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Regardless if you are a bow hunter, or hunt with a rifle, under many circumstances, hunting from a tree stand can be the most effective method of all hunting methods, especially in areas with relatively high game populations, dense cover and terrain that’s too difficult to permit successful glassing. Successful tree stand hunting, however, involves much more than simply buying a stand, randomly picking out a tree and climbing up. It’s a chess game against your quarry, a dynamic process of moves and counter-moves; where the hunter selects a tree for his stand, gives it a go and then, based on his observations and changes in prevailing conditions, might choose to move the stand to increase his chances at a high-percentage shot.

Improving Your Odds

Here are some basic guidelines that will help make you a more successful tree stand hunter:


You must scout to locate areas where animal sign is abundant before choosing a stand site. For Sambar deer, such areas can include preferred food sources, active trails and trail junctions; funnels, improved pasture edges and fence lines; active wallows and rubs can also be good areas to target.

As a general rule, the best tree stand locations for Sambar cover trails leading from food sources to bedding areas in the mornings and are close to preferred food sources in the afternoons.

Hunt the Deer, Not the Trees

The right way to look for a place to hang a tree stand is to scout the bush, find hot sign and then set up within good shooting range of that sign. The wrong way is to scout, find hot sign, then look for a nearby tree that will accommodate your tree stand. That’s like the tail wagging the dog. Never forget that the objective is to get a shot at your quarry. If your stand won’t work in a tree within range of the spot that you know will produce, it’s time to re-evaluate your hunting technique and possibly your stand.

Watch The Wind

Even if you’re 20 feet off the ground, you still have to hunt with the wind in your favor. Setting up so that game will approach upwind or crosswind of your stand and walking to your stand with the wind in your face are important. For example, when hunting a fresh wallow, it’s better to set up 30 to 100 yards downwind of the scrape and not right on it. just how far depends on the terrain and thickness of the brush. A stag usually approaches a wallow on the downwind side to scent-check it before approaching; you don’t want him coming in downwind of you.


Contrary to popular opinion, deer do look up! Erect your stands so that you have as much cover around you as possible so that deer and other game won’t spot your movements or your silhouette. You should at least have a backdrop of leaves and branches. Don’t prune away too many branches around your stand and on the ground to create shooting lanes or the game will spot you.

Don’t move

Just because you’re elevated and in full camo doesn’t mean that game can’t spot your movements. They can! Control your fidgeting by bringing a book to read while on stand. You can cut and stick branches in the floor of your stand so that game can’t see your feet shuffling. The less that you move, the more game you’ll see.

Be aware of your elevation

If you place your stand in a depression/ valley, you must be aware that deer might be moving on your level on the adjacent hillsides. This makes it easier for them to spot you. A tip used by the pro’s is to set stands either in the very bottom of a depression or the top of the ridge, but never on a hillside unless it’s unavoidable.

Stand Height

Choose your stand’s height according to conditions. On flat, open ground, 12 feet might be enough. In thickets, 20 to 25 feet up might be necessary. Do what’s necessary to achieve the optimum compromise between cover, visibility, scent control and your height comfort level. I prefer stands set about 25 feet up to prevent game from seeing me, and the added height helps keep my scent floating above game.

Be Quiet

Be as quiet as possible when setting up a stand, traveling to and from the stand site and while sitting on stand. Unnatural noise is a red flag to wary game. Secure all stand parts, like chains and exposed metal surfaces when hauling the stand in. Before the season, lubricate squeaky areas to remove creaks and groans. An old piece of carpet cut to fit makes a warm, quiet foot pad. Take a few extra minutes to take care of details and you’ll increase your odds of success.

Minimize Your Gear

Some hunters aren’t comfortable unless they pack the entire Cabela’s catalog gear selection with them on stand. Come on, you’ll only be there a few hours! The less that you bring; the less will get in the way, or fall noisily to the ground. Everything that you need should fit into an average-sized day pack.

Be Flexible

If you keep seeing game from your stand, but it’s out of range, be prepared to move the stand to the area where the game is moving. By mid-morning, if there’s no action where you are or if the area’s been dead for days, climb down and scout for hot sign. When you find it, move your stand and hunt the hot sign that afternoon or the next morning.

Ground Odour

Game, especially Sambar, will smell where you’ve walked and will avoid your stand site unless you take great pains to minimize the odour that you leave on the ground. Wearing knee-high rubber boots, or a scent control gaiter over your boots is an important first step. Avoid walking on trails that you think the deer will use to approach your stand. Do not touch anything with your bare skin and wash hunting clothes in no-scent detergent, store them in a clean plastic bag and put them on in the field. Stay away from the camp fire in your hunting clothes, when you return to camp, get changed and stow your hunting gear in a scent free bag.

The More, The Merrier

The opinion of many experienced tree stand hunters is, that the first time that you hunt from a stand is your best chance to shoot an animal from it, especially if your goal is a mature stag. So try to place several different stands each year, hunting specific sites only under perfect conditions. Also consider scouting on-the-go with a portable climber or lightweight fixed-position stand, setting it up when you find hot sign and hunting from it that afternoon or the following morning.

Scouting From Above

In unfamiliar terrain, consider placing your tree stand in an area where you can overlook a lot of country. The main purpose of this is to try to observe game movements in the surrounding countryside. If you see a mature animal off in the distance, don’t hesitate; if the wind’s right, move your stand over to where you saw him and start hunting.

Use Your Head

The big advantage that hunters have over the game that we pursue is our ability to out-think them. When selecting a specific tree to place your stand in, put on your thinking cap and ask yourself, “Why this tree?” Have a plan. Anticipate where the game will be traveling and at what angle the stand should be set to your best advantage. Walk a 360degree circle around the tree before erecting the stand. Decide beforehand how you’ll enter and exit the stand location, which branches and limbs to trim and which way the prevailing wind is blowing. Set the stand on the downwind side of the trails that you think the game will use.

The Waiting Game

Like a chess game: scouting, trying to figure out what the animals are doing and why, the move and countermove of finding a prime location, placing a stand and anticipating what might walk by is the challenge, getting it right and getting a shot at your game is the reward.

Be Safe

Like all hunting, there is a high element of danger associated with the sport, climbing a tree increases the odds of getting hurt! Use a harness, and a fall restraint system as soon as you leave the ground, no deer is worth getting injured or killed for.

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