Whitetail Deer: How To Pick the Perfect Tree for a Stand

The ideal tree for a stand is a mature one at least 10 yards off the downwind side of a well-used deer trail. Photo by Mark Raycroft.

You don’t need a committee to choose the best tree for a hunting stand location, but you do need to follow a set of important criteria to have success from an elevated ambush. As you look for available sites with consistent whitetail activity, begin to scout for zones that funnel or pinch whitetails into a confined location, like thick brush, fences, creek banks, and steep canyons.

Next, identify the best tree in each spot. Ideally, it will be at least 10 yards off the downwind side of a trail. Trees smack on a trail lead to straight-down shots and a higher likelihood of being spotted. A tree to the side enhances concealment and gives you broadside or quartering shots. Straight-down shots can be deadly, but an angled shot improves your chances of piercing both lungs rather than only one.

Sometimes a lone tree is your only choice, but look for your perfect tree amongst a clump of them. Staggered trunks create opportunities for you to prepare for a shot undetected as a deer’s head passes behind an obstruction. Plus, more trees mean more limbs, more leaves, and more cover.

A Stable Perch
Mature trees are better stand trees than young ones. Their canopies are generally fuller and the trunks are sturdier. Younger trees sway in high winds, increasing the chance of missed shot opportunities. Mature trees sport thick trunks that reach higher, giving you the option to place your stand 20 to 25 feet off the ground. Higher placement aids in carrying your scent above deer and farther from the deer. Don't get too carried away, though. A high position certainly decreases your chances of being spotted, but it increases shooting distance, angle, and difficulty. Old oaks, cottonwoods, and cedars all have the stability and limb structure to allow for a smartly positioned and hidden treestand.

When it comes to trimming branches around your stand, have a plan in place before you start snipping. You want to create avenues so your arrow or bullet won’t battle brush, but too much trimming reveals your location. And remember, Mother Nature will whisk away those concealing leaves as autumn unfolds, further divulging your hide.

Lastly, add some stopping power to your perfect tree. By building a mock scrape in the best shooting lane, you can all but mandate where a deer should stand for your shot.

Change the tree you hunt from every season to ensure whitetails don’t pattern you from year to year. But in the right setting, and following these criteria, finding your next perfect tree shouldn’t be difficult.

Twisted Timber Stands
Sometimes, your only option is a tree with a not-so-straight trunk. With a full array of articulation points, Twisted Timber treestands allow you to hunt from the tree you want—or need—to use. The three hang-on models allow for adjustments of vertical orientation as well as seat and platform positioning. No teeth equals no tree damage, and the bushings are infused with oil to keep them quiet. ($144–$149; twistedtimbertreestands.com)