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Archery Season Preparation For Success

June 10, 2010
By Brian Miller, Field Editor
Sweat dripped off my forehead as I reached out with my pole trimmer to cut one last branch. I got up early to beat the heat that was forecasted for this June afternoon. Spring scouting quickly turned into preparation for the upcoming hunting season. The season was still four months away but preparing today allowed those locations to be fresh for opening day. This is when all the hard work and post season scouting comes down to one specific tree.

For bow hunters, cutting shooting lanes is not something to be taken lightly. Preparing hunting stands for the upcoming season has far more weight on your success than the actual hunt. But remember to be smart and safe. There is not a deer in the woods worth your life, so hang them right!

The Final Destination

Before even stepping foot in the woods it is important to have a destination predetermined. Since my scouting is done, I’ve already marked the best tree. By scouting separately from cutting stands; you are more likely to understand the best location. When your only mission is to find the best stand location it becomes easy to scout the entire woods. This is because you will spend more time understanding the big picture.

It is very tempting to set up on a big rub. But you need to find out if that big rub is random or leads to a better location. Then along the rub line is it in the best ambush location which allows easy entry and exit? Then go home and look over the map to make sure there is not a better location close by.

Separating scouting from hanging stands ensures the legwork has already been done. For all of these reasons I separate my scouting from hanging stands into two trips.

Needless to say it takes a lot of work to prepare a location to hunt. I’ve become efficient by carrying the specialized tools I need but I can still spend over two hours in each location.

More Than Just Details

With each stand I want to be facing the direction I expect to see deer approach my stand because it allows me to notice small glimpses of animals with minimal movement. In the same token, I’ll place my stand at a 90 degree angle from the major trails. I want the deer walking past my bow hand for the easiest bow shot with the littlest movement.

In many of my post season scouting ventures I will find wide shooting lanes. These are obvious signs of other hunters which are also obvious to deer. If you cut out large paths, right before season the deer herd will notice. Instead cut concise lanes.

I spend a lot of time hunting the heavily pressured public land and prefer that others do not know my hunting locations. To help prevent others from discovering my locations I use a pole trimmer, hand clipper and hand saw. Vital ingredients to staying invisible include concealing your intrusion. Cut small trees down at ground level and cover the base of the tree with leaves. Clip branches where they naturally break from a tree. And instead of piling branches, stand them up in a nearby cover or use them to create brush piles that tighten a funnel.

Keep enough branches around to hide your silhouette and movement but clear anything that will get in the way of your arrow. A tree crotch or just above large branches are great hiding spots. Draw an imaginary line between your bow and the deer trail. Only cut those branches in the way. Don’t cut down every tree between you and the deer trail.

A pole trimmer is an invaluable tool for those out of reach branches. Cut to several intersecting trails and 2-3 lanes on each trail. Having several shooting opportunities gives you a chance to get ready regardless of the direction the deer is traveling. Make sure most lanes are prepared for a broadside or quartering away shot. A rangefinder will ensure all lanes are within your comfortable shooting distance.

While cutting stands alone I like to hang a bright vest at chest height in the tree. A visual sighting gives you the ability to only cut those branches needed. This bright vest will allow you to leave enough cover to hide behind while clearing away problem branches. Without a vest (line of sight,) I’ve spent many hours cutting lanes either too big or incorrectly.

The Final Stages

The most opportune time to cut is during the spring. If necessary a quick summer trip is needed to cut away any new growth. By doing the work in the spring you’ll be able to cut away only the branches needed while leaving enough cover to hide behind. In past years, I’ve sat in many great locations and felt naked because the lack of cover.

Although I have many stand locations ready for the season we all have a few killer locations. My confidence in those places is tenfold. Whenever possible I like to set up multiple stands for different wind directions. North/South or East/West winds currents can be accomplished by setting on both sides of the deer trails.

For some final touches, I scrape off any loose bark from the tree. This makes unwanted noise that can ruin a hunt when deer are archery close. If you’re using a climber make sure to mark the tree to know the exact height to place the stand. You can either cut a notch in the bark or push a tack into the tree. It makes no sense to spend hours cutting away branches to sit above or below the shooting lanes.

You also need make sure your tow rope has a clear path and it won’t hang up on any branches or steps. Metal banging against metal in the morning can ruin a hunt. For your final step, clear out an easy entry and exit path and mark with reflective tacks. In the dark of the night, you want to have a clear path to avoid spreading your scent around the woods. With everything perfect for a close encounter don’t let a mature buck bust your setup because you mistakenly touched some brush in the cover of darkness.

Preparing stands takes an enormous amount of work. Each year I spend hours preparing each location. While sweating to death, I often think to myself, “Is it worth it?” But then each fall when the trees are naked, I stay hidden among the branches while deer scamper around completely unaware of my presence. This is when I know it’s all worth the effort. There is no better feeling then completely fooling a big whitetail.

Article Photos

Preparing archery stands early in the year allows for the element of surprise during your fall hunt. Photo by Brian Miller

Fact Box

Each fall when the trees are naked, I stay hidden among the branches while deer scamper around completely unaware of my presence. This is when I know it’s all worth the effort.



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