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The Forest Couch Potato:

by: Jim Radford

            If I had a dollar for every time I heard the lineóďHow can anyone spend ten hours sitting in a tree stand, freezing cold and soaking wet?Ē I would retire.  Most of all who are whitetail archery freaks know exactly what Iím talking about.  My wife, Barb, questions my sanity every time I head to the woods for a long sit in a tree stand.  And this from a guy when he sees his children sitting on the couch too long canít figure out why!

            Alright, I admit I am a forest couch potato!  Thatís right.  Check your sharp objects at the padded room door and enter in to the world of long tree stand sits.  Hunting from tree stands is perhaps the number one way to out wit the keen senses of the whitetail.  However, some of the sits can be long and hard to endure.  My hopes are that this article will help you stay longer in the stand which could mean greater success in the woods.  

            First, and probably the most important tip, is confidence in your stand location.  If you donít believe, I mean truly believe, that your stand is going to produce a good buck youíre not going to stay in that spot very long.  Stand location should always be preplanned long before the hunting season.  The best time to survey possible stand locations are the day after the deer season closes.  Thatís right!  There is no type-O here.  What I mean is after you just spent all deer season watching deer actual pressured hunting season, you now have the most knowledge about that piece of property you possibly can obtain.  You should now know the escape routes, the rub line, the feeding and bedding areas, and a good idea what time of day theyíre moving in those areas.  You should also have the wind patterned to those same areas.  After you have securely and safely placed your stand make a check-list:

  1. Do I have great shooting lanes?
  2. Do I have a bow hook and rope?
  3. Do I have a comfortable stand?
  4. Do I have good cover?
  5. Do I have an approach trail and exit trail?
  6. Do I have a safety belt or vest?

             Letís take a look at these items briefly.  Number one:  Have you cut out great shooting lanes?  If you have not made this provision when a deer comes in to shooting range your better have made provisions for a good clean kill.  This will also bring confidence in your stand. 

 Number two:  Do you have a bow hook and rope?  These two will save you, and/or your bow from a nasty fall when you are trying to climb a ladder with only one hand.  Even if you get into the stand safely without a hook, youíre going to have to hold on that bow all day.  This will not only be uncomfortable but it will lessen your time spent in the stand and if you think that tree limbs make great bow hooks, youíre not thinking of a smooth transition from your bow placement to full draw on the deer using as little movement as possible. 

 Number three:  Do you have a comfortable stand?  This is a no-brainer if your fidgeting in your stand, shifting from cheek to cheek, or moving your back out of a tree knot all day, you are not only taking a chance deer will see the movement and hear the commotion, you are not going to stay in that stand very long.  Big bucks are not stupid.  They will know youíre up there.  That brings me to number four: without good cover you run the risk of being seen.  However, use caution when cutting your lanes and stand platform area that you donít take too much forest out.  Not only does this expose you, but the missing foliage will alert deer of change and big bucks wonít tolerate a lot of change to their core areas. 

 Number five:  always think about your approach and exit from your stand to leave as little scent behind you and know your wind directions so you donít alert your deer of your coming or going. 

 Number six:  also a very key element of being able to spend all day in a stand is your safety equipment.  This is one  I neglected on a beautiful autumn day.  I left my safety belt in my truck because I was going to my ground blind, but half way to my blind I spotted a very large buck on the ridge headed in the direction of my tree stand.  So the genius that I am, I quickly headed to my tree stand instead of my blind.  Everything was going well.  I made it to the stand before the deer so I figured I had to be the smartest hunter alive.  I was sure I just got the drop on the big boy.  After about one and a half hours, the deer still had not shown up and by then, I didnít want to come down from my perch.  Time started to get longer and I started to drift off to sleep.  You can see where this is going and you are right.  The next thing I know was the fact that a sleeping man in a tree canít fly.  When I woke up on the ground I had snapped my ankle in half and had two compression fractures in my spine.  (Note to self:  always where a safety vest.)

 So now you have done all the right steps to spend a day in your stand.  The real question now is ďHow can I occupy my time and mind to keep myself in a stand all day?Ē  Great question.  I heard how some outdoor enthusiasts will read a book, perhaps their Bible, or some type of literature.  I canít do this because my mind drifts too much in the woods to retain anything I read.  Some have even taken gameboys and head phones in to occupy time.  This is really a bad idea for obvious reasons.  If I have to explain, then the first thing you need to do is to re-do your hunter safety course.  One thing I have found to be a lot of fun is to try counting at least 10-15 different species of animals you see from your stand.  Also, I try to identify deer that I have been watching all year.

             Quite honestly, the best way to occupy your mind in the tree stand or blind is the anticipation of adrenaline.  This will come easy if you have taken all the steps I wrote earlier in this article.  So dress for the weather, get down early afternoon for a little snooze and lunch away from your stand and of course relieve yourself at that time.  Learn to enjoy every moment of the creation God has blessed us with.  Be sure not to rush your time spent afield.  Life is too short to hurry through it.  As always, may God bless you and your hunting properties.

 Jim Radford