Poison ivy, skeeters and sweat. These are the pitfalls of doing tree stand work in July or August. I have learned that trimming shooting lanes, adding background cover, pruning entry/exit routes and checking the tree stand for sturdiness is best done before the spring green-up to minimize time in the sweltering woods.
Take Tree Stands Down or Leave Them Up?
I’ll admit it. I am not a fan of heights, and I never want to test out the effectiveness of a safety harness due to a snapped cable, broken strap, etc. I take all my hang-on stands out of the woods each season. It’s a good opportunity to closely inspect the straps, cables and nuts and bolts, and repair as needed. It also eliminates theft and critters chewing on the padding or straps.
I have heard too many stories of people falling after a tree stand/climbing stick hardware failure, which, when combined with my anxiety of heights, motivates me to haul out stands.
If you leave your tree stands out year-round, you should, at the very least, make a post-season trip to the locations to do a visual inspection (check it for sturdiness, excessive rust and worn straps or loose bolts). Make a shopping list of what needs replacing. Also, be sure to loosen any straps around the tree to allow for new growth. Go back in August to tighten it back up.
If your stands are the permanent wood type, make structural repairs now, so the banging of the hammer and whine of a drill doesn’t echo into the new season like it would if you did this is August.
While you are out there, bring a trimmer with you to clean up shooting lanes.
Manicure Shooting Lanes
With the lack of leaves, you can really pinpoint what shooting lanes need to be opened up and others that can be created. This is a balance of removing branches to make clear shots and leaving cover for concealment.
It’s always best to take a friend with you to help clear limbs. Otherwise, you’ll be climbing up and down, clearing branch after branch without ever being 100% certain that you’ve cleared all the right lanes. Another advantage of having a partner is that they can walk down various shooting lanes that you may not notice. The more eyes you have on a situation, the better off you will be.
You don’t have to cut everything in your arrow’s path. I carry parachute cord with to tie back limbs with out killing a branch. Leaves create the “wall” of a lane.
Though checking and clearing shooting lanes seems like a simple task, many bowhunters simply assume that everything will be okay… until that buck of a lifetime walks right down that trail full of obstructions. Do the lion’s share of the work now and finely clip your lanes when you come back to hang your stand.
Open up Entry and Exit Trails
With the vegetation gone, it’s now easier to clear the trails you use to access your tree stand. Toss aside the dead branches that will snap and crack like a rock fall on a still October morning. Go ahead and make them extra wide so that you won’t leave any scent behind as you ease through the brush. Avoid getting near existing game trails and make sure your trails are downwind (using the prevailing seasonal breezes as a reference) of where you expect the deer to be.
Create Micro Funnels
There’s a good chance your stand is already hung near a funnel. Since you are already out there with tools, cut small trails through thick cover to motivate deer to step into bow range. Block off those forks in the road where deer may take the path less traveled and instead head away from your tree stand. By linking really narrow trails to others that are heavily traveled, I have been able to direct the movement of some mature bucks that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise killed. When hunting pressure sets in, I have witnessed the more mature deer of the herd sneak off these intersections and tip-toe down the path.
Success (and safety) in the whitetail woods comes down to ironing out the details. You can be much more focused when you aren’t dodging poison ivy, swatting mosquitos and rushing back to the air-conditioned truck. Get out there before the green up. Heck, you may even find a shed or locate some turkey sign that will help your hunt in the spring.