Deer hunting is often unpredictable, yet one of the most consistent truths about stand hunting is that your chances of success are never better than the first time you hunt a stand. This is likely due to human scent contamination. No matter how scent-conscious you are, as you walk to and from the stand, climb the tree, and hunt, your scent is announcing your presence. The trick is to know you have a good spot, prepare it before the season, and hunt it when conditions are right. Well-known whitetail hunter Stan Potts, shown above, actually picks his stand sites in early spring. At that time, he selects a tree, and cuts shooting lanes before bucks begin sprouting antlers.
It’s too late this year for that trick, yet keep these seven tips in mind. First, scout deer movement from afar, using binoculars or spotting scopes. Identify the exact spot where deer enter a field, cross a power line, or otherwise make themselves visible. When scouting for the best tree in these prime spots, do so at noon, so as not to bump bedded deer. Go through your usual scent elimination procedures to reduce scent. As you trim limbs and shooting lanes, take anything you touch with you and move it away from the spot. If a buck is your aspiration, place your stand back from a field edge, where bucks tend to stage before entering. Finally, use a garden rake and roughen a patch of fresh earth along prominent trails. This low-tech trick has been used by savvy scouters for many years and tells you the direction of travel and the age structure of deer passing through. Remember, there’s no time like the first time.