Have you ever considered opting for an observation stand? Have you formulated a pro and con list? Or have you just tossed that idea out the window because it is not necessary for you?
I was thinking about observation stands today and the different ways that I have utilized them. A few years ago, I would have never really considered them but in the past 3 years I have found them to be very worthy of the time and effort. I hope that this can be helpful to you as the reader as well as potentially come in handy if this comes up for you in the future.
So what exactly is an observation stand in the first place? Well, I think of it as 2 things. The first is a stand location that isn’t intrusive and will not negatively impact my hunting area while giving me intel on what deer movement I might see on a certain wind direction and feeding pattern. The second is that I can still hunt because you never know what comes by! Truly I think about it as a recon mission to get information but it does require time and that is always something that we cannot necessarily afford to do. If you can even afford one of day, I promise it would be well worth it.
I have 4 different scenarios that I will bring up.
- Area that is leased but I have never hunted it before
- Area that I am hunting that is a guided hunt
- Area that is public land that I have never hunted
- Area that is public that I have hunted before
I will go over each number from above and touch on points that could deem fruitful and useful if that is how you will be hunting or are hunting this season.
#1. I have leased property that I hunt. This is an option to hunt an area that has very little pressure but I really don’t know much about it. I was able to get cameras out on the properties early in the year and get a solid inventory of what is on the property. The big question was how will the deer move during the October/November timeframe? I planned on putting an observation stand out in July specifically because I wanted to see how the deer were moving and where I could hunt moving forward based on something I saw while sitting in the stand. I put a stand right off an easy access trail that is between 2 bedding areas and a transition area. This might seem risky but with the right wind, which is always a South wind that is needed for me, it has proven fruitful. I sat in the stand for 2 Saturdays and while the first Saturday didn’t give me anything as far as information, the second sit was fantastic. I saw exactly where bucks were getting up from bedding and where they were heading. I immediately documented it down and knew that if I had a N or E wind, I would head to another spot.
Below is another property that I wanted to highlight. As you can see in red and pink colors, those are all stand locations that I would hunt out of. I have a purple dot where an observation stand would be placed in the top right corner of the field. The wind would be perfect and you would be able to see all the movement going on across the field. This most likely will show where the deer are coming out to feed. The nice part is that you also could potentially have a deer come up in that small patch behind you as well since it goes to a very tight point.
#2. If you are hunting with a guide, this is a different story. Whenever I have done a guided hunt for Whitetails, the stands are already in prime spots and all the stands are picked specifically for what wind is going to be occurring the day of. I was so impressed when I sat in the stand and saw deer moving exactly as predicted by the guide. If you have never done a hunt like this and can afford it, it is a great way to get closer to a trophy and lessen the time needed in the stand. What I can tell you is this…. The guides have set up observation stands and watched all of these areas before placing their stands in the first place. They are specifically targeted because of research and proven movement. This is great because the hard work has been done for you.
#3 and #4. Area that is public land that I have hunted before is still sketchy and this is why I am combining these 2 together. I began to hunt a public piece last year and I really needed to find out what was going on over roughly a 230 acre area. I actually did something that most hunters probably wouldn’t do. I walked the property and looked for food sources as well as where I could put up a few cameras. I left them out for a couple weeks. I told myself that based on what I saw on those cameras and where I saw the least amount of deer sign would be where I hung my observation stand. It worked perfectly! I took 2 full days and hung a stand where I could look across an entire open field. On the other side of the field, I saw a deep drainage east of the field and a ton of sign. I needed to see what was going to come out, what time and where from. I found a solid 8 point buck that I put on my hit list last year. I unfortunately had a close encounter with him in late October and I was not able to take him. The good news is that I saw him on camera this year again! We will see what happens this year but I will be sitting in my observation stand again to see if things look the same as last year. So far, I have sat in there once and I plan on hitting it again one more time before I hunt any existing stand or use my climber if any pivot is needed.
A question that has popped up before has been “What month should I use an observation stand?” I would recommend October as the perfect month to sit in your observation stands. Preferably the 1st to the 3rd week. The best weeks that I have seen have been the 2nd and 3rd. You will get some excitement as well with some young bucks sparring and hopefully some movement due to a cold front. It is great! The other reason is because as I posted on the October Lull on October 18th, I feel that if you don’t believe these are great hunting times, they will still be good times to be in the stand visually seeing what is going on. There is no better way to scout than by being out in the woods.
In closing, if you can, set up an observation stand and take advantage of what you can learn, see and document.
Scout, Hunt, Repeat