By Bob Humphrey
Fall hunting season is still a ways off for most of us, which is precisely why now is the time to do a little deer stand work. The biggest reason is disturbance. You always want to minimize it around your stands, but a certain amount is unavoidable, particularly if you’re setting a new stand. The farther away from when you plan to hunt, the better.
If you leave your stands out year-round, now is a great time to do a quick tour of existing stands to make sure everything is safe and in working order. Check ratchet straps on ladders and lock-ons. Rodents may have gnawed at them. Growing trees can put undo stress on them, and even pop them. Loosen and re-tighten all straps or chains. Check for loose or broken parts and lubricate any areas that creak when flexed.
Clean out shooting houses. Rodents, birds and stinging insects all like to use them as homes in the off season and it can be quite disconcerting to climb into your shooting house in the darkness of opening morning only to find you’re not alone. If you need to spray, now is better than close to the season as the odor will have time to dissipate. You can also fix any doors, windows or seats in need of repair or lubrication.
If you pull some or all of your stands, it’s not too early to re-set them. This is also a good time to set new stands. That gives deer a chance to become accustomed to them and again, leaves more time between disturbance and hunting. That can be especially true of larger stands like ladders and shooting houses. If the area is accessible by ATV or Side-by-Side vehicle, you can haul stands and any tools or other equipment in, which is not something you’d want to do close to the hunting season.
While you’re there, this is also a great time to clear shooting lanes. Trees fall and brush grows into existing shooting lanes; and there’s always that one branch you forgot to trim last year that ended up costing you a shot. You can also cut new lanes around existing or new stands, and because the season is months away, you needn’t be too worried about using power trimmers or even a chain saw.
Don’t just discard the brush you cut to clear lanes. You can use it to build barriers, forcing deer to go where you want them to, and blocking them from where you don’t want them, like directly down-wind.
Once the heavy lifting is done, you can sit back and enjoy the rest of your summer. Obviously, you’ll want to check your stands at least one more time before hunting season, but if you do a thorough job now, that should be a quick and fairly simple task.