Deer Stand Placement Strategy and Setup Tips Complete With Diagrams

Written By John VanDerLaan 

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Deer stand placement strategy will play a major role in your deer hunting success or failure. In today's post, you are going to learn how to develop a strategy for finding the most productive locations for setting up a tree stand.

Deer stand placement strategy

Below you will find our best tree stand set up tips complete with deer stand placement diagrams that will pay dividends this deer season.

Many hunters use what I call the "roll the dice" theory when it comes to tree stand placement. They find a good deer trail, look around for a good tree to climb and set up a tree stand and wait.

While this may work once in a while, a rock solid deer stand placement strategy will increase your chances of success dramatically when hunting whitetails.

There are many things that you should consider before ever setting up a tree stand.

Let's take a look at our top tips for proper tree stand placement.

Top Tips for Deer Stand Placement

Here are the things that you should consider every time you are setting up a tree stand for hunting deer.

1. Wind

Deer move in the wind, so wind direction is the most important thing for deer stand placement. If the wind is blowing from your tree stand to the deer, then you might as well go home because you are wasting your time.

Always set up your tree stand on the upwind side of the trail and also downwind from where the deer will be coming from.

This is the most important tip for success whether you are an experienced rifle hunter or a beginner bow hunter.

RELATED: How Much Wind Is Too Much For Deer Hunting

2. How Will You Get To The Tree Stand?

This tree stand set up tip is often overlooked by most hunters, but the more experienced and successful deer hunters use this strategy religiously.

You should map your route to the tree stand ahead of time and make sure that you can access the stand without spooking deer. This means having a quiet easy access where you will not bump deer and also where your scent will not be blowing towards where the deer are.

Proper scouting before the season will allow you to find the right locations that can be easily accessed without alerting the deer in the area to your presence.

In the best case scenario, you will not even be crossing the trail that you expect the deer to use. This is sometimes a tough one to accomplish, but at the very least avoid walking on the trail and avoid touching any brush or branches near the trail. Proper scent control will play a key role in not being detected by mature whitetails.

RELATED: Best Headlamp For Hunting

3. How High Should a Deer Stand Be?

This is a question that we get very often. Sometimes, How high should a treestand be for bowhunting? The answer is the same regardless of whether you are bowhunting or gun hunting.

A tree stand should be between 15 and 25 feet high. Any lower than 15 feet and you begin to lase the advantages of hunting from a tree stand like staying above a deer's line of sight. Any higher than 25 feet and you start to have major problems with your shot angle. The higher that you go, the smaller of a target you have at the deer's vital area.

As you can see in the image below, with a very steep angle the effective kill zone is very small and the chances of a bad hit are very high. This shot should be avoided.

Steep shot angle bowhunting

4. Best Types Of Trees For Deer Stands?

The best type of tree for a deer stand is going to depend on the type of tree stand that you choose to use, so let's take a look at the different types of tree stands and the best tree for each type.

The one thing that you want with all of the tree stands is some camouflage. The worst thing that you want to do is hang on the side of a tree in the wide open. You also do not want to be silhouetted against the sky. 

BBow Hunter in a Tree Stand
  • Climbing Tree Stands - Climbing tree stands consist of two pieces, the platform and the climber. They are very easy to use, but they limited to fairly straight trees without any branches up to the height that you want to climb. The best trees for climbing tree stands have other trees around them which will provide some cover for you when in the treestand. One of my favorite treestand setups is to take my best climbing tree stand and use it on a tree that has 3 or 4 different trunks so that you sit in the middle of the trunks and are surrounded by them, providing excellent camouflage and hiding ability. This is a little tricky because the trunk will be too big at the bottom to attach your climbing treestand. You will need to use a couple of climbing sticks to get up to where you can attach your climber and then climb the rest of the way. I like to use the climbing tree stand because it is much more comfortable than the best hang on stand.
  • Hang On Tree Stands - Hang on stands are the most versatile and can be hung in almost any tree, even a crooked one. Use the best climbing sticks that you can afford and you can literally climb around branches and get into some gnarly treestand setups that aren't possible with other treestands. Try to find the right tree that provides enough cover so that you will blend in seamlessly with the surroundings.
  • Ladder Stands - The best ladder stands are very comfortable, but they are also very intrusive and hard to camouflage. Ladder stands should be set up well before the deer season so that the deer become accustomed to them before opening day. We also like to attach evergreen boughs to the ladder stand with zip ties to help camouflage the stand. We also leave these up for the entire season.
  • 2 Man Ladder Stands - A 2 man ladder stand is essentially a ladder stand that is made for two people. It is a great way to get kids introduced to hunting whitetails. We like to set these up in larger trees to help camouflage their presence. These should also be set up well before the season so they do not affect deer movement.

5. When To Hang A TreeStand

You should hang your treestand at least 4 - 6 weeks before the deer season to give the deer a chance to acclimate to the treestand. Properly camouflaging the deer stand will help with this.

It has been our experience that your best chance at a successful hunt, especially on a mature buck will be the first time you hunt any deer stand, so plan to get there early and stay late.

RELATED: Tree Stand Maintenance Tips

6. Where To Set Up A Tree Stand

Now let's get into the nitty gritty of deer stand placement. Let's take a look at how to choose where to setup a treestand.

These are the best locations for a deer stand with a high success rate

Travel Corridors Between Bedding And Feeding Areas

Heavily used Whitetail deer trail

The most popular place to set up a tree stand is between a food source and bedding areas, that is where deer sleep or rest and where they eat. There will be lots of deer sign and very distinct trails that they use to go from one area to the other.

It is important to know what food sources the deer are using. It could be oak trees, food plots or ag fields.

Oak trees are a favorite when the acorns begin to drop, especially the white acorns. These are like candy to the deer and a big white oak tree that is dropping acorns will have every deer in the county visiting.

White oaks normally drop acorns every other year. This is a great time to make note of the ones that do not drop because they will be very productive the following year.

RELATED: Best Barometric Pressure For Deer Hunting

For bow hunting look for heavily used trails between the food source and the bedding areas, and then find the right tree 20 - 30 yards away from the trail and upwind of the trail.

If you are more interested in harvesting a mature whitetail, then look for the less used trails that run parallel to the main trail and stay in or near thick cover. These are the trails that are used by the mature bucks.

When you are planning your deer stand placement, stand on the deer trail and look for the right tree. Look for trees that have some cover so that you won't stick out like a sore thumb. 

A good deer stand placement strategy is to use trail cameras to determine when the deer activity is occurring and set up a tree stand in the high traffic areas where the deer come out during the day. This may be in close proximity to the food source or bedding areas depending on time of year and hunting pressure.

Pinch Points

My favorite deer stand placement is in a pinch point. A pinch point is a natural funnel or bottleneck that moves  deer through a certain area.

There are many different terrain features that create bottlenecks. It could be a narrow strip of woods connecting two large wooded parcels, or a small wooded area between open fields. Saddles are natural bottlenecks that funnel deer through the saddle.

I spent a lot of time watching a saddle on the hunting trip that I recount in this Ohio deer hunting report.

You can find many natural funnels by using a topographic map and studying the lines to find terrain funnels.

One of the best pinch points that I ever came across was on a Ohio deer hunting lease that I had a number of years ago. It was a waterfall that was about 20 feet high and the deer had no choice but to cross over the top of the waterfall because they couldn't get across downstream due to the steep banks.

Here is a trail cam pic of a mature deer on top of that waterfall.

Big Buck in a pinch point

Another great treestand location in a natural funnel that I have come across is on top of a cliff or very steep drop.

The deer will tend to travel across the top of the steep drop and this is a great place to intercept them with a deer stand placement.

I had just such a funnel on a piece of land that I hunted years ago in Connecticut. Every year during the pre rut I would make a mock scrape on top of that drop off and the big bucks loved to use that scrape.

It was a sure fire way to put mature whitetails where I had a shot opportunities during the pre rut and rut.

Here is a trail cam of a buck using that mock scrape. You can see the drop off about 20 yards behind the buck. You can also the scrape dripper above the buck.

Buck using a mock scrape in a pinch point

Make sure you follow the tree stand set up tips above when planning your deer stand placement in funnels. Getting the wind direction right and getting to your tree stand while staying undetected are crucial for better hunting success.

Field Edges

Field edges and food plots can be a great place for deer stand placement during certain times of the year.

The edges of fields can be a very productive early season stand location for evening hunts, when bucks are still in bachelor groups and entering the field in the same place and at the same time every day.

I like to set up in the staging area just inside the tree line when the wind is right.

This early season tactic does not last long. Once the pre rut starts and the bucks start to shed their velvet, the bachelor groups begin to disperse and their behavior becomes much less predictable. Hunters scratch their heads this time of year as the bucks seemingly disappear. 

One of my favorite bow hunting tree stand set ups is on a field edge during the rut while using a deer decoy in the field. 

It is a deadly setup because the bucks can see the decoy from a long way off and can't help but come check it out. Add in some rattling and a grunt call and you can be in the middle of some incredible action.

I like to be on the downwind side of the decoy so that the buck will be in between the decoy and me as he is scent checking the decoy.

Buck approaching a decoy in a field

Image courtesy of Wide Open Spaces

While the edges of fields can be a great place for deer stand placement during the rut, it can also be deadly during the late season, when it is cold and the majority of the food is in the field you are sitting on.

This time of year you can have the whole deer herd visiting certain fields that contain high quality food and they will be coming during the daylight hours.

One of our top picks for a late season stand location.

Deer in a field late season

Image credit

Use a Deer Attractant

You can use a top rated deer attractant to draw deer in and get them to stop and feed right in front of your deer stand.

The best deer attractants will lure deer in and keep them coming back.

Watering Holes

Deer tend to get most of their water from the plants that they eat, but they still need to drink, especially in hot climates and during the early season.

If you hunt deer in a warmer climate with a shortage of water, you may even consider creating a watering hole for your deer. It may be the first place they go when they leave the security of the bedding area.

It could be your best early season stand location on your property, providing shot opportunities that you wouldn't have had.

Here is a great video with tips for building a water hole and deer stand placement over a water hole.

So now that you have learned where to set up a tree stand, let's take a look at some specific examples in our deer stand placement diagrams.

Deer Stand Placement Diagrams

To help you better understand the deer stand placement strategy, we will now show you some of the best examples in our deer stand placement diagrams.

RELATED: How To Hang A Hang On Tree Stand

These deer stand placement diagrams apply to tree stands and ground blinds.

Deer Stand Placement Diagrams - Travel Corridors

In this deer stand placement diagram you can see the travel corridor from the bedding area which is highlighted, to the food source, which is a crop field. You can see with the tree stand placement that this would be an ideal place to hunt on a north wind direction. You could access the stands from anywhere left of the travel corridor and never cross the trail or allow your scent to reach the deer. This is a deadly early season tactic. You should be glassing the fields and food plots to see where the deer are entering and set up in the same location with the wind in your favor.

Deer stand placement diagram - travel corridor

Deer Stand Placement Diagrams - Pinch Points

In this deer stand placement diagram you can see the pinch point between to larger tracts of forested area between an open field and a food plot. This is the best spot to hunt during the rut as mature whitetails will use this bottleneck to travel without being detected. The two tree stand locations allow you to hunt in different wind directions and access them without crossing the funnel. This one of my favorite setups in mid November. I pack a lunch and get in the stand early ready to hunt dawn to to dusk.

Deer stand placement diagram - pinch point

Deer Stand Placement Diagrams - Field Edges

This deer stand placement diagram shows a tree stand location that is perfect for a south wind direction given the fact that the deer are always coming from the bedding area to the south, and you can access the stand from the field and not cross any deer trails. Always make sure to hang a stand so that you have shot opportunities inside the tree line as well as into the field. One of my favorite early season spots as well as during the pre rut.

Deer Stand Placement Diagram - Field Edge

Final Thoughts On Deer Stand Placement Strategy

Deer stand placement strategy should start long before the deer season begins. A well executed plan will perform better than luck in any situation.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Always hunt the wind.
  • Have a good access route to your deer stand.
  • Hang your treestand between 15 and 25 feet high.
  • Try to use natural cover as camouflage.
  • Hang your tree stand well before the deer season opens.
  • Use the deer stand placement diagrams above to help you find tree stand locations.
  • Use the best tree stand safety harness you can afford whenever your feet are off the ground.
  • Set up ground blinds well before the season. "Brush them in" and use a comfortable hunting chair to help you stay in the blind longer.

Follow the deer stand placement strategy outlined above and you will be well on your way to a successful deer season.

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John VanDerLaan

John VanDerLaan is the managing editor here at He oversees a team of editors, writers and pro staff that are subject matter experts in hunting and hunting gear. John's expertise includes thoroughly testing all types of hunting gear, as well as hunting all over the U.S. and Canada. While his hunting expertise includes game birds, small game and large game, his favorite game animal is the whitetail deer and he loves to share the knowledge that he has gained over 40 years of chasing the wily whitetail with both archery gear and firearms. John is an active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

4 thoughts on “Deer Stand Placement Strategy and Setup Tips Complete With Diagrams”

  1. In the wind section 1 you state “Always set up your tree stand on the upwind side of the trail and also upwind from where the deer will be coming from.” This contradicts the first paragraph… because upwind means your scent would be blowing where the deer are. Huh?

    • Hi Phil,

      Thanks for reaching out!

      You are absolutely right. That sentence was supposed to read, downwind from where the deer will be coming from.

      We have edited the post and it is now correct.

      Thanks for the heads up!

      Get out in the woods. The rut is heating up across much of the country!


  2. This is all good info. I started hunting in 1972. All the elderly men (12-15) in camp wore red and black or orange wool flannel coats, smoked cigarettes or cigars, drank coffee & beer. They also ate a huge breakfast. These men were deer slayers. None of the variable in todays market really applied unless we had to buy our wind and spot. Nobody ever went into shower and deer camp was generally 3-5 days long. Most only cared about getting their spot, harvesting a deer, staying warm and their appetite. In summary, be a marksman, know WHERE to hunt and you better know the WIND. ALL these men hunted from ground blinds made of the materials from the immediate area while hunting on an elevated slope in steep hilly terrain.

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for reaching out!

      Those were the good old days of deer hunting. The most important deer stand placement strategy back then was to hunt the wind! Then it doesn’t matter what you smelled like, although I do believe that there is some merit in good old fashioned wood smoke being a great cover scent. I know some old timers that would stand right in the smoke from the campfire before heading to their deer stands and these were some of the most successful deer hunters in our camp.

      Thanks again for the comment Bob.



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