"Really great stands don't happen overnight"... unless you just get lucky. That is a quote from Bill Winke. Now, I tend to agree with about 75-90% of what Bill says. My foundational years of bowhunting was spent during the Midwest Whitetail boom where Bill was dominating his property, killing big deer after big deer. Both Bill and I have changed since then as hunters, and I think that is because our properties are starkly different from one another. So, here I will go into detail about some of our best stands, ones of which we got lucky and hit the goldmine and others that have taken 2+ years to adapt into dynamite stand sites where some big deer meet their maker.
THE LITTLE 40
Have you ever hunted a little property with very limited stand options? If you have, you understand that you just have to accept your options and commit at some point. It was 2016, and we got a hang-on stand set hung on this overgrown oak. I liked the spot. It was about 30yards off of the field edge in some timber with little cedars growing. It looked good to me on an aerial standpoint and on-foot. The field was planted with beans, and no shots were presented, but we had a ton of nighttime activity in front of the stand. Knowing the value and variable nature of crop rotation with deer movement, we waited for a year with corn. Unlike most farms, this farm went beans-on-beans for 2016 to 2017. Darn it! I let the farm sit for a year without putting even a camera up. At worst, the farm was left idle to be a year-long sanctuary. I hoped 2018 would be a corn year. It was. The stand was still up in the good spot, but I realized I had a choice to make, use the corn to my advantage or stay in the tree. As I found out, the deer loved this farm once it was in corn about chest to shoulder height. I realized then that my stand really needed to be about 20-35 yards further north at a minimum. Why? Deer traffic. I ended up getting a blind into the corn facing the same timber edge my stand was in, about 40yds further down to the south. My deer came from the north more times than not, and they either walked the edge along the corn and the timber or they dove into the timber. We hunted this blind for a total of 5 days before we killed a 160" 10-point that I named Holliday. Here he is below.
Looking back, it took me from the summer of 2016 when I got the farm to the fall of 2018 to identify the best spot (further north vs. south) with the best conditions (corn planted vs. soybeans) along this field edge of only about 3-1/2 acres of woods. We didn't hunt this farm in 2019 due to it being planted in beans, and we know it is planted with corn this year, so we will be after it again looking for a 160"+ whitetail stud that will die checking the farm for does and tending scrapes. It's a very simple approach to a very small and simple farm. It's one of my favorites.
THE EAST TIMBER STAND
I have a larger farm in southern Iowa that I have now had since the spring of 2018. I've spent more time on this farm than any other that I have. We lose countless shot opportunities on this farm each year because we can't get into enough stands at once to adequately cover the varying paths of the deer leaving this section of timber that I deem as a sanctuary. The eastern side of the timber has had a stand since 2018. It's a staging area into and out of the thicker 75% of the block. Yet, there are literally countless trails for the bucks to come down. In 2018, we had a shot at a nice 150" 9-point, but I moved my guy after that. My camera was on the timber edge versus in the timber, so I learned that I missed a good amount of the buck traffic on camera. We didn't have a need to get up there again until Muzzleloader season, but my hunters went to a blind over some standing beans below the woods. Yet, they saw good deer traffic by the stand and realized they should have went there. Going into 2019, I figured that we would hunt this stand more aggressively, and on the first day, we killed a 156" stud 10-point. Then, the stand needed to move further to the south to catch bucks cutting the corner to get to the field they were checking for does. So, we moved the stand about 50 yards. This spot was much better, and it cut off about 50% of the buck movement we would miss if they cut the corner. Our next encounter was a buck pushing about 5-7 does out even closer to the corner. My hunter wanted to move the stand closer to the corner, about 30-40 yards further, and I declined. One sighting wasn't enough to convince me against two years of history that I have gathered. Now, I am analyzing this stand to see if I need to move it to make it better. I am weighing a lot of options, but the crop rotation will be what it was in 2018. Traffic will surely change a bit. Our furthest shot is about 60-yards to the corner, while we can still cover the other 50-60 yards back towards and in front of the old stand site. I am going to be changing this setup to incorporate a blind of some sort along the corner, potentially with a little food plot area. Also, there is an open section of fence the deer use when cutting the corner. If I close that off, the deer will have no choice but to stay in longer and become more exposed to the stand and blind combination. We will see how that turns out this year.
Stands can evolve over time. Many variables can lead to that need: crop rotation, land alterations (neighbor clear cutting), food plots, changing deer patterns, flooding, droughts, etc. Staying up to speed on your farms and the above variables will enable you to adjust your stand if and when needed. Stands can evolve over time. Yet, there is a whole other perspective here: luck.
Sometimes, we get a new farm that we don't know very well. No history. No known traffic. No known patterns. No data. So, we are left to make an educated guesstimate. Hours of looking at an aerial and looking at the farm briefly in the spring/summer on-foot then back to aerials for hours. We've struck gold like that before many times. Often enough, I find my stand or blind set within 20yds of another old stand site where the limbs were cut or maybe a 10-20 year old stand remnants. I find that aspect cool. Then, we get into the hunting season to test our theories. I can honestly say that the overwhelming majority of the time, we are in very good to dynamite spots. Still, that doesn't mean that we will be successful, but we should have as good of a chance as any if we can commit to the spot. Stand commitment is a whole other discussion for another time.
Thanks for reading!