A deer’s nose is its greatest defense and needs to be taken into account when deciding where to place your deer stand. Try to set your stand so the prevailing winds blow your scent away from any deer that may pass underneath. The most consistent winds are usually found on ridge-tops where there are few large obstructions to cause winds to swirl. Valleys or drainages can cause prevailing winds to swirl and interact with thermals. Thermals occur from the heating and cooling of air. After the sun goes down in the evening, air begins to cool and starts to sink. When the sun rises, it begins to warm the air, and the air begins to flow back up the valleys. These thermal air currents are particularly pronounced on sunny days and can cause significant air swirl when mixed with prevailing winds. Because topography, cloud cover, and prevailing wind speeds affect thermals, it is important to spend some time on your hunting property in the off season to see how the wind changes throughout the day. When choosing a stand site, think about where you can put the stand to have your scent blow away from where deer are coming and going. In an ideal situation, your scent should blow toward a place deer don’t normally frequent, such as a large pond, roadway, or a steep drop.
Keep the wind in mind when planning how to get to your stand. The key to entering and exiting a stand is to do so undetected. Looking around a tree for several hours to watch the main trail can cause muscle strain, discomfort, eye fatigue, and increased movement. You may need to cut branches out of shooting lanes to ensure they are free of obstructions, but leave enough cover around the stand to ensure your movements remain undetected.
Tree stands come in two types: hang-on (including ladder stands) and climbers. Hang-on stands offer the ability to place stands earlier in the season in multiple locations. You should remove hang-on stands yearly and inspect all straps, cables, welds, and nuts and bolts. Leaving stands on trees for multiple seasons can cause damage to the stand and the straps that hold it onto the tree. Each year, trees grow in size, which puts stress on the stand that could cause failure. Climbing stands have become popular, especially among hunters who use public land where theft can sometimes be a problem. A drawback of climbing stands is that they require straight trees with few lower limbs. Tree stands offer better visibility to see deer at longer distances, increased scent control due to an elevated position, reduced noise when entering and exiting, and reduced visibility by deer if the stand is properly placed. Although tree stands have many positives, they also have a few negatives. Many accidents occur each year from the improper use of tree stands and from hunters not wearing a full-body safety harness and fall-arrest system. When using a tree stand, you are limited to hunting areas that have trees in which to hang a stand. Another problem with tree stands is that they can be cold to hunt from when temperatures drop and winds pick up. Staying comfortable often dictates how long you are able to hunt, which impacts your success.
Ground blinds can be purchased or homemade, elevated or set flat on the ground, and built with synthetic or natural materials. Portable ground blinds are more user friendly and durable than they used to be. Most sporting goods stores have a variety of blinds set up so you can look over their features and check how sturdy each blind is.
Ground blinds can be set up in nearly any location, they conceal movement well (making them perfect for young hunters tagging along with a mentor), they are much warmer than tree stands, they do not require the use of a safety harness, and they take much less physical effort to set up than tree stands. Ground blinds have a few drawbacks. Deer are skittish about any new object in a field, so you must add brush or grass around your blind so it matches its surroundings. Scent control plays a big role when hunting from a ground blind. You are not elevated — as you would be from a tree stand — so your scent will stay closer to the ground. This makes hunting the right wind direction especially important. You often can’t see as far from a ground blind as you can from a tree stand, so deer can more easily sneak in on you. And, ground blinds can be hot to hunt out of during the early season.
Ground blinds are great at concealing you from deer, but they also conceal you from other hunters. Wrapping hunter orange ribbons on each side of the blind or hanging an old hunter orange jacket or cap on the roof of the blind will increase your visibility to other hunters without spooking deer. If you’re firearms hunting, you’ll need to wear a hunter orange hat and vest, shirt, or coat, but your other clothing should be dark in color. Most blinds have a black lining, so wearing dark clothing decreases your visibility to deer. Make sure that whether you use a tree stand or a ground blind you know all of its features and safety requirements. Safety while hunting should be your No. 1 priority.
Many hunters plant food plots to attract deer for hunting purposes, and food plots do typically increase deer sightings if the right forage is planted in the right location. One of the most important aspects to consider when making food plots is hunting pressure. The more you hunt over a food plot, the less deer you will see. It is typically better to plant several small food plots to hunt over or a few large food plots that you only hunt from a distance. Hunting from a distance means hunting the transition zones between food and cover and only rarely hunting directly over a food plot. Deer will always go to food plots, but they may take different routes to avoid disturbance. Continually adjust your stand sites based on deer movements to increase your chances of having a deer pass by at close range.