Do you have a favorite treestand location? If your answer is like mine...you might respond "sure!" However, a thought I would like you to consider when you choose your next spot to sit in a tree this season, is this: "Your favorite stand should be the next tree you shoot a giant buck out of, not the last tree you shot one out of." What are your personal deer stand rotation strategies? Like I said, I have my favorites! Even on a new WI property this year, I can't wait to sit on top of the rocky point, the waterhole bench stand or the low conifer cruising funnel. However, as someone who has sat in over 40 trees in 1 season at a time I was only hunting in 2 states (over 20 years ago!)...over the years I have found that the variety of deer stand locations has been critical to my success. By following the amount of buck sign you may be directly led to the freshest stands on the land while searching for your next weekend stand rotation. Check out some of my own personal stats:
*Of 13 of my bucks shot on PA public land in 16 seasons, only 2 were shot from the same tree.
*Of the 17 bucks I harvested on my WI lease in 12 years, 14 were killed from different trees.
*With nearly 20 Southern MI bucks harvested dating back to the 80s, none were killed from the same treestand.
*Taking a look at roughly a dozen UP of MI bucks taken on both public land private land-only 2 were shot from the same deer stand (1998)
Follow the Sign
Variety is my personal rotation strategy. Last year I enjoyed a particularily lengthy WI bow season with more total sits in 2013 to finally run into the buck I was after, than nearly the previous 3 combined. I was being extra picky, but my stats for last year reflect 30 sits in 17 different stand locations with 6 different access and departure routes spread out over a length of up to 2.5 miles of walking while accessing 190 acres. Thankfully-I had great neighbors! And as you can probably guess, I was able to run into my 2013 WI archery brute on my 30th sit, while I sat in a particular stand for the first time for the year.do you follow the sign?
Mature bucks may seem shy, they often appear mysterious and I have had a few I referred to as "ghosts". However, even those ghosts left an incredible amount of sign in the form of huge tracks, rubs and scrapes. As a buck ages, the more sign he leaves. He can't help himself! Every year I make a 35 minute access to one of my "favorite" stands only to find zero mature buck sign. What is a hunter supposed to do? Personally, I find another tree. My goal is to find the highest value stand that I can find on the property, for each and every particular sit because even with 2 dozen stands or more on 1 parcel I have found there is only 1 "best" stand for the time of season, weather conditions, rut conditions, morning, mid-day or evening hours. In 2011 I made a mistake on my very first sit of the year...I sat in a "dead stand".
Even though the particular dead stand was a perennial favorite, the adjacent game camera as well as the lack of sign, confirmed that not 1 mature buck had been through the area during the previous 2 months. I checked the SD card after the hunt which confirmed my suspicions, but if i had not been too lazy during the afternoon I would have known this before I even climbed into the tree. I try to get the absolute most out of every sit I make, and it doesn't matter if it's during the early season, rut, or late season...I follow the sign no matter to which stand it takes me.
Fresh is Best
It has been such an amazing pattern that I look forward to each year! Simply, when I follow the sign it often takes me to the most "fresh" stand on the property. Mature bucks have an incredible ability to stay hidden in all of their movements, so it makes sense that they gravitate (or are pushed) to the area featuring the least amount of hunting pressure. That area may not contain the best cover or food, but almost every time what it does feature is an extremely low level of human presence.
What's a fresh stand?
*The highest value sit is the first sit, and in my experience that sit is worth several times more than the 2nd sit, which is worth several times more than the 3rd sit.
*The value of a stand location can recover after a period of repeated use, but it can take 1-3 weeks depending on the conditions and level of intrusion during the previous sit(s). And even then, much of the time the mature buck sign tells me that a particular stand that has been repeatedly used never really fully recovers to it's initial level of potential quality until the following year.
*A stand isn't fresh just because it hasn't been used. If you have walked by a stand, or allowed your scent or sound to saturate a stand area while accessing other stands...it's not a lot different than actually sitting in the stand.
The complexity of stand decisions can reach epic proportions as the parcel size and number of hunters increase. I hunt cold fronts, and that means 2-3 days of sits at a time. But even then a 3 day hunt still turns into 6 different sits (morning and evening stand selections). Managing 6 sits may seem easy, but when you consider 360 degrees of wind direction potential, morning/evening possibilities and access routes it can be tough to truly find a fresh stand by the 5th, and especially the 6th sit.
It often helps to work backwards, by saving the most invasive and remote stand for last. Once you define which stand you can use on day 3, you can choose your first sit based on saving the most stand locations that relate to the given wind patterns you will encounter, and then work forward. While choosing stand #2 you have to consider how clean you can keep sit #4 and so-on. Your goal, to hunt a fresh stand each and every sit...even if that means that you either save your "favorite" stand for last...or possibly not even hunt it at all.
In 2004 I shot my largest archery buck to date. It was a beautiful 4 year old 13 point we had watched for 2 years, and I shot him on the first sit of the year for a particular bowstand. I couldn't wait to sit in that stand the following year, afterall-a "one and done" sit will do that to a guy! However, while managing sits for 2 hunters the following year the stand just never came up in the rotation when time of day, time of year, adjacent stand use and wind direction was entered into the equation. Something interesting about that stand location? A mature buck was never shot out of it again, as the level of mature buck sign was never again at the same level as when it was used for the first time.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="2004 "One and Done" stand location"]
Do you have similar deer stand rotation strategies? If not, give it a try this season. Some of those forgotten, out of the way mid-value stand locations can easily turn into the #1 stand on the land you hunt, when it has been ignored and unpressured. However, if you hunt with the intention of allowing all of your stand locations to appear ignored and unpressured to the local deer herd, your stand rotation is set for a season of great things to happen!