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Stop Hunting High (in a tree)

Getting some distance between yourself and deer is great, but arbitrarily hanging treestands super high is just a bad idea.

Many bowhunters think of 20 feet up as the benchmark for treestand hunting. But as we’ve learned more about the science of scent, some push that number to 30 — and even higher.

It’s true that adding a few feet to your setup can keep your scent flowing away from your stand at a greater height too. And in some scenarios, hanging an extra climbing stick could keep you out of a whitetail’s line of sight.

But while hanging from 30 feet has some benefits, shooting from such high heights creates steep shooting angles and significantly cuts the margin for error, making a double lung shot incredibly challenging.

Shot placement becomes even more important yet exponentially more difficult — a few extra yards up the tree could turn a chip shot into a trick shot.

The higher the stand, the more you’ll have to compensate and adjust the aim-for distance to hit that small window at the vitals. You’ll have to hold low, but knowing exactly how much can be tough without an angle-compensating rangefinder.

Many hunters struggle to maintain proper form when shooting at this steep angle, resulting in clean misses or worse — a wounded animal.

Hunting from a higher elevation also means more safety risk when hanging and climbing into stands, even if you’re wearing a harness and using a lineman’s rope.

So given the downsides, is there ever a case for hanging high?

Like most bowhunting debates, there’s no one hard and fast rule that applies across the board, but generally hanging at a modest height around the 20-foot mark is best.

You can get skylined at any height if you don’t consider the terrain and cover. Some setups work at just 8 feet and others at 25 feet.

Regardless of whether you’re hanging from 10 feet, 20 feet, or 30 feet, you should always practice shooting from that same height. Hang a similar stand in your backyard and get plenty of reps in before hunting season. Remember to bend at the waist to place your pin on target rather than lowering your bow arm. And if you don’t have one already, invest in an angle-compensating rangefinder.   Diligently follow these steps, and you can be successful at any height, within reason. But don’t just get higher off the ground because some self-proclaimed expert told you to.

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The Bow Bully
The Bow Bully discusses a variety of archery topics and offers tips, advice and the occasional nudge to make you a better bowhunter. With years of experience, and an attitude to match, you'll find the Bully has something to offer both beginners and seasoned hunters.

11 thoughts on “Stop Hunting High (in a tree)”

  1. TBB,

    I did some hunting from treestands and usually opted for 10 to 15 feet – just enough to be above the deer’s normal line of sight. Hight doesn’t give you license to ignore movement, you still have to be careful with that. Found that winter camo (pale gray background with a large bare branch pattern) helped with skylineing by eliminating the “large dark blob” in the tree.

    Out of preference, most of my hunting was at ground level. On the local farms I hunted, the deer were used to human scents and didn’t react too much unless you were real close. My favorite tactic was to leave my hunting coat hanging in the cow barn 🙂


    • “Out of preference, most of my hunting was at ground level.”
      Ditto; with gun or bow, I had no trouble getting in range of deer while on the ground. Even today, while I pretty much just hunt them with a camera, it’s not hard to get near deer; I just pick a spot near the junction of two deer trails, one where the wind is blowing from the junction toward me. I watched this doe for awhile from 15 yards away; she had no idea I was there; she would have been an easy shot with a bow or a pistol. 🙂

      • Dave,

        I’ve found that if you acknowledge the deer (with the “all clear” wave) and just go about your business the deer will quickly come to accept you. A farmer showed me that by taking me on a tour of his property on a tractor – the deer pretty well ignored us as long as we kept moving.

        Doesn’t take too long for them to recognize that you aren’t a danger and feel comfortable. Couple of days ago I was down at the pond watching the turtles and a doe came up to me wanting my apple… shared it with her..

        We have two pairs of Snow Geese and a pair of Canada Geese nesting on the pond this year. Always have the Canada’s, first time for the Snow Geese… they are already getting used to me waving at them.


        • Hank
          I haven’t hunted deer for some years now and never since I moved to the country where I’m at now. The deer don’t pay me no attention no more. I wave to the animals too. I have a big red tail hawk that will fly over if I wave to it if it’s out soaring at a good distance. It circle about 2 or 3 times then go back to its business.

        • “the deer pretty well ignored us as long as we kept moving.”
          I’ve noticed the same thing with the large turtles in our pond; if I drive by them, even in the loud ZTR, they see me as no threat…but if I stop to take a pic, as soon as they see me stop, they perceive that as a threat.
          “We have two pairs of Snow Geese and a pair of Canada Geese nesting on the pond this year.”
          Awesome! That’s something cool to enjoy. 🙂

  2. I was wondering if anyone was going to mention hunting from the ground. We would get down in some thicket brush or down in a creek bed along the bank when the creek was low and lay down and wait. No camo even. That’s back when I was a kid many moons ago.

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