The view from the top of a mountain is often worth the climb. But can the same be said about deer hunting tree stands?
If you love hunting whitetail deer, it’s worth the time to find out before you spend your hard-earned money on a new one.
But, how can you know which type of stand is right for you?
We’ve compiled a list of the different types of deer hunting tree stands and the pros and cons of each. We hope this will help you make the right decision on which tree stand to use on your next whitetail hunt.
Before you spend your money, learn about the various types of deer stands below…
Many whitetail hunters prefer ladder stands when they want entry into their hunting location to be as quiet as possible.
When set up ahead of time, ladder stands allow a hunter to walk quietly to their location without running the risk of metal clanging or of a sweaty setup that could leave unwanted scent on the ground and in the air.
Some hunters believe that when compared to climbing tree stands, ladder stands allow for not only a quiet entry into the woods, but a quieter climb.
Because the stand is already set up prior to the hunt, access can be made without worrying about about assembly. (No loud scraping or searching for pieces and parts of multi-part climbing or lock-on stands.)
Some deer hunters also prefer ladder stands because they don’t feel as safe in climbing stands or fixed position stands like lock-ons. Or, they may simply be physically unable to use climbers or lock-ons.
Ladder stands tend to have large seats and side rails. If set up properly, they are typically secured well to a tree and very sturdy. Many come with the option of a shooting rail, which is a plus for rifle hunters. Ladder stands can also be used for bow hunting if shooting rail is removed.
There are also “buddy” type ladder stands which allow for more than one person to sit in the stand. This feature can be very useful for when you are teaching a child to hunt or hunting with a significant other.
Ladder Stands… Is The Setup Worth It?
Some hunters don’t like to use ladder stands for deer hunting because they can be cumbersome to set up and can be easy to spot if not concealed well.
If you have any problems on your hunting land with theft, you might not want to go with a ladder stand. While they can require some sweat to take down and haul out of the woods, a hard-working thief might be up for the challenge.
Ladder stands can also require a “cleaner” tree for setup, as opposed to lock-on tree stands, which can set up without having to cut as many limbs. Some hunters prefer lock-on or hang-on tree stands, as opposed to ladder stands, because ladder stands are typically 20 ft or shorter.
Not wanting a ladder stand… how about “fixed position” tree stands?
Fixed Position Tree Stands
Fixed position tree stands include lock-on tree stands, sometimes referred to as hang-on tree stands. Lock-on tree stands are very useful when you know the exact location of where you want to have a stand.
For example, you may be hunting the edge of a food plot or attractant location that you know is traditionally well-traveled. Or you may want to have multiple stand locations set up, so you can hunt a particular stand based on current wind direction or deer movement.
Quiet, Light And Incognito
Lock on tree stands (or hang-on stands) are typically able to be set up quickly. With the use of screw-in steps or stick ladders, they also are not as visibly disruptive to the hunting location as ladder stands can be.
While it’s not necessarily recommended to leave lock-on tree stands up year-round, they can be left up for the full season, allowing for quiet entry without disruptive noises that some climbing stands can produce. They also allow for a higher platform height than most ladder stands.
Lock-on stands tend to be much lighter weight than ladder stands, allowing for portability, easier pack and travel, and quick setup. Because screw-in steps and stick ladders can be used with hang-on stands, they also do not usually require as much limb trimming for that portion of the stand to be set up.
While lock-on stands tend to be conducive to bow hunters, without the use of a shooting rail, these types of tree stands can be difficult for a rifle hunter. And, while most don’t have side rails and other movement restrictions, that can leave some hunters feeling unsafe in the tree. (It is important to always use a safety harness when climbing up and down any treestand.)
Unless the hang-on stand you choose specifically has a large platform, limited foot space can be a concern for some hunters. So, if you like to have a lot of room to move around when standing, you should choose a stand with a larger foot platform.
Like ladder stands, lock-on stands can be the target of thieves. There are locking mechanisms available to serve as a deterrent, but a thief who is bent on stealing could still walk off with your lock-on stand due to its portability.
Lock-On / Hang-On Stand Manufacturers
Some notable lock-on tree stand manufacturers include,
Still looking for your ideal tree stand? Read about climbing stands below…
Some hunters consider climbing tree stands (climbers) to be the most difficult to use. However, with proper practice and safety precautions, climbing stands provide hunters with some advantages in certain hunting scenarios.
Climbing stands typically allow for easy setup and removal, meaning that you can enter the woods with your stand and leave with it at the end of the hunt. This prevents theft and also allows a hunter to be truly mobile and not be limited to predetermined deer stand locations.
Climbing stands can also pose some challenges in certain hunting situations. Unlike lock-on stands, climbers need trees with either no protruding limbs, or few enough so that they can be trimmed on the way up the tree.
Climbers also work best when the tree being climbed does not have a large discrepancy in diameter from the bottom of the tree to the height at which the stand will be secured for hunting. If the diameter changes drastically from bottom to top, the hunter may have to begin the climb with the foot platform at an uneven, and even steep angle. This can make climbing not only difficult, but dangerous as well. A properly fastened safety harness should always be used during climbing and at all times when in the deer stand.
To Cover Or Not To Cover…
When it comes to cover, climbers provide both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on the hunting location.
For example, you might have plenty of trees on a piece of property that allow for easy climbing. However, if there are no other trees near the tree you want to climb to provide some cover for you while in the tree stand, you could find yourself sticking out like a sore thumb. And, contrary to what some believe, deer can and do look up at times, especially if they hear or smell something suspicious. It’s a good idea to climb near cover, so if that buck of a lifetime comes, you are not left wishing you had stayed hidden.
Up, Up And Away…
Climbing stands can also be much more physically taxing than ladder stands or lock-on stands. And, the effort exerted can produce one of the most unwanted by-products during a whitetail hunt… sweat. A sweaty hunter is a smelly hunter. For this reason, some hunter choose other types of tree stands instead of a climber.
Because climbing stands have to be unpacked and attached to a tree, some hunters feel that the risk of metal clanging, and other unwanted noises, isn’t worth the mobility advantages they can provide. Once attached to the tree, climbing stands also will generate noise during a hunter’s climb up the tree.
Some notable manufacturers of climbing stands include:
Climbing Stand Pros:
Easily removable to prevent theft
Climbers allow for adjustable hunting height
Climbing Stand Cons:
Climbable trees needed
Potential for noise / sweat
If you are trying to determine which of these types of deer stands might be right for you, we hope you have found this post useful. Best of luck on your next hunt and please practice safe hunting and climbing!
Even when it’s not deer season, it’s important to be thinking about ways to make your whitetail deer season a success.
Below are 10 deer hunting tips that hopefully will help you do just that!
READ OUR TOP 10 DEER HUNTING TIPS BELOW AND BECOME A BETTER HUNTER
Deer Hunting Tip #1: Be obsessed with scent control
Never, ever underestimate the importance of wind direction and scent control when hunting whitetail deer. Their noses are sensitive defense systems that help alert them to predators… and that includes you!
Can you just roll up into the woods with a smoldering Marlboro Red dangling from your lips, randomly pick a tree stand or blind to hunt in, and get lucky? Sure, there’s always a story. But, taking this approach is not setting you up for hunting success.
If you want to increase your chances of taking a whitetail, you need to be as “invisible” to the deer as possible. This is why being obsessed with scent control is #1 on our list of deer hunting tips.
You smell good… or do you?
Let’s face it, you stink. Sure, you may practice good hygiene, but the truth is, to a whitetail, you are a foul odor!
There are a variety of products on the market that allow hunters to get clean without smelling like a perfume commercial.
Generously using a scent-free soap when you shower (before you go in the woods, not the night before), is a big step in the right direction. But wait, but there’s more you can do.
Your significant other may love that you shower and use sweet smelling soaps, but if you wanta deer hunting date with destiny, you’d better be diligent with smelling, well, like nothing.
What about the towels you dry off with? Do they smell like a rose garden? How much good do you think it will do you to wash with scent-free soap if you immediately dry off with a towel that smells “mountain fresh?”
Do yourself a solid and take care of the scent on your bath towels. Your hunting success could depend on it.
Clothe your body with… nothing
Well, not literally nothing. What we mean here is after you have used a scent-free soap on you and your towels, be sure that your hunting clothes are as scent-free as possible.
Again, there are many scent-free laundry detergents out there to choose from. Washing your hunting clothes in baking soda is also helpful.
And, it probably goes without saying, but when you dry your clothes, don’t add a sweet smelling dryer sheet to the load and completely ruin all the work you’ve done!
When you’re not wearing your hunting clothes, store them in a bag or tote where they can stay as scent free as possible.
IF YOU’RE WONDERING WHAT YOU SHOULD WEAR WHEN HUNTING WHITETAIL… READ ON
A big part of scent control is making sure that you are wearing the right hunting clothes for the type of weather you are hunting in. A good rule of thumb when thinking through what hunting clothes you’re going to wear is this… don’t wear something that will make you sweat.
Whether the forecast calls for hot weather or frigid weather, when it comes to whitetail hunting, sweat is definitely not your friend. As your skin’s bacteria begins to break down the sweat your body produces, odor occurs. And, of course we’ve already talked about how a whitetail feels about your B.O. So, why give them one more reason to bust your while you are walking into the woods or in your deer stand?
Even if it’s cold weather, wearing too much clothing, especially on a long walk carrying hunting gear, can lead to sweating. Not only will you stink, but you’ll have a very cold day in the deer stand once your body temperature cools down.
One way to prevent sweating is to dress lightly on cold days when walking to your deer stand or permanant blind. You may be cold at first, but as you walk, your body temperature will rise. Once you get to your hunting location, you can add layers to your light clothing. If you’ve avoided sweating and can keep your head and feet warm, you’ll likely be ready for a long sit.
Avoid the sausage biscuit run
Remember, a quick stop at a fast food restaurant before your deer hunt may curb the hunger pains, but it could also undo all the painstaking scent control preparation you’ve done leading up to this point. Hot sausage biscuit smell is not a scent that is natural to the deer woods. So, as good as that greasy goodness may sound to you early on hunting day, try an apple, banana or granola bar instead.
Final scent control steps
So, you’ve been careful to eliminate as much human scent as possible prior to walking to your deer stand or blind… but, you’re not done yet! Scent control clothing is another layer of detection protection against a deer’s nose.
There are plenty of scent control clothing items, suits, etc on the market, so it won’t be hard for you to find some options here. It’s important to not only cover your body, but also your head and face, when possible. Remember, the goal is to have as little of your scent floating through the air or left on the ground as possible.
In addition, you can also use scent eliminator sprays to spray down your hunting clothing, boots, etc before walking to your hunting location. Again, there are many available on the market to choose from.
Tip #2: Make the wind your friend
So, you’ve been careful to remove and keep as much human scent off you as possible prior to the hunt. But, that’s only a part of a good scent control hunting strategy.
As we’ve already mentioned, a deer’s nose is a defense mechanism. If it smells you, it smells danger. So, you don’t want your scent blowing over areas that are holding deer (the last thing you want to hear is a deer blowing because it smelled you).
It’s important, whenever possible, to be familiar with deer patterns on the property you’ll be hunting. Know where the bedding and feeding areas are, as well as the travel routes that deer take between the two.
Maybe you’re new to deer hunting or maybe you just haven’t ever paid attention to wind direction when you hunt. But, you’ve heard hunters using the terms “upwind” and “downwind” and you’re wondering what that really means. It’s really fairly simple.
Being “upwind” of the deer means you’re above, or upward, of their location. So, that means if the wind blows over you, everything below you would potentially be detecting your scent. That’s not what you want.
Being “downwind” of the deer means that you are below their location as it pertains to the wind. This is what you want. You want to be downwind of the deer so that when the wind blows, it does not blow toward the deer you are hunting.
If you know where deer typically bed down and feed, an easy way to remember how to stay downwind is to try to always have the wind blowing in your face as you approach those locations. This will keep your scent downwind of the deer your are hunting.
Remember, you don’t want a deer’s nose to detect you while you are hunting in the stand or in the blind, but you also don’t want them to smell you when you leave. If they do, they could pattern you and of course, avoid those locations, which means less deer for you to potentially see and kill. So, be sure that your exit route is downwind of where the deer are as well. This takes careful planning.
Every hunter fantasizes about that perfect hunting scenario… There you are in your favorite hunting location. Out walks the buck of a lifetime. If you’re a bowhunter, maybe you imagine him walking 15 yards upwind of your stand. Then, he magically turns broadside, presenting the perfect shot for a clean pass-through. He stands there, looking the other direction, as you stand, draw, put the pin on him and release the perfect shot, at the perfect time, on the perfect buck.
Can scenarios like that happen? Sure they can. But, what is more likely, is that there will be a lot of things that factor into whether or not you get the chance to take the deer. Are you going to be prepared for those factors?
While rifle or archery target practice is an important part of honing your hunting skills, you also need to be prepared for the things that can happen during a hunt that you can’t control.
For example, can you shoot your bow effectively from varying stances? Are you as accurate standing up as well as sitting down? Have you practiced shooting at varying heights and angles and in different types of weather?
For spot and stalk hunters, how about on your knees? Rifle hunters, have you practiced shooting off-hand?
Use your imagination and dream up all the possible scenarios that could happen during a hunt. Rely on past experiences as well. Chances are, something is going to happen on a hunt that you didn’t expect… unless of course, you’re ready for it!
Tip #4: Don’t let your deer stand give you away
It’s not enough to know where the deer are on your hunting property and simply hang a lock-on stand or to use a climbing stand. Be sure what that stand placement will look like during the time of day you are hunting.
You might have picked a location for your deer stand that is covered up with scrapes, licking branches, rubs and other deer sign. You may have even imagined what the deer you’re going to shoot looks like. But, you also need to imagine what you’re going to look like to the deer while you’re in that stand.
Let’s say you find a great location to hunt. So, you pick a tree for your stand placement, but it has no other trees or cover around it. And, let’s say you will be hunting that stand at a time of day when the sun will be behind you.
Without any surrounding cover, when that big ‘ole sun shines behind you, the deer could potentially get a silhouette of your body against the sunlight. A wary doe or buck may not hang around to see what happens next. And, they will likely be cautious when entering that area again.
So how can you prevent this? One way is to try and select trees that have a wide base that your body’s shape can disappear against. Trees like this obviously cannot be climbed with a climbing stand. They can, however, be very good trees for lock-on deer stands.
If you wear some good camo clothing, it will be more difficult for a deer to silhouette you when you’re sitting with your back against a tree that is wider than you are.
No not insurance coverage! Whether using a climbing stand or a lock-on stand, is to try to pick a tree that has another tree right beside it, behind it, or around it that can provide some cover for you. It’s important to remember that a deer’s line of sight is often different than yours. Try to visualize what you look like from their perspective.
Any leaves, branches or trees that will provide some break up of your silhouette without hindering your shot can be very beneficial in keeping your location concealed.
Contrary to what some believe, deer can and will look up. If they hear you or run across scent near your tree stand location, they might look up to see what that strange looking thing is above them. That usually doesn’t end in success for the hunter.
Hunting higher up in a tree can benefit you in a few ways. First, it can allow your scent to blow higher across the ground, and give you somewhat of an edge in the scent control game. In addition, hunting higher often makes a deer in close range less aware of your presence.
One disadvantage to hunting higher, especially for bowhunters, is that it narrows the window of a clear vitals shot. At steeper angles it can be difficult to get a clean pass-through shot. The last thing you want to do is take a shot that will not allow the deer to have as quick a demise as possible.
So, choose your hunting location after giving much thought to sun location as well as surrounding cover and tree stand height.
Tip #5: Know thy land
If at all possible, you should be familiar with the land you are hunting. Sure, you may get an opportunity to hunt a piece of property, or even public hunting land that you don’t have the opportunity to scout prior to the hunt. However, if you do have full access to the property you will hunt, you should put in the time to be well versed in the details of that property.
Where are the deer and where are they going?
It’s hard to ignore an area of your hunting property that is full of deer sign. But, sometimes, you need to dig deeper into the details. It’s not just important to know where the deer are at a particular time… you also want to know where they’re going. After all, deer tracks tell you where they’ve already been!
Do you know where the deer typically bed down? Are you familiar with the feeding areas and water sources? Where are the travel routes that the deer typically use to move from one area to the next?
For example, it can be very difficult to sneak into and setup in a deer’s bedding area without getting busted. However, if you know where the deer typically go when they leave the bedding area, that’s important to note in formulating a plan to harvest whitetails. Then, be there waiting on the deer when they get there!
Don’t forget the wind
As referenced earlier, all of this must be done while thinking about and paying attention to wind direction. Is your entry route to your hunting spot accessible without having your wind blow to the deer’s location?
It doesn’t matter how many deer you may have on your hunting land. If you don’t have a plan to approach your hunting location downwind of the deer, your hunt could be over before it even begins.
This means you should consider having multiple deer stand locations for varying wind directions. So, if the wind isn’t right on a particular day for that location, resist the urge to hunt it until it is.
When possible, take advantage of creek beds and ditches to access your blind or deer stand location, so that you can minimize the amount of scent you leave on deer travel routes and feeding areas.
Also, be sure you are aware of the prevailing winds on the property you are hunting. And, don’t just know the wind direction. Know how the topography and lay of the land can cause wind currents to swirl or move erratically. Remember, the wind can make or break a hunt. So, know how the lay of your hunting land affects it.
Tip #6: Aim for low scores in predictability
When it comes down to it, you want to be where the deer are going to be when you are hunting. Hopefully, you have done enough scouting of the land and reviewing of trail cam pictures that you can predict deer movement. But, while you want predictable deer, you don’t want to be predictable yourself.
For example, let’s say you knew that a dump truck would speed by, dangerously close to your front door, every single morning at 8:05 am. You would probably be sure you aren’t anywhere outside your front door at that time of day!
Deer are no different. If you are lazy in your hunting strategy and become predictable, deer will simply avoid those hunting locations during the times you try to access them.
Mix things up. Don’t hunt the same deer stand or blind location every time, even if the wind is right. Have multiple hunting locations and multiple ways to access them. And, of course, always pay attention to the wind when you make your entry and exit.
Tip #7: Be a doe stalker
There are meat hunters and trophy hunters. This article isn’t about arguing which group is more right in its hunting approach. But, there is a hunting tip that helps both groups… hunt the does.
Sooner or later, as the rut begins to heat up, bucks will go on the prowl for hot does. It’s an inevitable part of the whitetail life cycle. And you want to know where the does typically are when it begins.
Even Mr. Big Buck can throw caution to the wind when a hot doe is the prize. If you hunt the does throughout the season, he just might eventually show up in your cross hairs or behind one of your bow sight pins.
You might be a casual hunter, or only have time to hunt a few times a season. Or, you might have the luxury of getting to hunt as often as you like. Either way, knowing where the does are and how they move on a property throughout the course of a hunting season gives you a higher probability of taking a deer, and possibly, the buck of a lifetime.
Tip #8: Know that the rut changes things
Most deer hunters would probably say that if they could only hunt one time a year, they would want to hunt during the rut.
The rut is indeed a magical time of year for the whitetail hunter. Bucks that have been mostly nocturnal can show up out of nowhere, trailing or chasing hot does. But, it’s important for hunters to be aware that while the rut can ramp up deer movement and buck activity, it also brings changes.
For example, prior to the peak of the rut, you may have hunted scrape lines and rub lines, hoping to get a shot at bucks that might be working those locations. During this time, bucks are looking to leave their territorial scent as well as checking scrapes for any receptive does in the area.
But, when bucks are locked up with does during peak phase of the rut, scrape activity can seemingly vanish. It’s important to know be aware that as the phases of the rut change, so does buck activity.
Tip #9: Don’t let technology get you busted
Communication while hunting has come a long way over the years. Hi-tech hunting used to mean having a walkie-talkie with an ear piece. Now, cell phones allow us to text our family and friends as well as take and send pictures and video… all while in the deer stand or blind.
However, if we took a poll of all deer hunters, we would probably find that more than a few have been busted by deer because they were paying more attention to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram than they were their surroundings.
If you give a deer enough chances, they’ll eventually be able to spot those busy little fingers texting away on a that wonderful piece of technology called a smart phone. When that happens you’ll wish you had been, well… smarter. Aside from that, there are so many things (other than deer) in the great outdoors that you can miss. Don’t let staring down at a screen keep you from fully enjoying the wonderful creation around you.
Tip #10: Take an ethical shot
Whether with a bow or a gun, taking an ethical shot on a deer is an important part of being a responsible hunter.
Now, the definition of an “ethical shot” has certainly been hotly debated. But, however you define it, hopefully it leads to the cleanest and quickest kill possible for the scenario.
To do this requires practice, patience and sometimes even the ability to pass up a shot that is not ideal. It’s part of being a disciplined hunter.
Will you always succeed in a clean and quick kill? Probably not. But, doing so effectively means you have probably learned some lessons by not taking some ethical shots.
When you make your shot, you might feel like celebrating, but be sure to watch the deer for as long as possible to watch its path and where you last saw it.
Whatever the case, do your best to learn from others, as well as your own experiences, to take the most ethical shot possible.
There are certainly many more deer hunting tips to be shared, but hopefully these 10 have provided you with some knowledge and insight into how to improve your hunting strategy and increase your rate of hunting success. We hope you put a hole N1!
If seeing pictures of a huge buck and reading the play-by-play story of the hunt excites you, then read below for some great stories about some unforgettable archery bucks.
“Close Call”: The Backstory Of This 18-Point Monster Buck
I saw this deer on camera around mid-December of 2016 and became obsessed. I had hundreds and hundreds of pictures of him. In February, I noticed he hadn’t been to the area or fed at the feeder, so I started looking for his sheds.
I found one side (which was the side I wanted the most). He was at my best guess a 15 point, and had 10 points on the shed I found. It sucked my attention in even deeper. My wife got so sick of hearing about “close call.” I never name deer, but he had what looked like a gunshot wound in his right ear, so I dubbed him “close call.” After I found his shed, I focused a lot of attention on the area where I knew this huge buck was.
In April of 2017, he showed back up, with just 2 or 3 inch nubs on his head. Of course, because of his ears, and my obsession, I knew it was him. He stuck around for a few weeks, and then of course, disappeared again and remained out of view until around June, when he came back. He stayed close by and on camera sometimes 3 different times a day from June on.
I’m from Kentucky, and our season comes in really early, so I was counting down the days and doing my very best to just keep him around.
Around the first of August, he quit feeding at the feeder, but was still visible in the open. Our archery season opened on September 2 this year, and in my mind, I had him in the bag. I ran up to 4 cams to keep my eyes on him, and one was a Spartan cell cam. It kept me from frequenting the area, and I knew instantly when he was there. On August 31st I have video of him in the broad daylight at what would have been an 18 yard shot for me.
My confidence was out the roof. The season opened and I spent the next 6 days in the stand. I only hunted him of an evening, seeing I never had a picture or anything of a morning of him. But, over those 6 days, he never showed his face at all.
I was crushed. In my mind, I knew he was probably just laying low and in the process of shedding his velvet. I back off for a few days and would keep my eye on my cameras, thinking I had applied too much pressure. He finally showed back up but had gone completely nocturnal. Around the 15th of September, he had completely vanished. I just knew someone else had gotten him I told no one but a very tight group about this deer.
Then, one day I was at my son’s football practice and heard someone talking about a huge buck they had seen in the area where the buck lived. I then knew he was still alive, but it worried me that someone would do something stupid to him. For the next 2 weeks the buck would only show up about ever 4-6 days for a brief minute, and in the middle of the night. He was playing hide ‘n seek. At least I knew he was still alive, is all I could think of. I stayed away and didn’t hunt for weeks.
On September 26, while away from home, my cell phone dings and there he is. It’s 4 in the evening and I’m not in the woods, so I figured my one chance had come and gone. I looked closely at the forecast and figured I could hunt the 28th and 29th because there was a cool front coming, and the wind would be perfect. I hunted the 28th and nothing. Not a single deer.
I was kind of skeptical, but wouldn’t give up. My wife and I had plans for the evening of the 29th, but she was okay with me hunting for a few hours that evening. I got there around 4:30 that evening and it was calm and perfect. I texted my wife and told her, “this would be the perfect evening for him to show up. It’s so quiet and calm.” She told me that it was okay if I stayed till dark, before we went out. She understood my obsession more than anyone. At around 5:45, I had a small buck come in. He wasn’t there long and left.
The Staredown And An Errant Shot?
I was just enjoying the evening being in the woods. Around 6:25 or so, I decided I’d try a little very light rattling (seeing it worked the year before). About 10-15 minutes after I heard what sounded like a cough or something from the hill across from me. I focused my full attention to that area. I saw movement coming my way…. a small basket 8 point I had on cam.
As soon as he came out, I saw a second deer coming. It turned out to be the small 3 point that was there earlier in the evening. After he came out, it still sounded like more deer were coming. Low and behold, I look in the timber and here he comes. I instantly began become overwhelmed. The buck came out, just like I had planned, but he looked right at me. He turned around like he was going to head back into the timber, so I drew on him. He was quartering away at 21 yards.
I held tight and left the arrow fly. Instantly I knew I had just messed up on the buck of a lifetime. The shot looked super high. I was sick. I set back and text my wife and told her I had just shot him. Then, I went over the shot in my head 100 times. I went and retrieved the arrow and looked it over. It appeared to have really good blood, so I wasn’t so sure I had hit it high.
The N1 Moment
My wife finally showed up, and we went looking. It was the first time she had ever tracked and she was super excited. We continued to find good blood, then about 70 yards in the timber, there be laid. The buck of my lifetime….the one I had become so obsessed over.
This buck gross scored 177 7/8”, even though he was only 14 ½” wide. He has 18 scoreable points. This buck is my biggest to date, and the most gratifying as well. Come to find out, in the middle of September when he disappeared, it was because someone had tried to poach him. He was shot with a small caliber rifle, just above the shoulder. I got very lucky to be able to harvest such a huge buck. What a tough and awesome animal.
But then, the next year another huge buck made his way into my life…
Big Kentucky Buck Fame Comes Again!
I would have to say the story of my success in the 2018 Kentucky deer season has to date back to September 29th of 2017. On that date, I was fortunate enough to take a Boone and Crockett class Kentucky buck (the full story above.)
Once the word got out about that deer, my social media went kind of crazy. One day, while roaming through Facebook, I noticed I had a random message from someone in my area. He asked questions and persistently talked about my 2017 buck.
I kind of blew it off at first, because when it comes to hunting, I usually keep my stuff mainly a secret. But, one thing led to another, and we talked a little here and there.
One day I was at the local archery shop just hanging out, and in came this same guy. So, we finally met face-to-face and began to develop a friendship. His name is Kyle Groce. He is a bit younger than me, but we both share a passion for deer hunting.
Let’s Make A Deal
As the winter progressed, he learned that I do a lot of food plotting. He wanted to develop his hunting property into a sanctuary so that the deer don’t have to travel to get what they want. In mid-April he offered to let me hunt this same land if I would do the food plots for him. I knew the area, so I agreed without hesitation.
In May, the weather finally cooperated so hat I could get started on the plots I agree to cut, till and sow. I began the process of bush hogging. While cutting a plot, this buck comes out and watched me like he was in awe that someone was there doing something. At the first look, I realized he was going to be a good buck worth chasing once the early seaons came.
Adding Him To The Hit List
So, after hours of studying maps of the land, and once the food plots were finished, I eased my way back into the woods where I thought this buck was coming from. I took my minerals and my trail camera and got things set up where I wanted, and where I thought I might have a great chance to ambush this buck once the season began.
The very first day the camera was there, I got pics of this buck. Immediately my focus was on this one particular animal.
As part of my permission to hunt the land, I was free to do as I please. So, I kept this buck a secret, as I thought he’d go 160 plus inches.
Kyle and I became great friends and spent all summer locating more deer for him to get set up on to hunt.
Opening Day Of Bow Season
September 1st finally arrived and Kyle and I already had our game plans set in stone. He was getting some good deer on camera, and I was getting my buck in two different locations during the daylight hours.
On opening day, I got in the stand around 5 o’clock AM, fearing that I might bump this big boy going in.
That first morning came and went. I saw a lot of deer and some small bucks, but not the big Kentucky buck I was after. Of course, early September in Kentucky its pretty warm… like, 90 degrees warm! So, I got out of my stand and headed home. There was no way I was staying all day in the stand in that heat.
Around 3:30 that afternoon, I started to get ready to head back to the stand. I showered, gathered my equipment and headed that way. I got in the stand around 4:30 and got things set up, and instantly I had action.
A mature doe and her fawn came in and stayed in my area for about 30 or so minutes, so I was upbeat and positive. Deer came and went all evening, both bucks and does. Around 7:15, I saw a nice buck working toward my location and instantly knew it was a great 8 point. I had guessed he was about 140″ or so. Right behind him I saw the big 12-point I had been watching all summer. Both bucks came in on a string to 19 yards. But, the big mature buck was no dummy. He stayed right behind the 8-point the whole time, and I couldn’t get a shot at him.
All I could do was sit and watch him walk away.
Day Two And Beyond
Day two was much of the same. There was a lot of deer activity, but no shooters. Kyle, however, did fill his tag on that second day with a real nice 8-point that was on his hit list.
I hunted hard over the next week, and saw the big 8 on multiple occasions, but he never had the buck with him I was looking for. I even had him within 30 yards of me for 29 minutes one morning, but I still let him go.
Around 5:30 I had a small buck come in, and it brightened my outlook somewhat. That buck left and a doe and fawn came in. They stuck around for 20 or so minutes, but then wandered off into the thick brush.
At around 6:30 a small really good up and comer buck came in. I had seen this deer many times, and he was always with more deer and never alone, so I focused hard on the direction he had came from. About 3 minutes later, I could see the big 8 coming, and this time he was out of velvet, and looked bigger than I had thought.
As he was walking up the hill, he kept looking over his shoulder to check something behind him. One of my deer hunting tips is, when a mature buck is watching behind him, it only tells me that something bigger may be lurking. Well in this case, there was.
Coming straight at me was the buck I was after. He came in just like I had planned, but I didn’t plan on the other two bucks being there with him. For nine minutes I had to watch him and the other bucks mill around and feed.
Finally, the big 8 swung around to the back side of the 12. I had been waiting on this, because I knew it would turn the 12 where I could get a shot off.
He turned around to chase the 8 and gave me the quartering away shot I needed. I let my arrow fly and instantly knew I had fatally hit him. The angle he gave me was a little steeper than I had hoped for, but I was super confident in my shot.
I immediately called my wife, and then Kyle, to tell them I had shot. Kyle and another good friend, Nick McWhorter, had begged me all summer to film my hunts, and I had blown them off until about 2 weeks before season. They got me set up, and ready to film for this season.
Well, knowing the deer had my arrow, I chose to not even attempt to look for anything until I got to see my footage to confirm my shot placement. I met Kyle at my truck, and we reviewed everything together. In our opinion, that shot had been perfect. By this time, my wife and son had shown up, and were excited to start tracking.
We headed back to my stand and began to look, but there was nothing to find. No blood, no arrow, no nothing. I knew which way he had ran, so we started in that general direction first. Travis, another buddy had came to help track and to get him out of the woods. Travis saw my Nockturnal lighted nock glowing bright, so we headed straight for it.
Big Kentucky Buck Down
There he laid; the buck I had studied all summer in hopes for one chance. I got it, and the shot was perfect. I ran my arrow and broadhead from in front of his back left hip, all the way up to his front right shoulder, just like I had intended.
Just like that, it was all over. He ended up being a mainframe 10, with two abnormals on his left side. He scored 155 inches. I was tickled to death.
Bonus: Another Huge Buck Story (The Coat Hanger Buck)
This was one N1 Moment™ that 30-year old Garrett Schmidt could hang his hat on… literally.
Opening day of archery season in Kansas
It was a 10-hour drive from League City, Texas, to the Southeast Kansas property he and some friends had recently gotten permission to hunt. But this was opening day of archery deer season in Kansas. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was 100 hours.
“I knew it was going to be hot and possibly rain. But, I get so jacked up for the start of a new season that I didn’t care,” he said.
“I had only 45 minutes to make this happen. With the wind in my face I made a 100-yard belly crawl through the beans. I ended up within shooting distance of this non-typical buck,” he said. “I stood up fast out of the beans, drew my bow back, found the sweet spot, and let the Rage broadhead do the rest.”
The “coat hanger buck” goes down
The “coat hanger buck” was down. And, while Garret didn’t have his friends with him on this trip to help share in the excitement, the part they played wasn’t overlooked.
“When it was all said and done I wasn’t able to take fancy pictures or share this moment with a buddy. But, none of this would have been possible without the help of my good friends putting in the time and work over the year to get everything ready for this amazing opportunity.”
Friday afternoon, September 30, 2016, I arrived to my lease in Natchez, Mississippi. I unloaded the truck and ranger and headed to the woods to check my two cameras to decide where I was going to hunt that weekend. As I was scrolling through 800 pictures of does and bucks, my buddy told me to stop and back up. I scrolled back and there was a giant 8-point buck in full velvet.
This was the first time I had seen a picture of him. I kept scrolling and the past few evenings he had been coming out right before dark. I immediately got nervous, since I’ve never had an opportunity to hunt a deer like him before. So I decided to not hunt there in the morning and to save the spot for an evening hunt on opening day.
Don’t walk away from me
The evening hunt on opening day approached and I began to get anxious, wondering how the hunt would go. It was very warm, so I grabbed my bow and took my time walking to my stand, because I didn’t want to sweat. I arrived at my stand at 3:55 pm and climbed up. As I got my bow in my stand, I realized something looked funny. I forgot my quiver back at the ranger! Trying not to get too upset, but still frustrated, I climbed back down and started walking back to the ranger. I decided to take my shirt off so I wouldn’t sweat on it, since it’s a good 10-12 minute walk up and down the hills.
Eventually, I made it to the ranger, got my quiver, and made my way back to the stand. I climbed in, nocked an arrow, turned the Thermacell on, put my shirt back on, and painted my face. By then, it was about 4:25 pm.
A Just Pass’N Through Archery Moment
I was checking my phone at 4:30 and I looked up and boom! There he was, 35 yards out to my left. He walked out into the food plot and stopped. Then he turned around and started heading back to the woods where he came from. As soon as he got to the wood line, he stopped again.
I didn’t have a clear shot and I was thinking to myself, “I’m fixing to watch this huge buck walk out my life!” He then turned and started walking directly toward me and stopped at 10 yards. He made another turn back out to the food plot and stopped at 15 yards, quartered away from me. I waited for the opportunity to draw back when he wasn’t looking. As soon as he looked away, I drew back, controlled my breathing and let the arrow fly. I made a great shot on him and the arrow was Just Pass’N Through! He he only ran about 70 yards. It was the best hunt of my life.