A hunting platform gives you a wider field of vision; the elevated status allows you to spot game sooner than you would have at ground level. This gives you ample time to take your best shot which is even assisted by the platform’s solid backstop. The prey has little chance of spotting you as you will be above their eye level and your scent will be harder to detect.
It is not surprising therefore that their popularity has grown over the years among both firearm and bow hunters. They come in different forms, from tree stands that are fixed or more permanent ladder stands, to standalone tower stands.
Using a hunting platform, however, is no guarantee of a successful kill. Certain fundamentals need to be observed to optimize these advantages, regardless of your type of stand. These are some of the basic recommendations.
Naturalize the Platform
Give it ample time to release the new smell; unbox, unfold and let the stand air out in your backyard for a while before the hunting season.
Try lugging it around and listen for any squeaks or rattles it makes in the process. Set it up in your yard or attach it to a tree, depending on the type of hunting platform. Get on it and test it by fussing around while listening for any sounds it makes. You need to eliminate these before taking it out to the woods otherwise you will spook the animals.
Lubricate the squeaking joints and leave it until the lubricant smell subsides. Spray an odor neutralizer on the entire tree stand in preparation for setting it up. You don’t want the prey picking up any foreign scent which will defeat the purpose of having the hunting platform in the first place.
Add felt, pieces of cloth, or any other form of cushioning to the noisy contact points as you set up your platform, so it doesn’t make a sound when you move.
Pick The Most Productive Spot for Your Hunting Platform
Look for signs of prey like deer droppings, popped hickory nuts, worn tracks, and any other clue that comes to mind. It is advisable to conduct pre-season scouting to avoid leaving your scent all over the place close to the hunting days as sensitive prey will pick up on it.
Have two or three alternatives within the vantage point of these hot spots because there is a possibility that you will find the trees have shed leaves when you return for the hunt weeks later. The direction of the wind might also change and if you are upwind the deer will catch your scent. This may leave you exposed and compromise the concealment of the hunting platform. You may need to adjust where you position your hunting platform.
The cover should be sufficient to hide your entire form. Choose a wide tree or one with enough foliage to hide your shoulders. This is the game’s habitat and they will sense quickly if anything is out of the ordinary.
Keep a Reasonable Distance
Once you have established the deer path and are ready to set up, keep in mind the prey can see, hear, and smell much better than you can imagine. The closer you are the more likely they will be bothered by your presence.
Your bow or gun gives you an advantage over other predators as you can hit the target from a distance. A 30-yard range for a bow and a 100-yard for a rifle is adequate as you will have a vantage point without announcing your intentions.
Choose an Ideal Height for your Hunting Platform
The higher you can raise the platform, the less likely the prey is to catch your scent, which increases your chances of success. Going too high, however, reduces your kill zone as you will subject your firing range to more obstacles, and the distance increases with height.
The ideal height elevates you above the deer’s normal line of sight while affording you multiple shooting ranges. This is highly dependent on the terrain as well. You may need to go higher if you are hunting on a slope because there is a greater likelihood the animal will be at your level on the slope. 20 to 25 feet off the ground is usually sufficient on flat ground.
Climbing tree stands like the Summit Viper SD are easy to adjust to the desired height depending on prevailing conditions.
Approaching the Hunting Platform
Your prized game survives by relying on their sight, sense of smell, and hearing. You want to avoid giving them these signals, especially on the date of the hunt. Approach the platform from lower ground as much as possible and stay downwind from the spot you wish to stalk your prey. This reduces the chances of your scent being transmitted by the wind to your whitetail’s nose.
Avoid their paths and feeding points because you will leave your scent everywhere you go, and don’t be in a hurry. Their eyes are adapted to spot even the slightest movement. Use the cover of the terrain like ditches, creeks, and other barriers to avoid being spotted. Knowing there is a lurking stranger might work the game into a frenzy and they will steer clear of the range of your hunting platform.
The more comfortable you are the less you need to move. The slightest movement may alert the prey of your presence. You may be on the platform for many hours before you get your shot.
Avoid forward-angled tree trunks which will have you sitting in unnatural positions. Install a comfortable seat so you don’t start fidgeting, which is easily noticeable.
Prepare beyond the weather forecast with insulated clothing for extreme cold or heat. Use camo colors that easily blend into the background to avoid undoing all the preparation. Avoid loose clothing or anything that will ruffle with the slightest movement and draw attention to your presence.
Many hunters have ended up in the hospital suffering crippling injuries, and others have even died from falling off hunting platforms. Quite a number of these accidents happen when climbing up or down the platform. A significant number of the injured were not wearing safety harnesses or vests.
Always wear your safety harness or a fall arrest system that has been approved by the Treestand Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) and follow the manual. Make sure that somebody knows where you are, and you have a means of reaching them.
At the end of the day, how you use your hunting platform influences your success rate much more than the type of platform you have. Remember the point is to gain an advantage over the targeted prey.
Check out this video for an expert illustration on setting up a tree hunting platform for the long haul.