Tips For Early, Mid, & Late Season Tree Stand Placement
With Whitetail Guru Tim Endsley
Cold air is starting to flow through the midwest, leaves are changing colors and the hopes of harvesting a mature whitetail buck are high.
Tree stands will soon decorate the woods of the Midwest, East, and South, like Christmas. Many don’t realize just how much work goes into hanging a successful tree stand.
BaseMap ambassador Tim Endsley hunts whitetails everywhere from Georgia, to Nebraska, Kansas and in his home-state of Arkansas. Endsley decides where to hang a stand by breaking the deer season into early, mid and late seasons. He combines these stages with seasonal food sources, travel corridors and bedding areas to form a plan on where his stands will hang for each stage of the season.
Below we will break down how Endsley decides where he sets his stands for each stage of the deer season to maximize his chances of success.
Early Season (September- Mid October)
Endsley focuses on two things this time of year, feed and avoiding mornings.
This time of year big bucks aren’t even thinking about the ladies and are still set in their habits of feeding and bedding.
Crops will be high this time of year, making your tree stand even more important. Endsley avoids extremely tall crops, like corn, as mature deer can essentially live in a cornfield without ever showing themselves. Because of that, he prefers to stick to alfalfa, beans and other similar crops.
The early season trees lining food plots and crop fields will provide plenty of leaves for a good backdrop, Endsley will place his stand as high as it takes to get in front of the leaves, making sure his silhouette is covered.
Mornings are a no go for Endsley this time of year, not because he wants to sleep in, but because it’s too risky. Mature bucks head to their beds so early this time of year, the risk of bumping them is too high. Endsley will instead opt for climbing into his stand in the afternoon, when bucks are bedded and wait until they inevitably head back to their feeding ground.
Mid Season (Mid October – November)
The weather may be cooling off, but the rut action is beginning to heat up. Now is the time to give up on food sources and focus on travel corridors.
Endsley places his stands in pinch points between food sources and suspected bedding areas. He suggests looking at narrow creek bottoms that run from fields, or other forage areas, to wooded thickets. He says, if he finds an area like this, he doesn’t even bother looking for deer sign, before hanging a stand. He knows that as the rut activity heightens, deer will inevitably travel down these corridors, and where there are does there will be bucks.
One specific example of one of these corridors is a creek bottom Endsley has hunted for years in Kansas. His stand hangs overlooking an 80 yard wide creek bottom surrounded by a CRP field, a cow pasture and crop land. He lovingly calls this stand the 170, as he and his hunting partner have harvested four bucks over 170 inches while sitting here.
Late Season (Late November – December)
By now the rut is winding down and food is of the utmost importance to deer. Bucks have just had a month long slug fest with each other and now they are looking to rest and build body fat back up in preparation for winter.
According to Endsley, you should be back to hanging your stand near food sources. The only issue is that many of the food sources have changed dramatically. Corn, beans, alfalfa and other classic crops will have been harvested by now.
Your best options for stand placement now are food plots, winter cover crops and natural food sources.
Some state agencies, like Arkansas, will actually plant food plots on public ground for the dual purpose of public hunting and winter feed for deer herds. If food plots aren’t an option though, you need to focus on grasses not covered by snow and other natural food sources.
Finding the edge of a field with winter cover crops like winter wheat is also a viable option, but the best food source Endsley recommends are acorns.
Many oak trees will have lost their acorns by December, but Endsley says if you find an oak tree still holding acorns, deer will no doubtedly be attracted to this feast.
“If you find late season acorns, hang a stand there,” he says.
Hanging your tree stand is equal parts art and science. Make sure you’re in the right section of woods this Fall to maximize your chances of making another lasting memory. Hunting season only comes once a year. Take charge of your season by getting those stands up in the perfect position.