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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Avoid Careless Mistakes On Stand

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., November 25, 2006.)
You are the predator
that must remain still.
Most of the nearly one million hunters entering the woods with high hopes on Monday will take up a position beside a tree. Whether a hunter has a spot where deer move in their normal patterns, or a place where they'll move because they are pushed by other hunters, stand hunting is one of the most productive opening day strategies.

Although stand hunting appears to be simple, hunters can make countless mistakes. Stand hunting requires the hunter's full awareness, plus a litany of things to remember in order to keep from making careless blunders that will cost you a shot at a whitetail.

If you take up a stand beside a tree, first kick the leaves away. Stand on bare ground; otherwise, leaves and twigs (and we pray, snow) will make noise at the worst time. Small rocks will become a nuisance, so remove them before they irritate you.

Another reason to stand on bare dirt is that a 3-foot spot of earth will give you a lot more cover scent than one of those little dirt-smelling wafers you see pinned to hunters' hats on the Outdoor Channel.

Instead of spending your money on those commercial doodads, spend it on snacks. Those pink mints with the word "Canada" on them are my favorite. But if your favorite candy comes in a noisy wrapper, unwrap a bunch of it at home and dump it into a zip-lock bag. That also cuts down on the litter you must remember to take home with you.

I like to choose a spot with a tree to my front and another to my back. They help block the deer's visibility, and give me an anchor point for shooting in almost any direction. If I don't have two trees about three or four feet apart, I clear the leaves away all the way around one tree so that I can quietly move from one side of the tree to the other.

Take off your backpack or fanny pack and fasten it to a tree where you can reach it with minimal movement.

Take those first few minutes to get acquainted with the landscape. Analyze everything in your field of view. Note the dark spots, the horizontal lines, and anything that's brown. If it looks like a deer, examine it, identify it, and dismiss it. Whitetails know their territory intimately. You should, too. Later in the morning you don't want to be caught staring at something on your left while deer approach on your right.

Watch for legs. Many times when I see deer at the limits of my field of view, I see the legs first. Those slender vertical lines moving horizontally through the woods contrast with vertical tree trunks. Trees are stationary, and mostly vertical. Any animal, either predator or prey, will be moving horizontally.

You, however, are the predator that must remain still. The idea in stand hunting is to let the deer come to you. As long as you remain still, you have an advantage. Remain as still as possible, letting your hips, back and neck do most of the moving.

Become the tree. By adapting to the vertical environment in the woods, you'll blend in with the trees and the deer will be less likely to notice you. Except in the movies, trees don't point. Trees don't swing their arms out to the side. Trees don't bend over. If you need to scratch your head or wipe a running nose, ease your hand up slowly and in line with your body. Keep all your movements vertical and very slow.

I would even advise never to put your rifle down except to rest briefly if necessary. Keep it in your hands as much as possible. Raising your rifle is a vertical motion with less movement than the horizontal motion of reaching for your rifle and then raising it.

Whenever you step away from your stand, take your rifle with you. Even if you're two steps away from your rifle, stepping toward it and reaching for it will give every pair of approaching deer eyes an extra opportunity to spot you -- and it could cost you a shot.

It's not only the young and inexperienced hunters who need to remember these things. On Monday someone -- and it may be an experienced stand hunter -- will miss out on a nice buck because of a careless mistake on the stand. Make sure it's not you.


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