I still hear those infamous words my father told me a long time ago when it comes to hunting and luck: “Son, luck is simply the moment when preparation meets opportunity.”
Many of my hunting buddies will tell you I am one of the luckiest hunters they have ever met. Occasionally they may be right, but I would argue that I have earned much of that luck through hard work and dedication. While I may still claim that I would rather be lucky than good on any given day, there is a lot of truth to what my father said, especially out in the hunting woods. Bow-stand placement, stand location and several other tips can all add up to the opportunity to utilize your preparation.
Most whitetail hunters, especially bow hunters, are more than keen to the fact that whitetail deer are creatures of the “edges.” In other words, deer love to travel along the edges of any kind of terrain change, field edges, fence lines, ridges and any type of natural “funnel” areas.
Just as important as finding the appropriate area to hunt in is how you hunt that area. Planning your stand placement for bow hunters is critical due to the close proximity you must get to the deer without being detected.
A hunter needs to consider what wind direction will be best to hunt this stand site from and then be sure they have an approach route to the stand that will prevent their scent from drifting into the deer’s bedding/approach area as they go to the stand.
Simply put, approach your stand where the wind direction is moving from the deer to you on that particular day.
The most common question I get regarding all of the bow stands I keep each year is always, “How high do you hang your stands?”
There is no definitive answer to this, as I will let each different situation or area where I am hunting dictate how high my stand gets hung. On average, my bow stands are anywhere from 20 to 25 feet, with 15 feet (other than a ground blind) and 30 feet being the low and high mark for any of my stands.
The available tree cover and the terrain I am hunting will dictate just how high my stands get hung. When in doubt, hang your stand higher rather than lower, as being higher up will help keep your scent above the deer once they get close to your setup.
When selecting a tree to hang a lock-on stand in during the pre-season, do not just consider the cover available now. If at all possible, look for trees that provide cover even after the leaves have fallen off of most trees.
Magnolia and holly trees are hands down some of my favorite trees to hang a stand in, but many pines also can provide enough cover for the entire season.
Many Lowcountry bow hunters bait deer with corn or the use of automatic corn feeders. When used properly and simply as a tool to help lure deer into bow range, baiting with corn can be of great help.
It can severely diminish your odds when care is not given to how a bait site is hunted. Never set up a baited stand site so that you must walk through or past the corn to reach your stand site. Human scent can linger in an area for hours, setting up a proverbial wall to stop any approaching deer in their tracks well before providing a shot.
When using feeders, I always set my timers to go off 30-45 minutes after I expect to be in my stand. I personally prefer feeders for bow hunting, as they only allow for corn to be there certain hours of the day, resulting in far fewer deer spooked as you go in to your stand, especially during morning hunts.
Hunters should also consider that the majority of mature bucks are not going to just walk out and bury their faces in a pile of corn. Far more often, they are going to skirt the fringes of where the corn is, checking for does and other deer.
This is where I find it of utmost importance to set your stand up where it allows one or two shots to deer trails off from your feeder or corn.
An example would be my all-time favorite bow stand. At that stand, my feeder is located 15 yards in front of the stand. I have harvested three mature bucks from that stand in three years, and all three bucks I shot at 10-12 yards hard to my left in relation to the stand. Again, they were skirting the feeder by 25 yards checking for other deer.
In areas of heavy hunting pressure, you will find it common for deer to become nervous and spooky around corn baited areas. In this case, you may be better off hunting natural trails, oaks or funnel areas by climbing your stand, using the element of surprise to your advantage.
During the latter part of the season, mature deer have become wise to most hunters and are on the alert for the slightest wrong move. This time of year, you will find most of my stands have a raked path through the leaves the last 50 yards or so to my location. This not only allows for a silent approach, but also allows me to enter my stand location before morning daybreak without the aid of a flashlight as I can see the raked path easily in very low light.
Find a great area loaded with deer sign but no trees with any cover? Don’t fret. In this situation I prefer to hang my stands further up the tree (25 to 30 feet), but I also will use zip ties to attach all sorts of cover to my stand or around the stand in the tree limbs. I may use old Christmas garland, artificial trees or even broken off pine limbs. I find the pine limbs will hold their needles for a good two weeks after being broken off, and I often carry a few in with me each time I hunt. You can never be too concealed.
Ultimately, a hunter should hunt the way that he or she enjoys the most, provided that particular way falls within the law and shows respect for the animals being hunted. That being said, bow hunters that want to consistently harvest mature bucks with a bow are sure to pay attention to even the smallest of details. Those small details are what will likely allow you to create a little bit of your own luck, and allow you to take advantage of the opportunity. That is unless, of course, you are just plain lucky.
Scott Hammond is store manager at Haddrell’s Point Tackle in West Ashley. Contact him at the store for more information on bow hunting.