NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, April 16, 2017 – It’s completely dark as you walk out to your stand. The temperature is a cool, crisp 5 degrees. You reach your stand about 45 minutes to an hour before the first glints of dawn appear.
As you settle into your seat, there is complete silence. The clear sky is a kaleidoscope of stars with the planet Venus, otherwise known as the morning star, brightly thrown in. Very slowly, the sky to the east begins to turn lighter, from an inky-dark color it starts to shade with a little bluer.
Pretty soon the horizon to the east becomes a light blue and the sky is only partially dark with just a few of the stars remaining. It is morning and one begins to hear the birds as they start chirping and the squirrels stirring and chasing each other through the tall, strong oak trees.
Life is awakening, and then you hear it. A crunch, crunch, crunch as a large, heavy, male deer makes his way through the fallen leaves in the woods towards your location/stand.
There he steps into the open. Magnificent. Regal. And this time you just watch.
Whether you are an avid hunter, photographer, or wildlife viewing enthusiast, there are several differing ways to view or see the various types of wildlife (deer bear coyote, cougar, eagle, hawk, rabbit, squirrel, etc) without them seeing you.
Choosing a stand
One can choose from a variety of stands and structures, fixed ladder stands, either made of wood or aluminum, climbing stands made of aluminum, climbing sticks with a strap on chair, one to two man mobile or fixed ground blind tents or structures, and simply dressed out in cameo, sitting in a chair hidden by bushes or behind a tree.
As a caveat, scent control to reduce or eliminate the human scent must be used in conjunction with each stand strategy. They need to not see, or smell you. However, that is a discussion for another day.
Each of these means of viewing requires some scouting to determine proper placement or location. Most of these are acquired from sporting goods stores like Dicks, Bass Pro, Sportsman warehouse, Academy Sports, Gander Mountain, Cabela’s, Sportsman guide and other related brick and mortar or online stores.
The prices range from a reasonable $100 up to about $300 for the ladder and climbing stands. Ground tents can get up to about $125, but only $30 for concealment wraps.
For wooden shooting houses, Lowes, Home Depot or other lumberyards and hardware stores will provide the lumber for the posts siding and roofs.
These will run as high as $300 for materials, but you also have to cut the wood, screw them together, as it is up to the individual to build it.
Please note that Public Areas do not allow for fixed shooting houses. These are solely for privately owned or leased land and only with the owner’s permission if it is not the users land.
For your stand placement, very carefully select your location or you will have wasted your effort. This requires scouting the area looking for sign, tracks, waste matter, or natural food, which would draw and hold wildlife to a specific area.
These locations may be on hills or woods overlooking fields, food plots, valleys, firebreaks, power lines, or saddles between hills. Locate them in funnels or choke points between fields and woods, or woods and swamps, and in woods around water like creeks or streams.
Also, look to use as much natural concealment as possible for your stand placement. This ensures for optimal camouflage coverage.
Where possible, the location selected should be behind trees or bushes, within bushes or trees, or by placing dead and broken limbs or small trees against your stand to give it a more natural look, and allowing it to act as a wall further concealing one from the wildlife.
A recommended length for a two-person metal ladder stand is 21 feet to the base of the seating area. That puts one sitting on the bench with roughly 23 feet to the shooting bar.
This is normally high enough that deer will not see you, as they don’t look up.
However, most wildlife eyes and ears are very sharp and they are always on the lookout for movement, like a hand scratching your nose or strange sounds, a paper crumpling in a pocket or a boot scraping against a floor base.
As long as they don’t see movement or hear any sound wildlife will come into your area.
A great way to ensure that the wildlife sees no movement is to use a mossy oak, real tree or a similar camo patterned wrap-around.
For any ladder or climbing stand, the cameo wrap should always be included. When using a ladder or climbing stand with a shooting bar, it is best to wrap a camo wrap around your stand, tying the wrap off with a twist tie or a set of bungee cords to ensure the wrap doesn’t come down.
Why the wrap? While high in the air, the wrap helps conceal movement while giving the wildlife, now blind to your location, a sense of security.
A wooden based 2 man shooting house, should range anywhere from 5-25 feet. This is based upon a person’s location, position, visibility, and how much underbrush is around.
These are great for private land as they permit people to bring their children with them and still ensure the wildlife will not see them.
The shooting house offers a shielded dry location that may have outdoor carpet on the floor to deaden the sound. On colder days, a propane based ‘lil buddy heaters’ work great by keeping the space silently warm to allow longer viewing times.
Some enthusiasts enjoy using a climbing stand for viewing. More skilled and stronger hunters, photographers or wildlife enthusiasts, use the climbers, because of the mobility it offers.
It is also far more difficult to do than climbing a ladder to a box or ladder stand. This is due to the physical exertion that goes into both climbing up and down a tree, as well as raising and lowering one’s equipment and gear.
These types of stands are great for climbing up a hardwood or pine tree with no limbs. These stands have a fulcrum platform that uses an individual’s weight and angle of their tree climber to elevate or “walk” them up a tree.
Climbers allow for greater flexibility and mobility as the viewer may walk anywhere with your gear/ equipment.
When you find the wildlife sign or location, you chose to view from, merely unstrap the climber from your back and secure the climber around the tree.
Positioning oneself on the platform, up you go, lifting first the top bar with ones arms and then the base through the foot straps.
Once having arrived at a decent height, 25 ft, one uses their haul ropes to bring up coats, concealment and other gear or equipment, food, and water.
With the climbing stand always follow proper safety precautions and use a harness, attached to the tree, when climbing either up or down a tree.
This prevents one falling from the climber for a variety of reasons, including falling asleep, or the stand tilting and discharging the person sitting or climbing.
Safety harnesses should be used on all climbing and ladder stands as a precaution.
In colder climates ‘lil buddy’ propane heaters aren’t viable to use with a climber and a cameoed or black blanket is suggested for additional warmth.
Another tool used for concealment is the use of these small pop up hunter blinds. The blinds, carried into the woods, in a case, are on your shoulder with a lightweight folding chair and the other equipment needed.
These are very simple to put up and post the stakes into the ground. It takes less than 5 minutes.
The tent-like hunting blinds, unlike the climbing stands, can use the ‘lil buddy’ heating in rain snow and cold while keeping you dry and concealed from the wildlife you are interested in viewing.
Nothing is more awe-inspiring than seeing the world come to life at either dawn or fade into the afterglow of a sunset. It is at these two times that one will view the majority of wildlife, regardless of your purpose.
To enhance your chances of viewing these magnificent creatures, one should always do so from an elevated concealed and camouflaged stand.
These allow viewing from as close as 3-5 feet depending on how you chose your location, stand, and scent control.
Get out to nature and enjoy yourself in a natural setting.
You will have the time of your life.
Jim Berliner is an avid hunter, sports fisherman, and surfer, and is a senior IT Program Project manager for a major corporation in Nashville, TN. Read more of his columns on CommDigiNews.com