By John Sloan

I guess after 57 years of hunting deer, one would expect that I would learn a few things. I think I have. I know for sure I have learned some things about stand placement and positioning. No, they are not the same thing. Placement is where you put the stand. Positioning is how you place it. Maybe there is something I here that will help as you hunt next year.

Scouting and experience is how you learn to place a stand, where it should go. The type of stand-hanging, climbing, ladder or ground blind-will dictate a great deal about placement. Experience will dictate positioning. There is no substitute. You have to lay eyes on the entire situation. I have two stands that are less than 100 yards apart. Too close you ask? I have killed 38 deer from those stands, 25 from one, 13 from the other. They are in the right places and both places are ones many hunters would pass up. To add to the mix, I park my truck or ATV within sight of both stands. That is stand placement. Now about positioning.

One thing I always try to take into consideration is the time of day I intend to hunt the stand. That is important because it will often dictate how I am going to position it. It often dictates the direction the deer will come from and that concerns the sun. See, many hunters never consider the angle of the sun. If possible, I always want the sun behind me. And yes, it does, to some degree, tend to silhouette me. However, it gives me a much greater advantage in two ways. They are important ways.

First, it puts the sun in the game's eyes instead of mine. Have you ever tried to look through a riflescope when shooting directly into the sun? A man can starve down to a slim shadow trying that.

Secondly. It tends to make an animal travel with their head down and with a reluctance to look up. I have learned that many hunters never considered that. Just something to keep in mind.

While I am talking about the angle of the sun, let me mention that when I hang a stand with the early morning or late evening sun as a consideration, I also try to put the stand on the side of the tree away from the direction I expect the game to come. That way, I have the tree between the game and me. Sounds crazy to have to look behind you all the time, doesn't it. It may be but it is one heck of an advantage to have a tree silhouetted against the sun and you peeking around it. That single tactic has probably accounted for me killing well over 100 deer that I would not have killed had I been on the other side of the tree. I want the deer in the sun and looking into the sun. I want the sun behind me and a tree between me and the deer.

Just something over a half-century of deer hunting taught me.

Moving. Let's talk about moving. I mean moving the whole dang thing. Say you are hunting a stand for the first or maybe second time and you notice most of the deer are using (an old timers term for traveling), just out of range or in an area, you cannot shoot.

Move right then. Do not plan to come back tomorrow and move the stand, do it right then. I don't care if a deer is watching you, climb down and move. Several times, I have done that, climbed right back up and killed a deer. You cost yourself by waiting…every time. Often, the biggest buck will come through last. Move the stand, climb up and maybe kill him. Remember, if they can't see or hear you move, it didn't happen.

Just something else I learned.

Build a highway. Deer do not like briars and thick weeds anymore than we do. I cannot count the number of times I have actually made deer walk within shooting distance of my stand simply by creating a highway for them to travel. The latest instance was just a few weeks ago.

I was not able to hunt much last year, just not healthy enough. As a result, one of my stands went unhunted and the weeds grew shoulder high on the trail going to it. To hunt it this year, I had to use a sling-blade and actually cut a trail three feet wide and 75 yards long to it. Within three days, the trail was beaten down with deer tracks.

The first time I hunted it, September 28, late in the afternoon deer just poured down the trail and right past my stand. I killed two, a doe and a buck, within three minutes of each other. I was shooting the TenPoint crossbow.

So use that knowledge and look for places you can do the same. Make a highway through tall weeds and grass. If you have a bushhog, make one pass in a place you want deer to travel don't make it wide. They still like cover, just wide enough to walk. Then place a stand in a good ambush spot.

Just something, I learned from experience.

You learn, after watching a few thousand deer, to read body language. You begin to understand what is about to happen seconds before it happens. You come to understand that deer "crouch" before running. That mean their entire body lowers by as much as 18 inches. Why is this important? If you are a bowhunter, it is very important because it tells you where to aim. Over 60% the deer that are missed with a bow and arrow are missed because the arrow goes high. If you aim low-at the lower part of the vitals-quite often, the deer ducks into the arrow.

Just something, I learned from experience.

Bowhunting makes you a better hunter or at least it should. Over half the deer, I have killed in five decades and change of deer hunting I killed with a bow or crossbow. For 30 some years it has been almost a passion and for many of those years a part of my profession. Sitting in trees, waiting for deer to come within 35 yards of me forced me to watch and learn. With a rifle, you do not usually have a lot of waiting and watching. You shoot. Being forced to watch deer, you learn how they move and why they do things.
You learn to decipher head-bobs, foot-stomps, snorts, and "blowing". You learn to read the language of the tail. A deer, especially a mature doe, communicates a great deal with her tail. Watch it enough and you learn to understand that communication. Learn from your own experience. Don't depend on what some, even me, tell you. They could be wrong.
Just something, I learned from experience.
I urge all hunters to study deer, don't just hunt them. It will make your hunting experience more enjoyable. Watch a deer do something strange, say stand with one leg raised and tail twitching from side to side and ask yourself, what is that all about? Then keep watching and see if you can figure it out. Watch an old doe stomp, flick her tail, and stare a hole through something. What did the foot stomp mean? She was communicating. Was she trying to elicit movement? What did she say? (BTW- The answer is yes to both.)

There is a lot more "fun" in the deer woods than just killing. Go to school and study. You will be surprised how much you will learn. I have learned far more sitting in a tree than I have sitting in a classroom. Pretty good education to share and pass on to the button bucks in your family, too.

Deer Hunting - Looking into the Sun

I want these deer looking into the sun, not looking out from shade. It makes them easier to see and if my stand is placed and positioned properly, harder for them to see me.

Deer Hunting - Deer in the sun, looking into the sun.

This is the way I like it. Deer in the sun, looking into the sun. See the shadow of the stand tree in the foreground of the picture? I should be in the tree, not taking a picture from another fencerow.

Deer Hunting - Body position

What is she looking at? What does that body position mean?

Deer Hunting - Tail Signal

Is the tail saying something? He isn't spooked or about to run so what does the tail signal mean?