November 14, 2021
Hunters who want to be as mobile as they can, and those who choose to invest as little money in treestands as possible, oftentimes use the hang-and-hunt method when deer hunting. When analyzing it, it’s the perfect treestand tactic for the rut. Here’s how to use it this season.
Step 1: Get the Gear You Need
It all starts with the right gear. One of the best things you can do is set yourself up for success with quality gear you can rely on. Of course, if you’re going to use the hang-and-hunt method, it must be compact, lightweight, and quiet, or it won’t work.
Because of this, some hunters choose to use climbing treestands. Many of these are somewhat lightweight and are certainly maneuverable. However, climbers don’t work in areas with crooked trees, or those with a lot of limbs. A straight, limbless tree with a trunk under a certain diameter is necessary to use these.
Furthermore, other hunters choose to use tree saddles. These are lightweight and easy to set up, once you learn how they work. It’s a quick learning curve, though.
Still, others prefer a compact, lightweight lock-on treestand. Hunters who want to cut as much weight as possible might consider a lock-on that’s under 10 pounds. However, since this stand will be used frequently, I prefer it to be more compact and comfortable than merely lightweight.
Of course, you need a safety harness, lineman’s belt, safety line, ratchet straps, strap-based hangers for gear, pull-up ropes, and anything else you deem necessary. Then, you’ll want to take measures to quieten gear as much as possible, such as padding contact points. You’ll also want to pack everything up as compact and quiet as possible. Oftentimes, hunters prefer to strap climbing sticks to the stand, hang a small backpack onto that, and use the treestand straps to pack the load in on their back. That said, find a system that works best for you.
Step 2: Understand Timelines
One of the most beneficial aspects of following the hang-and-hunt tactic is being efficient, but you can’t do that if you don’t understand what deer are doing at a given time.
Of course, the unofficial kickoff for the northern rut is November 1-5. This is the period before the bulk of the breeding begins. Yet, although most does aren’t receptive, bucks’ testosterone levels are rising, causing them to move frequently during daylight. This is a great time to intercept frustrated bucks close to buck bedding, near scrapes located close to bedding, along travel routes, food sources, and more.
November 6-10 brings the first small wave of estrus does. Now, bucks are focusing on finding these and pushing them toward dense bedding cover. You might find bucks cruising near doe bedding, food sources, pinch points, and other good rut stand locations, but they might already be with a doe, too.
By November 11-20, the bulk of the breeding is taking place. In the northern half of the country, this is the window when the majority of does enter estrus. This is the window many hunters refer to as the lock-down phase. While not all bucks and does lock down simultaneously, most of them do during these 10 days. That can lead to some slow hunting.
Once November 21-30 rolls around, the rut is starting to wind down, but some does are yet to enter estrus. While younger bucks have likely spent their energy, mature bucks saved a little gas in the tank for the late rut. You should, too.
Step 3: Find the Right Spot
While different phases of the rut call for different stand locations, there are certain stand locations that oftentimes work regardless of the exact phase you find yourself in. Here are some of those:
- The downwind sides of doe bedding areas
- The junction of multiple intersecting trails
- Leeward ridges
- Ridge lines
- Where multiple ridges connect
- Pinch points
- Brushy benches
- Edge cover (where different terrain types meet)
- Heavy grassy cover (CRP, CREP, etc.)
- Small thickets
- Food sources
- Water sources
Regardless of the stand location you choose, it’s important to scout your way into a hunting location. Look for fresh sign. While you might have a place in mind, you might find something along the way that alters your thinking. And if you’re hunting a brand-new area, or one you don’t know as much about, try using a hunting app, such as HuntStand, to get a feel for the area. Oftentimes, you can use different map layers to reveal potential hotspots.
Step 4: Be Stealthy
No matter the destination, or stand location type you settle on, it’s important to be as stealthy as possible as you walk in and out. Monitor the wind as you go, and while you’re in the tree. Use low-impact entry and exit routes. Walk slowly, and quietly, so you don’t bump deer along your paths. Use visual cover when it’s available. And always scan ahead in hopes of spotting deer before they see you.
Step 5: Hang Your Stand (Safely)
Once in your target area, it’s time to safely ascend the tree. Find a good, living, healthy, straight tree without dead limbs. Then, find the right route up it. If it leans a little, lean into the tree, not away from it, while climbing up and down.
For those who use a climber, you’re process includes attached the top and bottom sections of the stand, tethering them together, attaching your harness to the tree, and working your way up it to the desired height and location.
For those hanging a lock-on treestand, start by putting on your harness, and attaching a lineman’s belt around the tree and connecting it to your safety harness on each side. As you move up the tree, slide the lineman’s belt up with you.
Next, attach a rope from your harness to your stand, and ropes from the stand to your bow and other gear. Then, begin with the sticks. Use individual pieces of rope to attach them to your safety harness. Pull each one up as needed. Once the straps are tight and secure, pull down on the stick to properly seat it.
At the desired height, and when all sticks are in place, carefully hang the stand. Use multiple straps at the top and bottom to ensure it’s safe, snug, and can’t move around. Move slowly, as you don’t want nearby deer to see or hear you.
After the treestand is hung, while still strapped in with the lineman’s rope, attach your tree strap or safety line to the tree. Attach your safety harness to that, climb into the stand, and remove the lineman’s belt. This method keeps you always tied in. Pull up all your gear, hang everything in place, and you’re ready to hunt.
After the hunt is over, do everything in reverse, and use the lineman’s belt when pulling everything down. This keeps you safe on the descent, too.
Step 6: Be Patient, But Adjust and Move as Needed
If you know you’re in the right place, stick it out. Do everything necessary to keep your mind sharp. Have patience. Have a plan and remain loyal to it. Oftentimes, we get too jittery and don’t stick to a game plan.
For that reason, I almost always follow the three-day rut rule. If the wind direction allows, I hunt the same treestand location three days in a row. I’m a firm believer that, if it’s a good rut stand, a shooter buck will pass by it within a few days. If not, oh well, at least I stuck to my guns.
That said, if you have good reason to pack up and move, do it. Don’t stick with a spot out of stubbornness if you know a nearby location is better. For example, if you’re in a spot, and deer keep passing by out of range, pack up your stuff and reposition.
All things considered, just go with your gut. If it’s telling you to say, then stay. If it’s urging you to move, break camp and move elsewhere.
Step 7: Get Tactically Aggressive
It’s the rut, so now is the time to be aggressive. Go for broke, as they say. Don’t be afraid to use calls. Start out soft, but don’t be afraid to get aggressive and throw everything you have at them. Feel free to rattle, too.
I also like using a decoy, especially if I can carry it or have the room to. That said, I prefer lightweight two-dimensional decoys when carrying in a treestand, too. These fold-up and fit in a pack nice and neat.
Bonus: Common Mistakes to Avoid
While there are many mistakes you can make using the hang-and-hunt method, some are more common than others. Obviously, put safety first. Not doing so is a major blunder than can lead to injury or death. Always use the utmost caution, precaution, common sense, and safety procedures. Always wear a safety harness.
Furthermore, have the right gear. Be strong enough to carry the load. Know how to use it. Don’t learn these things when hunting with them for the first time. Practice your routine before ever going hunting.
Another mistake is failing to plan. Know what you want to do but learn to adapt as needed. Being able and willing to change as the situation alters is an important characteristic among hunters who find consistent success.
Likewise, knowing how to be aggressive without being too aggressive is an important thing to learn and do, too. It’s a fine line, but one worth toeing.
All things considered, knowing how to hang-and-hunt during the rut should be a beneficial part of your playbook. Knowing when and when not to use it is, too. Good luck this season.