It's HERE! Are you ready? The annual countdown of whitetail opportunity is winding down, and we are just about to enter the best time to hit your favorite treestand! This is the time of the year that I dream about During the late Winter...during the dog days of Summer...and during the several weeks leading up to late October. Isn't amazing though, how a period of time that is so precious to so many, comes and goes in seemingly the blink of a deer cam eye? It seems so far away-it's coming-it's here-and then it's over. At times these next few weeks can leave us with dreams fulfilled...or hopes deflated, so RIGHT NOW is the time that we should be doing our best to strategize how to get the most out of this upcoming, incredible time of the year!
My hope for myself and for you, is that our tree stands are ready to go for the entire rut, and not just the first few days. In the best of worlds you take a sit during you favorite stand one or two times and you shoot a monster. But does that always happen? It certainly doesn't with my own hunting pursuits! How many guys will sit in their favorite stands during the next 10 days, effectively destroying the productivity of those stands for the rest of the rut? The temptation is STRONG! I know personally, I have a hard time not slipping into the "perfect" set-up, and then doing it again...and again...and again in almost a panicked attempt at connecting on a monster I KNOW should be there, but isn't quite yet. And it's the "isn't quite yet" part of the equations that can lead to those deflated hopes, when it really doesn't have to! Have you every experienced tree stand burn-out, even though you have done a great job not hunting favorite stands until the start of the rut? I have, and I find it takes an even higher level of patience during this period of time that is often slow in approaching...and fast in departing. Here are my top 3 whitetail rut tree stand rotation strategies to insure productive, unpressured hunting stands during the entire rut, and not just the first few days:
1. Just Chipping Away
I would hope that every stand that you hang has a definite purpose and expectation of quality sits to come. At the same time, exactly where are those stands located? Maybe I should have ended with this point, but this strategy is probably the most important of them all! Many times a tree stand burns-out too early, because it is nearly impossible to access or take a seat in, without having a significantly negative impact on the entire area around the stand. The center of mature buck acitivity can look extremely inviting, but I found that by "chipping away" at the outside of a core area and hunting the edge of the expected buck movement instead of the center, a stand location can live to hunt another day.
When you find a hot, core mature buck area full of rubs, scrape and pellets the first thing many hunters will do is to look for a nearby tree to hang a stand. Instead, look for adjoining funnels that lead to the area, and hang a stand in those locations. By preserving the core, you can often create 2-3 high quality stand locations within 200 yards of the core, that are supported by the core. When a mature buck is "rutty", he sometimes will travel near all 3 alternate stand locations in a single morning, let alone the entire rut. You can have multiple stand locations for wind variety, and possibly both morning and evening access for the entire rut, and not just a "1 and done" first-day rut sit.
2. Fresh is Best
Your favorite stand should always be your next stand you have a great hunt out of, and not your last stand you had a great hunt out of. Exercising a short memory helps you take the emotion out of your next stand choice. Instead, use facts to make your next decision, including sign, current feeding patterns, neighboring pressure and often most importantly, which stand has received the least amount of pressure.
Every stand you hang should have the potential to produce, or else why hang it? At the same time if you are chipping away around the outside of a core area, or possibly several core areas, your stand locations could total a dozen sites or more on 80 acres or less. With a focus of not hunting any 1 stand more than 2-3 times throughout the entire 4 Weekends of Quality Rut Hunting described in this article , you will find it hard to use every stand in your arsenal. I often find that it has become extremely rare that I use 1 stand more than twice per year, which keeps every location fresh each time you use it. I have experienced throughout the last 3 decades that using a variety of both average to high quality stands conservatively spread out through 4 weeks, has been better than hitting my high quality stands multiple times in a row over a shorter period of time.
3. Defining Stand Locations
Each and every stand location features the opportunity for a perfect sit, when the conditions are right. Have you thought about the perfect conditions for each stand location that you will use during your upcoming rut sits? There are several factors to consider:
*wind direction and speed
*morning or evening stand
*neighboring pressure influence
*cruising, bedding area, or feeding influences
*pre-dawn and post-dawn access stands
For example, you could have a great evening stand that takes advantage of bucks cruising to an adjacent food source that you couldn't possible access during the early morning hours without spooking feeding deer nearby. However, if you wait until the coast is clear after daybreak you may have find the perfect combination sit for both morning to mid-day cruisers, as well as evening food source travelers. I have also had some outstanding sits during moderate to high Northwest winds by sitting on the "quiet" side of the ridge, 100' or more in elevation below the top.
*Tip-Defining the perfect set of conditions to use each stand in, will help take the stress out of narrowing down your stand choices. Both stands A and B may offer an oustanding morning sit for a particular Saturday with a pending coin flip decision coming soon. However, if you see that Sunday's high wind foreast will create an opportunity to use stand A on the quiet side of the ridge, while stand B needs to be used during the quieter conditions presented Saturday-your decision is made! Deer hunting is a giant chess match, and like chess, it pays to think several moves ahead-even weeks ahead! By defining exactly when to use each stand based on a collection of variables, you can constantly maintain a practice of a rotaton of high quality sits spread out over several weeks, while keeping your overall hunting intrusion to a minimum.
It's really tough! You wait the entire year to hunt the rut while dreaming about your favorite stands...and then I am suggesting that you only use them once or twice. I hear you. Trust me, I am in the same boat. However, while practicing conservative whitetail rut tree stand rotation strategies I have consistenly experienced that less = more. I urge to practice the above 3 strategies during the rut so that you can plan to take advantage of quality sits the entire rut, and not just the first few days.