Your hunting scent, or lack thereof, will be the deciding factor in your hunting trip. Animals can smell for an insane distance through solid ground, and it alerts them to predatory animals. When you spend your life on the run, hiding from others and evading disaster, it’s kind of second nature.
Tree stands are essential to whitetail deer hunting, and they’re one of the most danger-perceptive animals in North America. They have roughly 19% more smell capability than a bloodhound, which is really saying something. But here’s the thing: tree stands aren’t going to help you with your scent, and they aren’t going to help you lure prey into your spot after a certain amount of time.
Your scent comes from a variety of factors, and no matter how hard you try, you cannot remove it entirely. If a drop of sweat leaves any of the four million pores on your body, you could leave a scent behind. If you breathe on the side of a tree while in a stand, you could leave a scent behind.
Tree stands help with visibility, not scent. Deer tend to only look horizontally, meaning they don’t really care what’s in the trees above them since they have no predators that come from trees when they attack (apart from the occasional freak bear assault). That being said, you do increase your chances of successfully hunting deer in a tree stand. Your scent is another argument entirely. Here are best tips on tree stand hunting.
How Do I Get Rid Of My Scent?
There are a variety of ways you can get rid of most of your scent to at least give yourself the best fighting chance possible. We’ll have some tips on it shortly, but for now, just understand that you cannot compromise your hunting clothing.
Your hunting gear will cover most of your body, which will harbour sweat and any natural musk that you have about you. Your focus should be on the hunting clothing, because that’s controllable while other factors are not.
Do Tree Stands Help?
Yes, they do help with hunting, but not necessarily with scent. Tree stands are usually made out of aluminium and some degree of plastic, which are fairly scent-neutral. Deer are not going to smell a tree stand and immediately assume something is amiss, but bucks will notice when something’s amiss and will stop visiting certain spots after about twelve hours of strange activity.
Strange activity could be anything from noticing someone else has tread through their land to looking up and actually seeing you in the tree. At that point, they know you’re dangerous and will evade you until you leave, and they’ll ignore that spot for some time after you’ve gone. Bucks are generally smarter than deer, and tree stands can only fool them so much.
12 Tips on Hunting in Tree Stands and Your Scent
1. Run A Lifeline
No matter how good you are at setting up tree stands, you need to use your lifeline. It can’t be stressed enough: it’s an absolute necessity.
Not only does it make it easier to ascend and descend from the tree stand, but it’s just siding with the “better safe than sorry” mentality. Safety protocol should always be your first priority before any hunting begins.
2. Avoid The Unnatural
You’re going into nature, and you know what nature doesn’t have? Aftershave. Cologne. Soap. Coffee.
Do you see where we’re going with this? If you bring anything with you that’s not a normal scent that a deer or small game would find in the wilderness, then it’s going to give you away pretty fast.
3. Regular Maintenance
Tree stands aren’t going to hold up forever. Joints need to be checked, rust inspections need to occur, and you have to look for any warping in the metal. It’s going to physically support all of your weight for hours on end; don’t fail to inspect and address any concerns you might have with the unit.
4. Your Spot Is Done After 12 Hours
Didn’t catch anything? It happens, but what can’t happen is you getting back up in that same treestand spot again. You have to move it. The habitat of a deer and where it roams is very small, so if they saw you during the day, they’d be wary until they knew that your presence had vanished. You’ll have to move 1-2 miles away from that tree in order to be effective.
5. Get A Bit Dirty
On your way to the tree stand, pick up some freshly fallen pine branches and some twigs and get a bit of dirt on them. Make sure you cake your boots with dirt, since it’ll help mask the scent of wherever you travelled from.
Put those twigs and pine branches in your tree stand. It makes it a tiny bit more cluttered, but then you’re basically blending in.
6. Don’t Wear Your Hunting Boots Beforehand
You’re on the way to the hunting site; you stop to get gas, go inside to pay, and then leave once you’re done. You now have the strong scent of gasoline on your boots, and deer can smell it. If you can avoid it, don’t put your hunting boots on until you get to the campsite. Then the only scents that will stick to it will be those of the trail you walk on your way to the tree stand.
7. Position Your Gear
Do you know what the odds are of you spotting a whitetail, scrambling to get your gun or crossbow, and missing the opportunity entirely? Pretty high. When you spend 2–3 hours in a tree stand, your focus will inevitably drift a little. That’s okay; nobody can focus on literally nothing for hours on end and be expected to hold that same vigor.
Just do yourself a favour and have your gun close to you. It should take 2.5 seconds to grab it and aim, and the deer will never see it coming.
8. Identify Travel Paths
Learn how to find out if a deer has passed through an area, and you’ll quickly notice patterns in where they usually walk. You can set up your tree stand with a line of sight on this path.
Whitetail deer generally don’t travel more than a half-mile away from their bedding spot, though they can travel in any direction from there. You’ll notice paths and trotted roads will be near a water source as well.
9. Find The Back Cover
When you hang the stand, you don’t want to be 100% visible from the ground. The back side of the tree (whatever section is to your back when you’re in the tree stand) needs a bit of rush for cover. This can make it difficult to choose the right tree sometimes, but it’s important. Otherwise, prey could see you from behind and turn tail to run without you ever knowing.
10. Hang It High
Well, higher than your maximum height. In the 10–12 foot range, you’ll be in the sweet spot to remain anonymous to prey, and you’ll also have more of a vantage point. Hanging your tree stand too low will put you in their narrow, but still present, line of sight.
11. Wash Well
Yes, earlier we mentioned leaving unnatural scents at home, but you can’t help but bring your scent with you when you leave. Many hunters think that not showering for 36–48 hours before going on a hunt will mask their presence, but human body odour is worse than a mug of coffee in terms of scent detection and avoidance.
Just use natural soaps that have absolutely no perfume in them, and you should be okay.
12. Downwind, Always
Every single time you position a tree stand, you need to angle it downwind. When you’re upwind, you’re allowing your scent to be carried through the air and extend to all the prey in the area. Deer have a higher number of olfactory receptors than bloodhounds, so they’re extremely sensitive to every single scent that wafts through the air.
Use local weather reporting and your own means to determine if you’re upwind or downwind in your area. Skipping this step could be the difference between bagging a game or going home empty-handed.
Find A Good Tree And Plant Yourself In It
Tree stands are useless without the right place to perch yourself for the day. Find a good tree, set up shop, and ensure your scent is covered so you can enjoy the sight of prey walking into your path. While some might see this as a copout for true hunting, you don’t have to track and hike twenty miles to trap and capture good game—it’s time to test your patience in a quality tree stand.