Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Taking a stand: When the 'right' tree is all wrong

When you're sitting in a tree for 10 hours on a chilly December day, as Paula and I did during the Pennsylvania firearms deer opener, you have a lot of time to think. On this day, we were fairly regularly interrupted by the arrival of a whitetail or two, but antlerless deer were off limits and we never took our safeties off.

Between those encounters, my mind raced, as is usually does, bouncing from headlines and deadlines to the upcoming sport show season to our roughed-out road trip schedule for 2015 – Kansas in April for Rio Grande gobblers, and perhaps a Roosevelt elk hunt in the state of Washington in November. If I pull off the elk trip, I'll be going solo: we're planning on plucking a yellow Lab pup out of a litter somewhere after spring gobbler season and spending the rest of the summer bonding with and getting control of the new arrival. Paula will hold down the puppy front while I head West.

But I also thought about our treestand selection, tucked neatly into a thicket just inside the woods, about 30 yards from a field edge. It looked like an ideal spot, given the travel corridors it offered, and as it turned out this time we were right. That's not always the case, and even when you select a good stand location if you haven't seen a deer by 9:30 or so on opening day it's easy to second guess yourself.

One thing I've learned over the years is that an ideal tree for a treestand doesn't always equate to being an ideal hunting location. In fact, very often it doesn't. Too many times hunters – myself included until I adjusted my thought process – look for the perfect tree and in the process ignore the fact that, while the tree may be tailor made for a stand, it's not where you really need to be to get a shot at the buck you've coveted since first seeing him on your trail camera back in July.

So I'm now in the find-the-right-location-and-figure-it-out-later when it comes to setting treestands. That is, I want to find where the deer are traveling, where they'll best offer a shot opportunity either with a bow or gun. Then and only then will I be searching for the "right" tree. Sometimes one doesn't exist, but I'd rather be in a "bad" tree in a good spot than be seated in the "perfect" tree that doesn't offer up the kind of deer traffic I'm looking for.

And if you look closely enough, chances are there's a stand location that's perfectly acceptable in the area you want to hunt. Sometimes you have to improvise, maybe brush it in a bit to avoid being detected by an approaching deer. But if you're looking for the perfect tree, you're not always looking for the perfect hunting spot. They are often two very different locations.

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