I know, I know. It’s summer and finally temps are sneaking into the 80’s and 90’s. The pool is open, vacation is booked, and that trip to the ballpark is coming up. In weather like this it’s easy to forget about hunting season, layering those clothes, and heading out into the woods. In reality though, less than four months from now, that’s exactly what you will be doing if you’re a bowhunter.
Now is the time to start thinking tree stands. If you’re going to hunt from fixed stands that are either permanent wooden structures that are built into the trees, or a ladder stand that you don’t intend to move throughout the season, then its go time. Repairs on permanent wood stands should be done now and not the weekend before you’re going to first use them. Same thing goes for building a new one or hanging a ladder stand. Now is also a good time to be clearing shooting lanes and calculating yardage from your stand to those lanes. This also holds true for the mobile hunter. If you know trees that your likely to hunt from, get those lanes cleared now while the foliage is on everything. There’s nothing worse than having a shooter buck or a big old doe 20 yds broadside and you can’t get an arrow to the meat because of limbs or overgrowth. Trust me I know. The key is to get in now, get it done and get out. The longer your hunting area remains free from humans before the season, the better off you’re going to be. I’ve long been guilty of being the guy who waited till the last-minute. It’s one of the things I’m working hard to change. Deer, big bucks especially, will tend to forget about a human encounter and some scent on the ground 3 to 4 months prior to the season. They won’t when it’s the weekend before opening day!
Now is also the perfect time to act if you’re thinking about changing your plan of attack so to speak. I’m talking about becoming a mobile hunter. Running and gunning as we call it, simply means being mobile with your stand every time you go into the woods to hunt. You pack your stand in with you for each and every hunt and you pack it back out when you leave. This is typically done with a lock on tree stand and some sort of device to get into that stand. My preferred method of climbing is climbing sticks. You can also use tree steps. These come in a rope style design that wraps around the tree, or screw in variety that screw directly into the trunk of the tree. Most public ground does not permit the use of these because of the damage they cause the tree, so check your local regulations. If you’re considering this as a change to the way you currently hunt, and you don’t have much experience with a mobile set up, then I can’t stress enough that it needs to be purchased now. This set up takes a couple of months of practice to become comfortable enough to where it becomes second nature. It will be a bit cumbersome and frustrating for the first few times, at least it was for me. So much so, that I considered ditching the thing all together. I promise, you it will get better. Over time you will master a hanging technique that works for you, and as long as you’re physically able to pack the weight through the woods, you’ll wonder why you haven’t bow hunted this way before. One suggestion I have here is, if you have the money, and you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking with this stand on your back, spend a little more and go top end. With these stands you truly get what you pay for and a few less pounds hanging off your shoulders, and those versa buttons with nylon straps vs a chain or a cable, makes a huge difference. I would highly recommend ditching those cheap backpack straps and find a good quality set with a hip belt and chest strap that you can attach to the stand. Your back will thank you!
Now I’d like to take a minute to reiterate something we talked about in episode #6 podcast. Making your mobile set up “dead silent”. After deciding to become completely mobile in our setups a few years back, the first thing we noticed was that these set ups would definitely make some unwanted noise. There is so much metal to metal contact, that even when you were walking, parts of the stand or sticks would clang together. These stands need to be modified just a bit to cut the noise. We took to the internet, talked to some people, and tried a few things of our own. Duct tape, para chord, felt tape, and rubber bicycle inner tubes. We tried it all. Some of it worked, some of it we didn’t like, but the bottom line is you’ve got to quiet these stands. We covered the front of the base of the stand and the top of the seat where the two make contact when the stand is folded for transport. This eliminated any clanging while walking or folding the stand back up. We also covered the sticks where they meet together when they are stacked for transport. Both of our setups use nylon straps and versa buttons, so there was no need to worry about chain or cable noises. The nylon straps we use have cam buckles on them for tightening the stand and the sticks around the tree. These cam buckles would inadvertently bang against a climbing stick or the stand, and would sound like a gong going off in the dead silence of a fall morning. To fix this we used a bicycle inner tube. We cut pieces of the tube just slightly longer than the buckle, slipped it over the buckle, then put a slice in the inner tube to feed the pull strap back through. This worked great.
So, with very little money we were able to eliminate virtually every unwanted sound from these set ups. Why? Well, I truly believe a deer’s sense of hearing plays right along with that keen nose. Especially when dealing with older bucks. If you’ve put the time in scouting, found a few buck beds, and you’re going to hunt close to them, it’s of the utmost importance that you’re not making any unnecessary noise to trigger your location. That includes breaking sticks under your feet as you get close to the tree you want to set up in. I think aside from being in the right wind, silence is the most important factor when hunting. One wrong noise and your potentially done for the day, maybe longer when it comes to a mature bedded buck. As I grow older and my patience grows, I no longer stomp out through the woods and rush to try to get up a tree as quickly as possible. After all it’s not a race. Leave the house a half hour or more before you normally would and take your time getting to where you want to go. I’ll take the time now and walk on egg shells, watching exactly where I place each step. Then when I get to the place where I want to hunt, I try to concentrate my focus on every movement I make being completely silent, until I have hung my bow on the hook and settle into the seat. It takes practice and it takes patience.
Start thinking about these things now, be ready, and practice this summer. It may just pay off big this fall! Oh, and don’t forget to wear that safety harness. Your family and friends will thank you!