October 13, 2022
As a light rain started to fall, I felt relieved in accomplishing my very first hang-and-hunt in the most impossible tree. Sweating and convincing myself that I was not going to see anything after the ruckus I made, I caught a glimpse of something coming toward me through the thick vegetation. It was him! I was in disbelief. As he made his way to the right to me and turned broadside, I released my arrow. The tears immediately began to fall as he crashed down over the hill into the unknown. I had just shot the biggest buck of my life, and if it wasn’t for doing something new and trying a hang-and-hunt I never would have gotten an opportunity at that buck.
Since then, hang-and-hunts have become one of my favorite hunting tactics for killing big bucks. It only makes sense to pinpoint what your target buck is doing first, then make your move and surprise him with a mobile strategy. In most circumstances, the very first sit in a stand can be the best. Just like the instance with my 2020 “Freak” buck, I didn’t hunt this deer — nor did I have a stand in place to kill him — until the second week of October once I finally got the intel I needed. Once I made my move he had no warning or indication that I was going to be there. Deer hadn’t been spooked or pressured in that given area because I chose to stay out until the time was right.
Just as I mentioned above, the less you can disturb your hunting area the better. Hanging your setup without having any intel or idea of what your target buck is doing will only create smarter deer and add extra pressure to the usual does and smaller bucks that hang out in your area. Although that doesn’t always really seem like an issue, these non-targetable deer can ruin your hunt very quickly if they constantly wind you or see you getting in out of your stand, which in the end can keep your target buck out of your area all together. Packing in a stand and sticks — and hunting when the time is right — gives you the best opportunity to kill your target buck and keep the other deer from becoming too educated.
I prefer to be mobile, especially in the early-season and during the rut. Bucks are on the move early in the fall, hitting multiple green food sources before transitioning to acorns once they start to fall. Being mobile during this time allows you to jump to whatever food source your target buck is utilizing at a given time. When it comes to the rut, if you cannot be mobile than you are missing out on plenty of golden opportunities! I like to get in closer to the thicker areas with an overabundance of scrapes and rubs. You never know what buck you may see in the rut — or at what time of the day they may show up — so it’s important to be out there.
I’ve learned over the years that you don’t always have to be extremely high in a tree to stay undetected and have success. Knowing the wind direction and how the thermals pull where you're going to hunt are extremely important. Where I live there are a lot of steep hills, ridges, ravines, and tough places to hunt where the wind and thermals are anything but cooperative. I usually like to get to 20 feet in the air or more for this reason. Other areas, where more favorable terrain is present, I don’t need to go this high.
Finding a good tree with a lot of cover — or one with a good backdrop of cover — can really make a difference in your hunt. I’ve hunted trees in the past where it didn’t matter how high I went, without cover and a way to blend in I always got picked out. Trying to get up in a tree with a lot of limbs can sometimes be more of a challenge — and will almost certainly take more time — but being able to move without getting busted or looking like a noticeable object hanging off the side of your tree will truly be worth the trouble. Without good cover, getting drawn back on any whitetail can be nearly impossible more times than not.
Giving yourself ample time to complete a hang-and-hunt is very important. There are a lot of times that we're hurrying to get into the woods, but rushing the situation will only cause mishaps. I usually can get my stand and sticks in a tree in around 20 minutes, depending on if there are a lot of limbs to work around or if I have to cut a branch that’s blocking a major shooting lane. The less you have to cut, the better.
The biggest question that hunters ask is, “What gear or treestand setup should I run for hang-and-hunts?” Well, it ultimately depends on what works best for you and what you feel most comfortable with. Numerous treestand companies specialize in — or have multiple options of — mobile hunting systems and gear. I'll tell you that the lighter and more compact your setup be is where you'll want to look first, because packing in a large or heavy setup will get old very quickly.
Over the last few years I’ve really narrowed down to what setup works best for me, especially since I’m a small female. Where I always struggled in the past was not being to find a light enough stand to hang on my own or a climbing stick that is rock solid in a “not so perfect” tree. Rarely do you ever find a perfectly straight tree without flaws. Having a climbing stick with a pivoting bracket on the back will ultimately make your climb safer and will allow you to utilize those trees. With that being said, here is my preferred gear list for hang and hunts:
- Novix Helo Hunt Ready System: This setup comes with everything you need, already put together in the box to complete your hang and hunt.
- Novix Helo Hang-On Treestand
- Novix Single-Step Climbing Stick
- Novix Padded Backpack Straps
- Novix Climbing Stick Quiver
- Outright Hunting Products Morph Pro Bow Hanger Kit
Like I said, everyone has their different gear preferences, but these items have taken the simplicity of my mobile hunting setups to a whole new level. My setup is lightweight and dead quiet entering into the woods and during the hanging process.
So get out there, be safe, and use the mobile hang-and-hunt process to your advantage to put that big buck on the ground this fall!