John's Journal...

Click to enlargeHOW TO PICK A STAND SITE

Water Stands

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can’t bag a buck if you don’t see the animal. The key to seeing more bucks on every hunt is knowing how to choose the most-productive stand sites. Many hunters choose their stand sites using too little information.

To bag a big buck, you must be in a place where the deer least expect to see you at a time of day when the buck doesn’t anticipate encountering a hunter. Most of us don’t hunt out in the water because we’re more interested in keeping our feet dry and hunting deer with the least possible amount of hassle. However, to take an older, bigger buck, you must be willing to work for him. To determine where an exceptional tree stand site is, study the area you hunt. Search for spots where no one will want to put a tree stand. Learn how to reach that place without being seen and how to leave without disturbing any evidence to Click to enlargelet others know you’ve been in the region. I particularly like a tree stand site over water in river-bottom drainages. Two different methods will aid you in getting to a water stand - you can buddy-hunt with a small boat, or you can wear waders. If an oxbow lake, a beaver pond or a backwater slough is close to where you are hunting, use some type of portable boat or canoe to get you and your partner’s tree stands to the places to set them up. Paddle to a tree standing out in the water. Have your hunting friend lock on his tree stand, climb the tree and attach his safety belt once he is up the tree. Then, you paddle to the second stand site, pull the boat onshore, hide the boat under brush or bushes and wade out to your tree stand site wearing either hip or thigh-high waders and carrying your tree stand. After the hunt is over and you come out of your stand, retrieve the boat, and pick up the other hunter.

By using this strategy, you . . .
· leave no scent in the area you plan to hunt,
· can watch the water’s edge, which most often is a natural deer migration route - especially if acorns are floating on the edge of the water,
· will surprise the deer, since they don’t expect to see hunters in trees over water,
· will find other hunters coming to hunt that region often will drive deer to you if they come by land,
· can unload any deer you bag into the boat or canoe and transport it out easily to your vehicle.

Even if you don’t have access to a portable boat or a small canoe, you can wear hip or chest waders to move out into the water well away from the bank and place your tree stand to hunt. One of my favorite stands to hunt in a beaver swamp late in the season is in flooded timer. These regions will be full of white oak and red oak acorns. Click to enlargeWhen the rains come in late December and the beaver ponds overflow their banks, the acorns that have been on the forest floor float to the surface. On one morning, I had reached my stand before first light and was in my tree stand about an hour before there was enough light to shoot. In the stillness of the morning, I could hear wood ducks whistling through the trees and splashing in the beaver slough as they landed. I also heard the noisy quacking of mallard ducks dropping into the standing timber and feeding on the floating acorns. As the light increased, dripping water and popping nuts were the loudest sounds in the area. Using my binoculars, I looked for the deer. Searching through the mist rising from the swamp, I spotted four does knee-deep in the water feeding on the acorns. Behind the does, I saw another deer with his head behind a big cypress tree.

Then when a wood duck flew into the swamp like a World War II fighter pilot and splashed not 20 yards from the deer standing near the cypress, the animal jerked its head back. I saw a flash of ivory. I studied the buck through my binoculars. Although he only was a 6-point, his antlers were wide and heavy. Because a breeze blew from the shore out across the beaver pond, I knew the deer couldn’t smell me. I waited for a better shot. When the second wood duck flew in and landed in the same area as the first wood duck, the 6-point backed away from the cypress tree and fed down the slough toward me. The buck stopped between two sweet gum trees and presented a front shoulder shot. As the crosshairs found the spot I was searching for, I squeezed the trigger. At the explosion of the rifle, ducks took to the air, and does splashed down the slough. However, the 6-point was lying in the water where he last had stood. That same water Click to enlargestand produced bucks for me six out of the eight years I hunted that property. I never saw another hunter in that part of the woods.

Tree stand placement is critical to whitetail success. Once you learn to carefully scout after studying topo maps and aerial photos, discard the obvious, quit thinking like other hunters and determine what a deer will do before he does it, you will be much more consistent in placing your stand at a spot where you can see and take a buck.

Check back each day this week for more about HOW TO PICK A STAND SITE

Day 1: Stadium Seats for Bucks
Day 2: Public Land Stands
Day 3: Green-Field Stand Sites
Day 4: Escape Trails
Day 5: Water Stands



Entry 322, Day 5