The ice rotted off my favorite panfish lakes in late March leaving me the entire month of April to scout for deer. Based on sign found prior to green up I chose a number of tree stand and ground blind locations that required some work to be done to have them ready for this coming deer season. I like to prepare my stand sites early to avoid having to go into my spots shortly before the bow season opener and alert deer to my presence. Setting up a stand site makes a lot of noise and leaves human scent all over the place in areas the deer have come to consider “safe”. This intrusion does not go unnoticed by the resident deer, and they become wise to human interference, making them harder to hunt. For this reason preparing stand locations in April/early May allows me to be ready to hunt a spot long before the season opens, giving the spot plenty of time to “settle down”, allowing the resident deer to return to normal patterns.
When I set up or prepare a stand location in early springtime, it involves putting the tree stand or ground blind where I want it. Then if I’m on private ground I cut shooting lanes and make sure I can cover the trails I’m hunting. On public land I rely on natural openings for shooting lanes since trimming branches is not permitted. After that, I remove the tree stand or blind and abandon the spot until I come back to hunt it in the fall. At that point I’m ready to do a quick and quiet set up on a spot I’m confident will produce deer sightings.
In early May, just after the leaves have formed, I’ll return to see if I am still able to have clear shooting from each stand location. On private land, any additional branches that need to be trimmed to clear shooting lanes are removed now and I’m finished prepping the site. Coming back now also familiarizes me with my access to and from the stand now that the woods and swamps have greened up and everything looks different.
The beauty of setting up stand locations prior to green up is that it looks the same as it will this coming fall after the leaves have fallen. Under these conditions sign is much more visible and you can more easily determine the best places to set up your stand/ blind. Walking the deer trails past your stand location will reveal natural shooting lanes or show what branches need trimming (on private ground) to create clear shooting. Repeating this step once the leaves have recently sprouted ensures that you will have clear shooting in early bow season as well. Once this step is complete the stand site is ready and you can leave it alone until it is time to hunt it. If you are hunting on public land it is mandatory not to leave your stand or blind set up at the end of the day, you must remove it. Similarly, removing your stand/blind on private ground at the end of the day is also a good idea, so prepping trees and ground blind spots ahead of time aids in in being more successful in setting up quickly and quietly.
Once I’ve done my final tweaking of a stand site, just after the landscape greens up in May, I do not return until it’s time to hunt in the fall. It’s a strategy that has paid off many times by keeping the area free of human scent and interference, resulting in deer feeling secure there which makes them more likely to hang around. Ultimately it means I’ll have a better opportunity to see deer there during hunting season.