I mostly hunt public land, and one of the things that I have started to think about is my opening day stand location. Opening day is now just about 3 weeks away, so I have started to strategize on where my stand location will be.
But going past saying that I have a few places to choose from, you really should think about this from several different angles to come up with the best decision possible.
Since I will be hunting some part of Loch Raven on opening day, I have to start thinking about things like: where the least people will be, where the fewest hunters will be, where I have my best chance at seeing a good deer? This is just the start of my thought process when trying to decide my stand location. First, I look at the fact that September 15th is normally on the warm side, so a lot of hikers, joggers, dog walkers, and even bikers will still be out and about. Unfortunately, even if any of us enjoy these activities when we are not hunting, they can really screw up your hunt. The other problem with those activities is that many like to do them before or after work, which normally puts them in the woods the same time as hunters.
You then have to think about how many hunters will be in certain locations. Last year, on opening morning there were several others hunting in the same location as me. You need to decide where your best chance at having the woods to yourself is. The less foot traffic into the woods opening morning, the less chance there is of the deer knowing that you are there. You have to take everything from noise, to scent, to the fact that the other hunters may have pushed deer already in the area out. All of these things can affect your opening day hunt.
Then you have to look at where your best chance at a good deer is. Whether you have scouted an area, put trail cams out, or just have an area you like to hunt. You always need to be thinking about where your best chance to see that trophy is. The other thing is that many hunters go out in search of meat, so perhaps you need to think where your best chance to see deer in general is.
All of these questions get answered with our prior knowledge, skills, and good scouting no matter what method of scouting you use.
I hunted several new areas of Loch Raven last fall that looked like they could be great early season locations to hunt in. However, some of them are good morning hunting locations and some are good afternoon locations. So plan based on when you are hunting, many of us took opening day off, but lots of us are just heading out either in the morning or evening. So think about when you plan to hunt and that will help you decide a general area.
Then, you need to start thinking about tree location. I always have 3 – 4 trees in a given area that I hunt out of, this allows you to play the wind, and keeps the deer guessing as maybe they picked you out or smelled one once before. You should always have options when you are hunting public land, you need to be able to play the wind and have a plan B in case another hunter has already taken your spot (yes, I have had this happen on more than one occasion, that just tells me that I have a good spot).
Now is the time to pull out your topographical maps, think real hard about all the scouting and shed hunting you did during the offseason and start laying out a plan! Now, I know you cannot pick your exact tree until the day of due to wind, but you need a good game plan. As I said, all good plans always have a hitch. If you plan to hunt one particular tree or area and you get there opening morning and 10 guys are already hunting that area, or your tree is taken, you have to be able to figure out your next move quickly so you are in your tree before the sun comes up.
I love Google Maps for doing these types of things; I can look at real aerial photos, put markers on the map where I have hunted before, where I want to hunt. Google Maps make everything easier. I also use a trail tracker on my cell phone that allows me to keep detailed maps of where I entered the woods, where I hunted, and where I left the woods. I then, save them to my computer and add comments so I can remember all the details.
If you have one, a handheld GPS like the Garmin® Oregon 450T GPS is great for helping to find a location and pinpoint a tree at a later date. I highly recommend using them when out shed hunting in the spring. This is when I get some of the best scouting done, and by having a handheld GPS you can keep that data with you at all times. Thus, allowing you to just be able to pick an area based on scouting, and also be able to know exactly where the trees you have selected in that area are. This also will allow you to find those trees in the dark much easier and already have a planned route into the woods.
I suggest if you have never hunted an area before, but you plan to try it on opening day, stay away from morning hunts. If you enter a section of woods that you have never hunted before and do not know where good climbing trees are, you could find yourself wondering around in the dark and disturbing other hunters that are already in the woods. I like opening day afternoon for those wildcard locations that I have never been to before, or have not scouted to find suitable climbing trees beforehand. Take the afternoon and go early, find a good tree, maybe scout out other trees on your way to or from your desired hunting location. You will have a much better idea of where you are going and probably end up with a lot of information you would have never ended up with if you came in the dark.
So after you have gone through all those things in your head, you probably have a location, and probably a tree in mind if the wind is right. That makes you just a little more ready for opening day.
Do you already have your opening day stand location picked out? Or are you still trying to figure that one out?
I know a lot of people have favorite trees for opening day and only hunt that tree no matter what. So if that is the case, maybe you folks could help our other readers in picking their opening day tree by giving them your insight on the best way to pick a tree!
I hope this gives you some food for thought when you are trying to pick your tree for opening day.