John's Journal...

Ups and Downs of Tree Stands for Hunting Deer

Day 5: Why Hunt the Worst Stands for Big Bucks with a Tree Stand

Editor’s Note: One size of tree stands doesn’t fit all. To choose an effective tree stand, first study the conditions in the area you hunt. Then select a tree stand to match them.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewYears ago all the other trucks had left camp to put-out standers for a dog deer drive. I was on the last truck going to the stands closest to camp. An older gentleman said as he was helped into the back of the pickup, “The weather’s really cold. If you fellows don’t mind, I’ll take this first stand. Then, if I get too cold, I can walk back to camp.” Several people told him that they usually skipped this stand so close to camp. But when the truck stopped at stand #1, he insisted he’d hunt there. I helped the elderly gentleman get out of the truck, set-up his little chair, and got the blanket he planned to put over his legs. We dropped-off three or four more hunters on their stands, about 75- to 100-yards apart. Back then, we all hunted with shotguns.

When we reached stand #7, we heard a shotgun blast. The hunt master, who was driving our truck, said, “Y’all get off the truck quick. That shot came from stand #1. I’m afraid that old man might have hurt himself.” I really couldn’t concentrate much on the hunt, because I was so worried about the elderly hunter. As the standers climbed on the truck to return to camp after the hunt, the old man was foremost in our minds and conversation. But soon at the camp, everyone on the truck was wide-eyed. On a meat pole hung the biggest 12-point buck any of us ever had seen on that club. The land we hunted was overpopulated with deer, and a 2-year-old 8-point would have been the biggest buck taken there. The old man sat on his stool by the fire with his blanket over his legs, grinning from ear to ear. Quickly, one of the hunters asked, “Did you shoot that big ole buck?” The old man grinned as he told his story. “You boys hardly had gotten out of sight before I heard something tiptoeing through the leaves. I got my gun up on my shoulder, sat real still and took that buck about 20-yards away.”

What Deer Have Learned about Deer Hunters:

Some years later, I asked Dr. Keith Causey, now a retired professor of wildlife science at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and longtime deer researcher, if there was any way to consistently take an older-age-class-buck. Causey answered, “Absolutely. Always take the worst stand on the property that no one else wants to hunt, and put your tree stand up there. That’s where the older-age-class-bucks will move, because they know there’s no danger there.”

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewAfter that, I interviewed Dr. Grant Woods of Reeds Springs Missouri, another avid deer researcher, about hunting older-age-class bucks. He told me, “We radio collared some of the oldest bucks on a 5,000-acre study area to see how hunting pressure affected these bucks’ movement patterns. Twelve wildlife biologists, who hunted this study area, were instructed to take these mature bucks, if they saw them. The biologists weren’t allowed to use trail cameras, but they were required to GPS the routes they took to and from their stands and mark their tree-stand sites as waypoints. Although these wildlife biologists had been studying deer for at least 3-4 years, not a single radio-collared buck was harvested. When we matched-up where the biologists were hunting, and where the older-age-class bucks were moving, we learned that the older bucks always adjusted their travel routes to dodge the places that the biologists were hunting.

“From this study, we learned what we always had presumed. The older-age-class-bucks would adjust their daylight movement patterns and set-up new travel corridors to avoid the places where hunters were. To take these bucks, you had to be in a place where the deer didn’t expect you to be, at a time the deer didn’t think you’d be there. We learned that the worst tree-stand site on a piece of property might be the best stand site to see and harvest an older-age-class buck. Too, the first time you hunted that stand site would be when you had the greatest opportunity to see and take that buck.”

For more deer-hunting tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” Go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Check back each day this week for more about "Ups and Downs of Tree Stands for Hunting Deer "

Day 1: Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips’ Deer Hunting Experience with Tree Stands
Day 2: The Value of Tree Stands for Hunting Deer
Day 3: How Many Tree Stands Do You Need for Deer Hunting and Problems You’ll Face Hunting from Tree Stands
Day 4: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Kinds of Tree Stands
Day 5: Why Hunt the Worst Stands for Big Bucks with a Tree Stand

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Entry 739, Day 5