blind stands that are currently growing in use more every deer season.
Elevated stands can offer some distinct advantages, but sometimes you have to wonder if there is a limit to how high is over and above effectiveness. A decade ago I hunted at Willow Point, north of Vicksburg along the river. I was dropped off at a trail and told to walk to its end, climb the stand and hunt.
I found the stand easily enough, but it took forever to climb the tiny steps and slip into a smaller seat. When the morning haze cleared I discovered there was a lake right behind me with a cutover in front. I felt a nosebleed coming on and was virtually scared to look down.
The clincher moment was when a flock of ducks came off the lake and flew by me sitting in the stand. Not over me — by me. I never saw a deer from that stand, but to make a bow shot from that level would have been futile.
Back at the pickup point I timidly asked the guide just how high up the seat was on that stand. I was told 40 feet up. “Why?” he asked.
I choked then laughed. I elected not to return to that stand in the afternoon, even though the visibility was spectacular.
“When I use a hunting stand, I like using a climber,” says Mitchell Schmitz of Extreme Outdoor Products in Brookhaven. “I want to be at least 20 feet off the ground.”
Schmitz’s most compelling argument for climbing: “I want to be high enough that if a deer is standing 30 yards from me, I’m not at eye level with them.”
Besides the obvious, a deer stand elevated 10, 12 and — gulp! — even 40 feet up off the ground offers many pluses. Visibility is paramount. Above the terrain you can seemingly see forever. Using a few minimal precautions, it is unlikely any deer coming within view will know you are there, if they don’t see you move or smell you. Even then, you can control that.
From above hunters can see long ranges and pick out approaching or exposed deer before they ever get close. This is a huge advantage even for the short-ranged bow hunter. For the rifle hunters, it is the primary advantage of being in a climber, lock-on, or ladder stand.
Being elevated also improves your chances for scent control. Air movement up there is always tossed about even in a whisper of a breeze. Still it is highly prudent to spray down with a scent killer spray, because you are exposed to the open air. Put out some deer scents to divert their interest from your position up the tree.
“I use both lean up stands and box stands built on legs above the ground; not much ground hunting for me,” says James Harper of Vicksburg. “I like the lean up ladder early in the season, and then move to the enclosed box stand when it gets too cold to sit out in the open.”
Stirlin Hancock of Vicksburg concurred.
“The elevated stand is always best for me,” he said. “I use good quality, safe climbers and ladder stands. Though I really like still hunting, I know that up in an elevated stand I can see better and less likely to be seen by deer.”
Hunting nearly anywhere in Mississippi, deer hunters can find a decent tree to use for an elevated stand, whether it is private land, a leased property or even a public land option. This offers flexible choices to hunt different places for a season or for different phases of the season as deer behavior changes. An elevated stand does not have to be permanent either.
Another option that many Magnolia deer hunters use is the shooting house concept where a stand is fully enclosed with a roof, but it is built on stilts above the ground and accessed by a ladder or steps. Such stands offer more comfort and protection from the elements than other elevated stand types.
Usually, shooting houses are fixed in one location for the duration. Now, many are made on skids or even set on trailers to be moved around the property. These stands may not be as flexible as other elevated stands, but they offer hunting options when weather turns bad, wet, or cold. Elevation still remains the big advantage.
Down to earth
Commercially made ground blinds are more popular than ever. For bow hunters these pop-up fabric blinds get hunters in close, well within reasonable bow ranges. Archers can draw their bows in relative secrecy and release right through the screen windows.
The ground-level view makes range estimation easier and there is no compensation for height angles. The shots are straight, direct and right to the target. Deer have a difficult time seeing into these blinds so the hunter is hidden.
The scent element is easier to control, too. Wind and rain can be withstood within reason, so can colder weather.
“We manufacture ground blinds that are lightweight, highly portable, yet very durable and easy to pop up quickly,” said Jimmy Primos of Primos Hunting in Flora. “When set up inconspicuously in the woods or field edge, they offer a great camouflage hunting position. Inside they can be made very comfortable via fold out chairs, virtually wind proof, and quiet.
“The blackened-out inside helps keep the hunter from being seen by deer. Add a heater if needed and our ground blinds offer a super cozy hunting blind for cold conditions, so you can bow or gun hunt all day.”
Marvin Moak of Raymond is a believer.
“I like a ground blind or pop up,” Moak said. “And, I am not past making a ground hide, too.”
Hunters forget that ground blinds can easily be fabricated in the woods from available materials on the ground. Find a downed tree or a thicket and make up a wall of limbs and cuttings. Get in, hide and hunt.
So climb, or stay down on the ground — what’s it going to be?
It’s a debate that can’t be won, and both can be viable options. Why not join the savvy crowd and use both types, letting the conditions or situations dictate your choice.