Set-Up Fundamentals

Wrapping up this 6-part series, I want to relate the information covered thus far to some fundamental rules-of-thumb for the proper use of treestands, ground blinds, and ways to maximize your shot opportunities. 


I’ve hunted from portable treestands out west for 20 years and I find it odd that they are not used more widely for blacktails, mule deer, and elk.  I meet people at seminars all the time who’ve never hunted from a treestand, or even considered it for that matter.  Today, hunters have a lot of choices when it comes to treestands so if they present a new approach for you, do your research and select the right stand for your needs.  In any case, here are some key tips to consider:

Safety First

  • Never hunt from an elevated stand of any kind without a full-body harness – and know how to use it properly BEFORE the first day you hunt in it.  Most accidents occur when climbing onto a stand or when exiting, so be sure that you are securely tied in at all times.  One slip could end your life.  Take your time – and live!
  • Practice setting up a new stand at ground level to ensure you understand how to get a proper fit and bite into the tree. 
  • Practice shooting from your stand well before your hunt, and understand the nuances of elvated shot angles.
  • Always use a pull-up rope for your bow or gun, or a bulky pack that makes climbing cumbersome.
  • Always let a loved one know where you will be hunting, even for those short day hike hunts.  Things can happen that you have no control over.  Make it easy for people to find you.

Early Season

  • Most bow seasons begin well before the leaves start dropping so take advantage of the canopy when placing your stand.
  • Set up downwind of the area you expect to see deer and if hunting a crossing, set up two stands in order to cover shifts in prevailing wind currents.  Check the wind direction regularly during your hunt and switch stands or move your stand if the wind is wrong. 
  • Early season deer will be on somewhat regular summer patterns.  Set up between bedding and preferred primary food sources in the area to maximize shot opportunities.
  • Hunt until the final minutes of legal shooting light as hot weather may keep bucks bedded until dusk.
  • If you hear deer movement but they don’t show themselves until dark, you may need to move your stand “upstream” to the staging area they prefer.

 Late Season

  • Refer to your detailed maps and identify Core Rut Zones, hot trail crossings, and core doe areas.  Use this information in combination with late fall prevailing wind patterns to identify key locations for your set ups.  Set up on the downwind side of any “feature” you are hunting and monitor wind currents throughout your hunt.
  • Hunt doe groups by focusing on funnels between Core Rut Zones and doe bedding areas, between feeding and bedding areas, and trail intersections.  As bucks begin to cover ground and scent check doe groups, you’ll want to be in position.
  • Most deciduous foilage will be falling by Halloween, so make sure you are not silouetted against the sky from a deer’s ground-level perspective.
  • Hunt as high as you are comfortable to avoid visual detection.  This will also help keep your scent up and away from approaching deer.  I like to be 18-20 feet up minimum.  Practice shooting from your preferred height with the late seaons clothing you will be hunting in.  Your practice must match your real world hunt conditions as closely as possible.
  • Hunt daylight until dark when possible and don’t hesitate to move your stand if you have good reason to do so.
  • Prepare for cold weather and dress for the long haul sit.  Many bucks become unpredictable during the rut.  You may find that you will hunt longer and be more focused by hunting 10AM until dark.

Ground Blinds

Many of the same set up rules apply when employing ground blinds, whether they are naturally constructed or commercial pop-up style blinds.  For example, you always need to set up downwind of your shooting lanes.  No brainer, right?  But unlike most antelope, deer can and will react to a pop-up blind that suddenly shows up in their kitchen, especially if it smells musty or is flapping in the wind.  So let’s review several key considerations:

  • Air out your blind well before you intend to use it.  I set mine up in the backyard for a week or so and I give it a good dose of SEEMZ T.H.E.E. KRUSH odor elimination spray.
  • Follow the 50/100 rule as defined by Keith Beam and Brooks Johnson from Double Bull.  Those two guys have spent more time in portable blinds than most, and have perfected the art of duping cagey whitetails at spitting distance.  The rule is simply this, if a deer will see the blind inside 50 yards, brush it in really well.  If they will see the blind at 100 yards, such as at a field edge or larger opening, you don’t need to brush it in as well if at all.  The point is, deer can react negatively to things out of place so don’t surprise them.
  • Always keep all the blind windows closed up except for those you intend to shoot from.  Backlighting through the blind will highlight your silouette like a beacon, even if you’re wearing all black clothing.
  • Practice shooting from your blind a lot.  Your depth of field can be thrown off when peering through an opening.  Also practice shooting through mesh if that is your intention.
  • Clear out all vegetation on the ground inside the blind, down to raw dirt.  You want the floor of the blind to be dead silent to allow you to move without detection.
  • Be sure you have no ‘wind flap’ occuring on any surface of your blind.  Some of the more inexpensive pop-up blinds tend to flutter with the slightest breeze.  That subtle movement cans spook deer.

This post wraps up my 6-part series on post-season scouting.  I hope you’ve gained some new insights to help you unravel the deer in your hunting areas, or those on new ground.  As always, I would love to hear your feedback.  Be sure to check in at our FreshTRAX Outdoors site for more informative content, and “Like” our Facebook page.

(c) Tom Ryle 2012, FreshTRAX Outdoors, All Rights Reserved