Gerald Almy: Three classic deer stands
Does it sometimes seem to you that deer hunting has become too complicated? Has high-tech strategizing and intricate analysis of deer sign and buck movement patterns taken some of the joy out of your sport?
If so, here are three classic deer stands you can turn to if you just want your whitetail hunting to be simple and fun, yet still stand a good chance at taking a nice buck or doe.
Find one of these locations, check for fresh sign, hang a tree stand or set up a ground blind and simply go hunting. Sometimes the simple hunts are the most fun and productive of all.
Besides the proven location, we’ve included a top tactic to use and a tip for improving the site for upping your odds for success.
Field & Food Plot Edges. Agricultural fields and food plots attract early season bucks on a classic bed-to-feed pattern with nutritious corn, alfalfa, brassicas, soybeans, and clover.
During the rut, does feeding in the fields add an additional enticement that draws in bucks. The open fields and food plots offer the perfect place to display their racks, attract mates, and challenge other bucks.
Tactic: The difficult part of hunting field edges is deciding where to set up. Don’t just sit anywhere on the field. Place your stand back in cover on the downwind edge of trails leading into corners and points. Does may enter fields anywhere. Points and especially corners are the two key spots bucks will emerge from.
Tip: Feather the edge of the woods where it joins the field by planting a double row of edible shrubs. This will help make bucks feel secure and emerge earlier. Also try setting a doe decoy at the field’s edge to draw bucks out while there’s still shooting light during bow seasons.
Small clear-cut. These logged-over areas are magnets for bucks for several years after being cut. But don’t fool with big ones. Deer can emerge anywhere in those, making it difficult to know where to hang your stand.
A small clear-cut on the other hand, about 2-4 acres, can produce excellent hunting along its borders where it adjoins mature forest. These edges attract bucks that like the acorns and ability to see does in the big woods. They also like the thick cover and food the growing-back clear-cut offers with its forbs, saplings, and tender shrubs.
Tactic: Hunt the edge of the small cutover where you’ve pinpointed rubs, scrapes, torn up saplings, or large deer tracks. This is often where a point of the cleared area juts into mature woods. Stake out that spot at dawn and dusk as mature bucks move in and out of the thick clear-cut to search for does and acorns.
Tip: When the rut approaches, draw bucks out of the thick cutover where you can get a clear shot with alternating tending grunts, light rattling, and doe bleats.
Water hole. Deer need water daily. A spot where bucks go to get a drink can be a particularly good location in dry, hot weather. It can also be productive during the rut, when bucks travel so hard searching for does they need to replenish their water supply often.
Tactic: Find secluded ponds, springs, or streams and look for rubs, scrapes, droppings, and large tracks nearby. Set up downwind in cover before dawn or two hours before dark. If you can’t locate good watering spots, make your own with a plastic tub or kid’s swimming pool dug into the ground or by damming up a wet-weather stream with sticks and rocks.
Tip: A watering spot may only attract older bucks after dark if it’s too open. Plant a row of white pines or tall grasses leading from nearby bedding cover to the pond. Also pile some brush or low-value trees you’ve cut such as cedars along the water’s edge so deer will have security cover while they drink. That should entice bucks to travel to it while there’s still shooting light.
Certainly few of us want to give up our high-tech hunting tactics, sophisticated trail cameras, razor-sharp optics, GPS units and other modern equipment. But simply watching from a classic, proven stand location near fresh sign also offers an enjoyable and relaxing way to ambush a good buck.
Even if you don’t harvest a deer, I bet you’ll come out of the woods feeling like it was a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
Sometimes the simplest hunts are the best hunts of all.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.