It has been a few years since I put up my stand, last fall we sat at the end of a couple tree claims, but I was out with a bow just the one time. I used to look for well used path close to some water source. Also look at tree claims that come to an end by a river bottom. There is usually food, water, and cover close by. Scouting to see when the deer move helps as well. One year by Casselton I set up in a great spot with one problem: the deer didn't move till after dark. Do you have an idea where you are going to hunt?
Decoyer- You asked a big question, but I'll try and answer it as best as possible. My choice of stand placement really depends on what I am looking to shoot, be it a doe for the freezer, a young buck, or whether I am really holding out for the big one.
First, I look for the basics: a food source, bedding areas, well-used paths, etc. I really try to spend some time beforehand looking at maps or even aerial photos (like those used to make soil maps) for natural funnel areas. These might be where two treelines converge, where several ravines come together, narrow areas of cover between two sloughs, etc. These funnels naturally concentrate deer.
Second, you will notice, with some scouting, that there will normally be well-travelled paths a few yards into the brush that parallel open areas. These parallel paths are used by deer to travel just within cover so that they don't have to travel in plain view. Although these paths will be tempting, avoid them.
Now, follow some of these parallel paths awhile, and you will notice less-travelled paths that cross them perpindicularly. These perpindicular paths are used by deer to cross the cover. If I am looking to shoot a doe or small buck, I will try to set up on one of these perpindicular paths that is used by deer to move between bedding and feeding areas. These types of setups are best for afternoon hunts because the deer will walk right past you to feed. For morning setups, try to set up on one of these perpindicular paths at a point where you can intercept the deer as they move from feeding areas to bedding areas.
For the real big boys, you have to get further back into the cover. Setting up for a monster is more area-specific. However, if you continue on one of these perpindicular paths further back into the cover, you will eventually find some secondary paths. What you really want to find during rut is some paths used by bigger bucks to check scrapes. Therefore, look for secondary paths that cut across the cover that will allow the bucks to check scrapes quickly. I have had most success setting up on paths between scrapes than I have setting up over a scrape itself.
Always set up with the wind in mind. Also, avoid setting up right on top of a trail. I always try to get at least 15 yards off a trail on the downwind side. A 15 or 20 yard shot is a gimme shot if you have practiced. Plus, you can get away with a lot more movement the further you are off the trail.
Last, all the gadgets in the world will not replace good scouting and lots of practice. Therefore, spend more time shooting and scouting, and less time reading the Cabelas catalog.
One thing I've learned in the past is not to leave too much to chance. Although, these animals cannot be predicted I try to leave as little to chance as possible.
By this I mean, after all the scouting and finding what seems to be perfect stand placement I think you need to take it a step further and do your best at taking luck out of the equation. To do this I use a variety of tools. In early season I will use a doe decoy just to simply get deer to relax. In pre-rut conditions I will use a buck decoy. Bucks are usually in the mood to "lay down the law" and establish their area. Peak rut gets a little tougher. I feel the reason peak rut can be tough is a high doe-to-buck ratio here in ND and not enough bucks competing to be the dominant buck and they are more interested in breeding receptive does than tangling with another buck and quite frankly I think they just dont care if there's another buck. Also, its tough to know if you have the right antler size on your decoy. Too big and they're scared off, too small, and again, they just don't care. So, a doe decoy would be the obvious choice for peak rut, right? Not so fast! From my experience bucks are very good at some how "knowing" what does are receptive and which ones aren't. So then what? Well, I'm not sure why (and trying to figure it out is half the fun) but the best peak rut set-up I've found is both a buck and a doe decoy. A doe and smaller buck decoy (but too small) and make sure you set them up relatively close. For some reason a dominant buck that may ignore a doe decoy that he some how "know's" isn't receptive will come over to just ot make sure if there is smaller buck with her.
These tactics along with a grunt, bleet, and some rattling seem to increase your odds "after" perfect stand placement.
Well, thats my two cents. Sorry if I am little incoherant, its late and I'm tired.
Hope some this helps this fall!!!! Only two weeks 'til opener!!
For september hunts I look for tall crops(corn&sunflowers)the deer live in them,and travel through them all of the time.Find a sheltrbelt with a well used trail going through it and look for a tree that is somewhat straight,and has enough leaves to partially conceal you.Once the stand is in place trim a minimal amount of branches to offer you a comfortable shot with several shooting lanes.Another thing,Allways hunt with the wind in your favor.I have a friend that allways tries to buck the wind and gets busted(snorted at)a lot!Your hunt is over for the evening and maybe a few weeks from that stand.I have seen adult does that have busted me a week earlier walk in to view,stop,and stare right at the stand to make sure the coast is clear before proceding down the trail.Good luck bowhunting this fall,and dont get hooked on shooting bucks your first year out.
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