“How high do you put your treestand in the tree” is one of the most asked questions of professionals in the hunting industry.
It’s like someone’s waiting to hear that there’s a “special height,” and the reason they haven’t harvested a good buck is because they’ve been two feet off the mark the whole time.
I’m not downplaying treestand height; it can be very important. While in a treestand you can see further, your movement is somewhat concealed, and most importantly, your scent isn’t concentrated at the whitetail’s “nose level.”
My answer to this question is “as high as I need to go” to fool a buck’s nose and eyes. It obviously varies from site to site but if I had to say, on average, around 20 feet off the ground. Sometimes 10-12 feet and sometimes 25 feet but, on average, a realistic 18-20 feet.
Some hunters will tell you that their stand is set 20 feet up but you look at their site and you can almost jump up and touch the bottom of their platform.
I don’t like heights, I’m probably more comfortable at 12-15 feet, but I’m more confident in success when I go a little higher.
One of the first considerations is “will the tree you choose allow you to go as high was you want.” Hardly ever is there a perfect “treestand tree” where you need one. And actually, you’re better off being in a less-than-perfect tree in a good spot with lots of sign than you are being in the perfect treestand tree where there’s not a lot of sign.
As long as the tree will support the weight of a hunter in a treestand, there’s usually a way to make the tree work.
Because there are so many shapes, sizes, and designs to different trees, I like to use several different styles of portable treestands. My favourite is the Bear River Outfitters Edge for several reasons. It’s all-steel construction so it’s very quiet. It has a large platform, and is very comfortable for long sits.
And most importantly, its unique “cam-lock” hanging system creates the most stable platform I’ve ever hunted from. When I’m 18 feet off the ground, I want to feel stable.
Another stand I like is the Remington Magnum. This also is a quiet steel-constructed stand but my favourite feature on this stand is the T-screw mounting system. You can have multiple T-screw set-ups ready to go and the stand can be placed back on the T-screw fast and quiet.
What if there’s no way a conventional portable is going to fit in the tree? As long as the tree is large enough to support the weight of a hunter and stand, usually there’s a way to prop a ladder stand up against it.
The Bear River Archer is my choice for ladder stands. It’s affordable, sturdy, easy to set up, and quiet.
Background cover is another important consideration. You want to conceal your human silhouette as much as possible. If I have to set up in a “bald tree” with no cover, then I’ll compensate by going higher. I like to find a ‘Y’ in a tree or set up in a cluster of trees, and as long as I can shoot through or around them, the more branches the better.
Choosing the proper camo also is important. If that big buck catches something out of the corner of his eye that draws his attention towards me, I want him to look “through me” not “at me.”
Mossy Oak Break-Up and Shadow Branch are my favourite treestand patterns. They seem three-dimensional and do a great job at breaking up my human form.
I’ve also seen times in areas with high hunting pressure and stupid hunters, where the deer actually go through the timber with their necks cocked up looking for hunters in treestands. When hunting a few places down south, I questioned a couple hunters why their treestands were so high. I mean these babies were a good 30-35 feet in the air.
Their answer was simply “any lower and the deer will see you.” Well, no kidding! Over time, through striking or some other way of letting the deer know they were there, these Bubbas had educated the deer to “hunters in treestands.”
Another big factor is the higher you get in the tree, the more drastic your shot angle is going to decrease. On a whitetail, I want a double-lung shot. When very high in the tree, that can sometimes be impossible. The higher you go, the smaller your target is.
After a certain point, the higher you go, the more “shot opportunities” you lose. Once you get above the brush and ground cover, you have to be careful not to go to high or you run into branches from the surrounding trees. Too high, and the only shot you’ll have is at the base of the tree you’re in.
Another suggestion is to practice shooting from different heights to see how your equipment will react. Many hunters that hunt from treestands never practice from a treestand. That’s a mistake. For the gun hunter, it’s not going to make much difference, but the bowhunter should practice different angles and different heights.
Just because another hunter goes 17 feet up the tree doesn’t mean you should. Every situation is different. Use your surroundings, common sense, and existing cover to go as high as you need to go to be confident you’ll remain undetected from the deer’s nose and eyes.