By Steve Bartylla
In part 1 of this article, I wrote about the initial stages of setting up to hunt a farm for Schuyler County, Illinois’ Sugar Creek Outfitters. You read about the sanctuaries, four water sources, alfalfa, corn, beans and clover. With the food, water and cover taken care of, all that remained was to get stands in the right places and hunt them.
Although we put about 30 stands on the property, we’ll focus on five. Those five sites were chosen in the same way you might choose to set a stand — deer sightings and abundant deer sign.
While we’ll be focusing on those five stands, I have to mention that we placed several field-edge stands, too. And when it comes to edge stands, even if you don’t end up taking a deer from an initial setup, I can’t overstate their importance for learning where bucks like to enter and exit a given food source. Particularly early and late in the hunting seasons, bucks tend to use the same trails to enter food sources. If you can pinpoint that trail, as well as minimize disturbance when putting up a stand, you have a good chance of connecting. However, because such stands are buck-specific, you’re better off waiting until just before the season to put them in place. Chances are you’ll need to move them every year, or even mid-season.
On the flip side, each of the other five stands I will discuss has characteristics that should make it a good stand season after season.
The No-Brainer Stand
Little did Wisconsin hunter Jay Fisher know that he was in for the best day he had ever spent on a stand when he climbed into the No-Brainer stand that early November morning. As day broke, he spotted one rub, then another and another and another. The more he looked, the more he found. Then, as light improved, he began to see the scrapes. You can imagine his excitement.
The sounds of bucks dogging does on the thick ridge to the east kept him sharp. Deer began to pop out of the thick cover, running the north-south valley, scooting down both the draw and a point to the east and working the creek. Six shooter bucks eventually zig-zagged around his stand. Fisher passed up shot after shot, but the seventh buck wasn’t so lucky.
With seven trails converging at Fisher’s location, it was an extremely busy buck intersection. With food on three sides and thick doe bedding cover on both ridge sides, it was simply a given that it would be a hot stand.
Additionally, access to and from the No-Brainer Stand was about as good as you could hope for. By day, we could cut in from the field, making the short 80-yard walk into the woods to the stand, disturbing nearly nothing. In the dark, the mostly dry east-west creek bed allowed a quiet and hidden approach or exit.
The Field-Pinch Stand
The Field-Pinch stand didn’t produce a harvest. Unfortunately, 160-plus inches of antler and drop tines tend to rattle the best of hunters. That’s exactly what happened when a giant of a buck worked its way through the pinch in the clover field. The hunter was so shaken afterward that we’ll never know all the details of what happened in the one and only sit that occurred on that stand. What we do know is that it produced an opportunity at a buck of a lifetime.
Looking at the aerial photo and topo map, we easily picked out the spot as a place for a stand on the upper clover field. There, the field necked down to a 30-yard shot from side to side, with a sharp cut on each side forcing anything traveling north or south along the field to enter the open area.
Furthermore, the neck in the field separates hidden coves from the main field. With the clover as a tremendous feed draw, does piled in each afternoon. For Mr. Big to check them, he had almost no choice but to travel through the neck.
Access to the Field-Pinch Stand was a difficult climb up the cut to the east, however, I’m sure anyone who saw that buck would agree the reward would have been worth the effort.
The Food-Plot Stand
The Food-Plot Stand was mainly set up for use in firearms season. Last year, the plot held corn and beans. Remember that the later into season you can provide standing grains, the more of an attractant they become. Although the plot was a powerful draw early on, it really ramped up on the colder days later in the season.
As a side note, while we plan to continue our blend of corn and soybeans for this stand this year, because of its incredible tonnage-per- acre yield and increased early season drawing power, we’re going to add a mix of forage and grain soybeans, forage peas and buckwheat.
Getting back to the stand, it’s just an elevated box blind. Situated in the southeast corner of the field, it works best for the prevailing late-season northwest winds. Since the creek bank at its back side is particularly high, the deer have a tendency to enter from upwind, making it a very wind-friendly stand.
Best of all, because the field is shielded from any roads, the deer pile into it from both surrounding ridges, often well before dark. A little cold weather and snow never hurt, either.
That’s the exact situation that Virginia hunter Bobby Payne enjoyed. Crawling into the blind one afternoon of the second shotgun season, it wasn’t long before Bobby began to see does and young bucks. Not far behind were three mature bucks. With three deer of more than 130 inches of antler calmly feeding in front of him, Bobby took his time and chose the biggest, one with a drop tine. A well-placed shot made quick work of the fine animal.
Like the No-Brainer Stand, the dry creek bed offers access for a morning entry. However, the best way to exit the field after an evening hunt is to drive the field road out to the food plot. When the deer see the lights coming, they bound off for cover, enabling the hunter to climb down without spooking anything. Vehicles don’t overly scare deer, and scouting cameras reveal that the deer return within minutes of the truck’s exit.
With both a sanctuary and tons of cover on the ridge running most of the length of the property’s western edge, it should be no surprise that the deer pile off it to the bean-and -corn food plot. The stand also gets plenty of north-south traffic that runs the bottom, skirting the ridge’s edge.
Though hunted only once, the lucky hunter had a thrilling morning. Hearing the telltale noises of an approaching chase, he scanned the steep ridge and saw a doe blowing down the point. On her tail were a young 10-pointer and a mature 8-pointer. Although the 130-plus inches of antler were enough to surpass Sugar Creek’s minimums, the hunter used his video camera instead. The result was some cool footage that he can cherish for a lifetime.
The Sanctuary Stand
Tough-access stands can and should be hunted, assuming that it’s done toward the end of the rut and severely limited to no more than two or three sits. The reason is that if it’s truly a tough-access stand, you cause a good bit of disturbance getting in and out, which will quickly put a smart buck on alert.
In a nutshell, that describes the Sanctuary stand. With points serving as transition zones between the ridges on either side of a long, narrowing valley, this stand sits at another major deer intersection. With sanctuaries on both sides, the bottom is literally torn up with buck sign each fall.
As mentioned, access is poor. Complicating matters, the valley causes the wind to swirl around the stand. Only hunters who employ Scent-Lok suits and take odor control seriously are allowed to hunt there.
The Sanctuary stand is a lot of work, but for once or twice a season when the time is right and you get the right hunter, it’s pretty much a slam dunk.
When analyzing nearly any successful property, you’ll almost always find that they have several things in common: good food, cover, water and sanctuaries.
Studying and improving those ingredients will help you put your stands in the best locations. The next time you approach a new property, remember this lesson and keep your priorities in order — and place your stands after you’ve done your homework.
This article was published in the September, 2008 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.