Dos and Don’ts of Tree Stand and Game Camera Placement

Category: press release

 Jul 31st, 2014 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Jul 31st, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Now is the time to fine-tune your set-ups for maximum success during the hunting season

By Josh Lantz with Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo

While many whitetail hunters place their game cameras in the springtime, most of these set-ups require fine-tuning by late summer.  Cameras are expensive and take valuable time to monitor.  Get the most out of them by making critical adjustments now, and avoid disturbing your deer during the critical few weeks before the hunting season begins.

Tree stands, too, require attention in late summer.  New stands erected in the spring or early summer when vegetation is sparse generally look quite different by August.  It’s why some hunters don’t hang or relocate stands at all until this time of year.  Regardless of when they were placed, all stands should be double-checked during late summer for safety and general huntability.

Game Cameras

Known as “America’s Favorite Hunting Couple,” Illinois-based Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo host the hit television shows The Choice and Archer’s Choice on Outdoor Channel.  Like most whitetail hunters, Ralph and Vicki advise placing cameras in the early spring if you can, in order to monitor deer throughout the full antler-growing cycle.  But while antler growth is useful and fun to observe, the duo agrees that the weeks leading up to the season opener are most important for observing deer.  “Opening day is always a hunter’s best chance for success,” Ralph says, “and our game cameras are the single most helpful scouting tool we have for patterning mature bucks and breeding-age does during the critical days and weeks before hunting begins,” he concludes.

Avoid placing game cameras where they will be facing direct sunlight, and try to clear their field of view of grass and limbs that sway in the wind and trigger useless shots.  Photo courtesy of wildgameinnovations.com.

Ralph and Vicki suggest the following dos and don’ts for making sure your cameras are all dialed in.

Do use enough cameras to cover the critical areas of your hunting property.  “We have a 20-acre property we hunt, and two cameras placed along the main game trail are adequate,” Vicki says.  “On a different 33-acre piece we run four – three on the primary trails in and out, and one on a food plot in the center of the property,” she continues.  Let the size and individual features of the property you’ll hunt dictate the number of cameras you use.

Do place your cameras in key locations, such as on trails between bedding and feeding areas, at natural funnels, next to scrapes, and in daytime browsing areas used by high numbers of does.  These high-percentage travel areas will produce the most usable images and, therefore, provide the best information about your deer herd.

Do not enter bedding areas to place or maintain game cameras during the few weeks before hunting season begins.  As tempting as it may be, avoid disturbing bedding areas.  Instead, place your cameras along the trails leading in and out of these sanctuaries.

Do keep your cameras and all related gear including straps, fresh batteries, saws and pruning shears organized.  “Vicki and I keep all our cameras and supplies organized inside a dedicated Plano Sportsman’s Trunk,” says Ralph.  “We also keep a map showing all our camera numbers and locations taped inside the lid,” he adds.

Do not neglect previously placed cameras and assume they will continue to deliver good performance.  Now is the time to replace batteries and trim vegetation – not after hunting season begins.   Tenzing pro Jonathan Turner reminds hunters that weeds, leaves and even branches can grow relatively fast over the summer.  Just because your frame was clear yesterday does not mean it will be today.  “Keep your camera frame free of vegetation that can be moved by the wind and repeatedly trigger the shutter,” he says.  “It’s unnecessary, annoying and drains your batteries.” 

Turner offers a final tip on game camera placement.  He avoids putting them in areas with prolonged exposure to the sun.  “Place and position your cameras to protect them from the sun,” he advises.  “Infrared cameras can be triggered by the sun, which – as with wind – can also be annoying and deplete your batteries, but the sun can actually damage your cameras too,” Turner continues. Like point-and-shoot cameras that lack a viewfinder, most game cameras keep the shutter open with no mirror to redirect the sun’s rays. “If your game camera is pointed towards the sun for any significant amount of time, you are probably damaging the sensor,” advises Turner.

Tree Stands and Blinds

You haven’t placed your hunting stands or blinds yet?  No worries.  Many experienced hunters will move their tree stands throughout the actual hunting season as deer travel patterns change due to shifting food sources, watering habits, and breeding activity.  So, placing your stands during late summer is actually a pretty good strategy.  Aside from many of the same considerations used for game camera placement discussed previously, fundamental decisions concerning tree stand and blind placement should be based on prevailing wind patterns, access, and concealment. Start with those basics when placing stands on a new or unfamiliar property.

Ralph Cianciarulo rattling from an elevated stand.  When placing tree stands, install hangers for your bow, pack and other gear, and don’t forget the haul line to get such items up to the stand safely. Photo courtesy of tenzingoutdoors.com.

Do scout and study your hunting property.  “Take a day or two and scout from a high vantage point without disturbing the area,” Ralph Cianciarulo says.  “Study satellite photos and use your knowledge of deer movement to best figure out placement based on obvious bedding and feeding areas, then consider your routes in and out of those areas.”  The best stand locations will be along travel corridors like game trails, ditches, ridges and draws between primary bedding and, feeding areas.  Bow hunting stands will need to be closer to those travel corridors, while firearm stands can be set back further.  Additionally, firearm hunters have more flexibility when placing stands along food plots or fields because of their increased effective range.

Do bring the right stuff.  Be prepared with all the gear and equipment you’ll need to place and fine-tune your stands and blinds safely and efficiently – including climbing harnesses and a helper. “Vicki and I each keep Tenzing TC1260 packs fully set up with harnesses, ropes, ratchet straps, pruning saws and ratchet cutters, first aid kits, reflectors, haul lines, screw in steps and hangers, and wind checker bottles,” says Ralph, who wants to know what the wind is doing at any stand location he is setting up.  “Sometimes you have to move your location due to dense woods or shrubs that funnel your wind where you didn’t think it was actually going,” he says.  “Small smoke bombs work great for this, because they provide a strong visual that travels a long way,” continues Cianciarulo, who has been using smoke bombs during tree stand placement since the 1980’s with great results.

Don’t over-trim.  Cutting brush and limbs in and around your stands a, nd blinds is important, but don’t overdo it.  You’ll want to leave some vegetation for concealment, especially around the bottom of the stand and your lower body.  Try to picture what your stand will look like once the trees drop their leaves in the fall, then trim accordingly.  You can always remove more later.  Remove enough brush at the base of the ladder or the entrance to the blind to remain quiet during entry and exit.  Shooting lanes should be cleared as well.  “Sit in your stand or blind and try to draw your bow or shoulder your gun in the directions you believe deer are most likely to appear,” suggests Turner.  “Then cut away any limb or twig that might contact you, your gun barrel, arrow or bow – including the small stuff that might get caught between your cam and bow string,” he continues.  While still in the stand, identify any major limbs that might deflect your arrow or bullet on the way to its target and do your best to eliminate those as well.

Saws and pruning shears are critical tools for the tree stand hu, nter.  A pole saw, like this one from Wicked Tree Gear is essential for clearing shooting lanes.  Photo courtesy of wickedtreegear.com.

Do think seriously about shooting lanes. Our initial thoughts on the places we believe shot opportunities will occur are often dead wrong.  Think about the bucks you’ve observed approaching a field or food plot.  Did they stroll up the trail and stop at the very edge?  Rarely.  Recall past encounters and you’ll realize that bucks typically stop well short of those defined edges, remaining close to the comfort of thick cover as they scent check and look for other deer.  Look for windows five to ten yards back from field and clearing openings, then clear appropriate shooting lanes.

Don’t neglect your trimmings.  Trimmed limbs and twigs should not be allowed to lie on the ground, as they may be stepped on and alert deer.  Instead, use them for extra concealment around the lower portion of your stand or on the outside of your blind.

Do plan your ingress and egress.  Consider the prevailing winds, then plan primary and secondary routes to and from each stand location. Once you identify your routes, clean a trail into your stan, d sites.   “I get so mad at myself when I bump game,” Vicki says.  “Sometimes it is unavoidable, but you can reduce the odds by taking time to clear your paths of sticks you might step on or noisy brush that may catch you or your gear.”

Do keep them quiet.  Squeaks and creaks alert deer and tend to happen at the worst possible times.  Climb each of your stands before the season begins and give them the silent treatment.  All squeaks on all stands are different.  Some are due to over tightening and others are due to under tightening.  Others can be rectified with additional ratchet straps.  Many people use vegetable oil spray to lubricate their stands.  “Odor free” oils marketed by most major gun cleaning supply companies are another option.

Game cameras and hunting stands are key tools for the whitetail hunter, and knowing where and how to best place them will dramatically increase a hunter’s chances for success.  Late summer is the best time to fine-tune your camera and stand set-ups to make sure they perform at their best once the upcoming hunting season begins.  It is still early enough to minimize concerns about disturbing deer, but close enough to the o, pener to put your latest observations on deer movement to work.  Most important, perhaps, is that this work also provides a great scouting opportunity. “Don’t think you know it all,” says Vicki.  “You’ll always learn something if you take the time to listen and observe,” she continues.  “So, take the time to get out and sit in your stands in the weeks leading into the season.  Stay flexible, and don’t think twice about changing your set-ups.”  Come hunting season, you’ll be glad you did.

This mature 8-pointer was spotted bedded down just 60-yards away when the author settled into his Northern Indiana stand for an afternoon hunt last season.  The deer was never alerted, due to a favorable wind and thorough stand preparation.  Photo courtesy of tenzingoutdoors.com.

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