If you were to survey any given piece of hunting property, there are areas that cry out to be hunted. A majority of times, these areas are soon saddled with a permanent hunting stand, be it a ladder, box or other permanent fixture. A hunter may even take one or more deer from that stand the next season, or it may be one of those rare stands that produces every season. But the reason that site was chosen is because it looked good to the hunter, not because it was conducive to the deer.
In fact, studies have shown that mature, trophy bucks learn to pattern hunters better than the hunter patterns the deer. Part of deer patterning hunters is their learning to avoid permanent stand sites. The best chance a hunter has to tag a good deer is by being unpredictable and catching that deer on his feet, in an area he never detected or suspected.
One of the best way to be unpredictable, undetectable and get the drop on a trophy buck is to hunt from a portable climbing stand.
Kyle Clark, the owner of Doc’s Deer Scents, has been hunting and patterning big deer in different parts of the country for most of his life.
He said several factors combine to allow the hunter to get the drop on a good deer: stealth, concealment and being in the right place at the right time. Using a comfortable, portable, climbing stand is part of that strategy.
Clark said stealth and the element of surprise work hand-in-hand with using a climber. Once he has identified an area a big buck is using, whether from scouting or images captured on a trail camera, he prefers to stay out of the area until it’s time to hunt.
“Human scent control is always important,” Clark said. “Several days before the hunt, I’ll wash my clothes and body to make sure I’m as scent-free as possible. I repeat the process as soon as I leave the truck. The goal is to give the buck no idea I’m after him.”
Clark is also going to hunt with the wind in his favor, and a climbing stand gives him more options than hunting from a pre-positioned stand or hunting somewhere else altogether because the wind is not right.
“A climbing stand also offers a certain degree of scent control, because I can hunt high or low, and I can even make back and forth adjustments in the stand, stuff you can’t do with any other type of stand,” he said.
If he’s hunting before the rut, his preference is to find a travel route between bedding and feeding areas. He’s not looking for a wide-open area and hoping on a chance encounter with the buck; he wants to be concealed and have a smaller window for the buck to detect his presence. Setting up on a travel route close to the buck’s home area gives him that advantage. He will check the wind, then pick a tree off the beaten path but within range of the trail and climb it.
During the rut, Clark said all bets are off as far as patterning the daily movements of bucks. He describes it as a free-for-all when a buck’s home range expands from one to 10 square miles. Being mobile is the key, and a climbing stand provides him with that mobility.
“I’m going to stay in the woods all day, if I can, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit in the same spot all day,” he said.
For all-day hunting, he wants a climber that’s comfortable. Hunting from a climber is similar to living in an RV; if you decide you no longer like the neighborhood or things change, you can pack up and move.
Later in the season, Clark focuses on food sources but keeps other factors in mind. By this time of year, hunting pressure is taking its toll on mature bucks, and they will retreat to tight areas. Most times that means extremely thick areas in proximity to a food source, enough to meet their needs.
“You have a lot of hard mast that matures at different times,” Clark said. “By late season, a trophy buck is not going to travel any more then he has to during daylight hours. You want to get as close to his core bedding area as you can without bumping him.”
Many times, a thick area on the edge of open feeding areas — think a clear-cut or grain field — will attract bucks. Clark warns that deer don’t just wander through an open area. Using a climbing stand, he will identify trees that overlook ditches, depressions or other key travel corridors that provide bucks with a continued sense of security. That includes maintaining a stealthy profile.
“At the end of the season, he’s on high alert. You don’t want to be hanging out in the open on a tree, looking like an elephant on a toothpick,” Clark said. “Choose a tree that gives you a good vantage point and where the likely travel area will be within range of your weapon, whether that’s a compound bow, gun or muzzleloader, but make sure there’s some reasonable cover in front of you and preferably some thick cover at your back to help conceal you.”