“Taking a stand” is an expression that is used in hunting in perhaps two different ways. For many hunters, it means going to your favorite location where you have erected your tree stand or blind and getting into it to wait for the trophy buck to come along. For others, including many Maine hunters, taking a stand means to locate yourself in a specific area and wait for that trophy deer to come by. That specific area is determined by occurrences that are taking place in the area you are hunting. Let me give you some examples of what I mean.
Morning breaks, and you are headed for one of your favorite hunting spots, and on the way in, you notice other hunters in the area. You think about it a minute and realize that often when this happens, you know exactly where deer like to cross when pushed by other hunters. Another example maybe when you are hunting with one, two, or three other hunters, and once you have discussed what each of the hunters in your party is going to do, you decide to go sit or wait at one of your favorite places you know deer travel through when hunted by other hunters.
Whatever the reasons are that you might decide to “take a stand”, you are not equipped with a portable blind or tree stand – there is just you, your rifle, a survival pack, and perhaps a “hot seat” to sit on. There are proper ways, or should I say less intrusive ways, to take a stand that will increase your chances of seeing or bagging a deer.
Deer, and especially trophy bucks, are not stupid animals. They are much like us in that they are creatures of habit, and what seems to have worked for them once or twice, their instincts will direct them in that same manner more often than not. As a hunter, you need to learn what those habits are and apply them to your hunting strategies.
Here are a few examples of how deer might react under certain circumstances. When you hunt an area often, it shouldn’t take you too long to learn the land layout – deer know this layout better than you do. Remember what transpires each and every time you hunt in a particular section. If deer get pushed or jumped, where do they go? What direction were you traveling, what was the weather, what direction was the wind blowing, and what was the time of day? Just to name a few. This may seem like a lot of information to process, but it is what makes hunting enjoyable. It is part of the chase.
By learning these bits of information, you can determine better how to hunt that area if you know that under most circumstances when deer are pushed out of that area from hunting pressure, the deer escape via a well-hidden ravine on the west end of the land, it would only seem logical that that would be a good location to take a stand and wait.
Over time, you will discover some very rewarding places to take a stand. Perhaps that place will be a favorite knoll, ravine, crossing on an old logging road, ledge, swamp, field, or next to an apple orchard. Wherever it is, once you get there, don’t ruin a good opportunity by not knowing how to take a stand.
I repeat, deer are not stupid, nor are they blind. One of the biggest mistakes inexperienced hunters make in taking a stand is to remain in the open. Many times I have suggested to a fellow hunter to go to a particular spot on an old woods road and wait. When I arrive at that point, I find them standing smack dab in the middle of the road.
When taking a stand, you want to be able to see well enough to spot a deer, and that can be accomplished without standing in the middle of the wide-open area. Look around for a minute or two when you get there. You should have knowledge of what direction you think a deer might come and where the favorite crossing spot is. Assess the wind direction, sun, etc. and from that, determine in what general area you should be, i.e… put the wind in your face and sun to your back if you can.
Once you’ve determined in what general area you should take a stand, now is the time to find the best strategic spot available to you. Is there a bit of a rise or knoll that would give you a better view? If so, use it. Find a place on that rise where you can camouflage yourself with the natural surroundings. If you are standing alone in the open and a deer comes by, the chances are that deer may not recognize you as a human and danger, but it will more than likely determine that you are something that doesn’t belong there. The deer will turn and go in another direction, and you are left looking like a fool.
Put your back to a clump of trees or underbrush. If you can put some small bushes in front of you – enough to help blend you into the surroundings without impeding your site to shoot. If you are going to sit down, find the spot and clean it up. Make it, so any small movement on your part doesn’t create noise – deer have acute hearing. Sit in a manner that is conducive to making shooting more easily accomplished. What I mean by this is simple. The spot you are watching for deer is more than likely relatively small. Hopefully small enough so that you don’t have to keep turning your head from side to side – that’s too much movement. Sit so you can see, and you can raise your rifle easily when needed.
If you opt to literally stand when you take your stand, again, find a place where you are best camouflaged and clean the area where you will stand. Move the dry leaves and branches from underfoot. The result should be a moist dirt area free of crackling leaves and twigs. Any movement by you of your feet should be silent. Stand in a position that affords you the best sight, and when necessary, you can raise your rifle to shoot with the least amount of movement – deer will spot the slightest amount of movement or noise on your part.
The bottom line is to use common sense. This is actually a game of hiding and seek. The better you can hide yourself and at the same time making every effort to keep a clear vision for yourself, and you are increasing your chances at success.
One last thing that I will add to this is to have patience. I know in my early years of hunting, I would take a stand somewhere and run out of patience. I would decide to move to another spot or get antsy and start shifting positions only to hear a deer running off in the other direction. The hunter with the most patience will, in the end, be the one that brings home the deer while your buddies, family, and other hunters will be wondering why you and not them.