Placing a treestand or ground blind in a winning location on a specific property taxes even veteran whitetail hunters. To give you an edge in this task, invite some technology to the party. The impressive tools in a HuntStand Pro subscription, including 3D Mapping, will boost the odds your ambush is accurately placed. And to be clear, we’re not talking about “more or less close enough.” We’re talking about the spot on the spot: Pinpoint deer stand placement.
Upgrading to HuntStand Pro not only allows access to the 3D Mapping tool, but also many more helpful features such as Property Info, which illustrates your hunting property for optimal planning. More good news? The affordable Pro upgrade will not set you back like some other apps’ “premium” features, and your skill in ambush location will jump exponentially.
One very effective ambush scenario includes water. Reservoirs provide hydration for deer in arid environments, like the Great Plains or even forested regions of whitetail country. Firing up HuntStand’s 3D Mapping allows you to easily see the larger water sources around a hunting property. The Natural Atlas feature reveals water sourcesvia a map-style layout for canopy-heavy areas.
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Whitetails seek out from 4 to 6 quarts of water during the day. Maximum amounts are required in heatwaves and during the rut. A woodland or cropland reservoir provides an ideal stopover to replenish, and gives you a location for your next ambush.
Check The Wind & Cover
The best water sources provide cover for deer wishing to use the source during shooting hours. Once you locate a prime, covert water source, use the HuntZone to determine wind characteristics at the location. After determining which side of the water to set up your ambush, study the source with 3D assistance to determine areas that may have shallower water and less- steep banks. Deer will automatically water on those edges for convenience. Typically, the back end of a reservoir is shallower than the dammed or downhill end.
After determining a deer-preferred side, add in topography layers to hunt for routes deer might use to access the water. Look for draws, creek tributaries and even old farm roads used to check water levels by land managers. A saddle above a reservoir could lead deer directly to the water, as will a fence line. When these features connect with the water you have an ideal funnel ambush. If you feel deer may only be using the water after dark, backtrack up the route and establish an ambush leading to water, such as the ridge scenario described previously. At the water, an overlooked pinch point is the manmade dam grade that routinely includes a trail.
Use the available drainages leading to and away from any standing water source as your access routes. Staying below a bank or in a ditch gives you cover to sneak into water locale when combined with downwind help, but stay clear of trails deer use to access food or bedding.
The Coulee Caper
All lowlands do not lead to an open field. Coulees, basins and bottoms in whitetail country may plummet to a lower elevation, but still exist under the canopy of timber. An ambush in a timbered setting provides the opportunity for all-day action, especially in the rut as bucks cruise for the next estrus doe. Whitetails routinely avoid appearances on fields during shooting light, but have confidence moving in the timber.
3D Mapping allows you to survey these hideaways even if the canopy cover is too dense to see through on an image. You should also slap the topographical overlay on the image and begin scanning for a series of coulees and draws that funnel down to a junction. Two or more of these draws meeting in a gorge routinely expose well-used trails meeting underneath a tree hosting a community scrape. Rubs characteristically adorn the adjacent shrubbery. When you find a junction with fresh activity, you’ve won the funnel lottery. Drop those pins to mark your discoveries.
To garner even more traffic, look for a junction of draws necking into a main draw that leads to a field. Deer will filter from the adjoining draws, hit the junction and jump on the “expressway” to the field. They’ll do this for evening feeding and their sunrise retreat to cover. Now comes the tricky part: Setting the ambush.
Stand Entrance & Exit
Depending on the steepness of the draws and sidehills, pay special attention to thermals and use your HuntStand HuntZone to map the wind and your scent dispersion. Wind clues aid in deciding on which side of the trail or draw you should place your stand, especially at the all-important junction point.
Finally, plan for ingress and egress. Although deer move in cover throughout the day, particularly during the rut, getting to a junction in the afternoon is best accomplished directly in the bottom with a downwind advantage. In addition, use scent elimination to cloak your intrusion. To access stands in the pre-dawn, consider a top-down approach. This keeps you away from lowlands, and most deer will still be feeding as you flank bedroom cover to reach your stand.
Creek Bottom Trap
Creeks, streams, rivers and riparian zones of all classes lure whitetails for ease of travel, water and ultimately food. Not only do the richest crops exist along these ribbons of habitat, but deer can browse their way to the good stuff under the cover of foliage. Begin with a history of wind direction as you peruse ambush sites. Be aware that even though wind may appear steady in a riparian zone, creek banks, river breaks and steep corridor topography will funnel winds in the approximate course of the waterway. HuntZone will lay out the wind scenario in easy-to-read graphics.
Fire up the 3D Map and immediately scan for all cultivated fields in the passage. Next, survey the timber and note all areas of thick timber, plus portions where trees may narrow along straightaways or even on curving portions. In addition, mark all narrow necks of timbers for potential pinch-point ambushes.
Favored Bedding & Travel Routes
Several riparian features to focus on include the farthest corner of an oxbow, as deer routinely use these for bedding. If water includes deep portions or steep banks, deer will be forced to follow the edge for excellent ambush points. Also look for shallows and reasonable embankments for crossing purposes. In addition, be cognitive of livestock trails while virtually scouting as deer will use those established trails and crossings to access habitat on the opposite side of the water.
More features to unearth are old river or creek beds. During times of high water, rivers and creeks often jump from their original course and create a shortcut. This leaves behind a wetland or even a dry, grassy path in the old riverbed deer utilize for travel, and feeding.
Ideal stand placement includes a downwind set on a steep edge, or a narrowing band of trees. These often lead to a crossing that connects deer with bedding cover and a “next-door” agricultural feast. Find this scenario and deer will show.
Ridgetop Surprise Attack
Mature whitetail bucks utilize ridges for travel and refuge. Make sure you survey any ridgetop hunting opportunities on your hunting property. Placing a stand on a ridge includes many challenges. First, consider the wind and any topographical factors that will funnel it differently than the predominant direction found at the highest section. Next, scan the 3D image for all factors that influence deer movement. Are there fields below? Will busy valley roads alter movement? How many draws lead from the ridgetop to the bottom? Do any fences run from the fields below up and over the top of the ridge? Where is the densest cover located on the ridgetop? These and more will influence deer patterns. HuntStand’s 3D Map, Contour, Natural Atlas and other features unlock these secrets.
In addition, saddles that connect to draws, fences and thick bedding cover should be main targets of your funnel-based scouting. The topographical overlay feature reveals saddles and steepness factors deer will sidestep on a ridgetop hideout. Bucks will use fences and draws to ascend and descend to prime food in valleys below. After using these path-of-least-resistance routes, the focus will be on escape cover for bedding. Virtually scout for the thickest on the ridge.
Avoid Disrupting Patterns
With deer typically feeding in lower settings, croplands or riparian zone browse, use the 3D Map to find a “backdoor draw” deer will not be using for morning access to a ridge retreat. This allows you to avoid tracking through food sources and disrupting normal patterns deer use at dawn, to return to a high ridgetop for refuge.
In the afternoons, erase your scent with help from products like Scent Killer, and arrive early to a ridgetop stand using a direct route via a draw not associated with deer travel to lowlands. Use these same routes to slip out after your sit, being careful to leave only after all deer movement has subsided. Remember that thermals rise in the heat of the day, and drop during cooling periods. Your scent will follow, so avoid scenarios where your scent drifts up and down to deer in ridge environments.
Early Field Edge Ambush
Field-edge ambushes stand out as the most common of hunting locations. Placing a stand seems naturally easy, but what you cannot see may hinder your success. First, consider predominant winds in the area. Most fields will offer a traditional wind scenario not affected by terrain. This alone reveals which side, or corner of the field to consider for a stand.
Next, examine the timber behind the location choice. You need to look for any terrain feature deer may follow to the field. A creek, ridge, dense foliage or even an old farm trail could funnel deer to a specific exit location. By adding the topography overlay to the image, any steep terrain deer like to avoid, and benches deer may follow, will stand out.
3D Views Show Important Clues
Zoom in closer and scrutinize the scene for an “off-ramp” opportunity deer may use to enter the field. Think thick timber, brush, or even an existing crop that veils deer as they assess for danger before committing. All of these stand out with HuntStand Pro’s 3D Map help. As you might know, mature deer routinely “wait in the wings” watching as does, fawns and adolescent bucks gather on a field. They do this via cloaked surveillance, along with any opportunity for a downwind assessment.
After determining deer arrival routes, consider your exit and entrance strategy. Placing a blind or treestand at the head of a small draw gives you a handy depression to sneak into for a quick disappearing act after the hunt. If terrain and deer density work against you, consider skipping the morning hunt to avoid bumping deer on a field. In the evening, arrange for a partner to pick you up at the stand after dark via a vehicle. Trail cameras confirm that most deer bound away from the headlights, but quickly return after the “Lyft ride” leaves.
HuntStand 3D Mapping Comes Together
The Flint Hills of Kansas remains my top whitetail destination. One recent hunt there further illustrates pinpoint deer stand placement. While searching for a new ambush location in a sea of nothingness, a draw leading from an upland food plot suddenly stood out. Not surprisingly, I found it with help from my HuntStand 3D mapping. The topography looked ideal for deer movement, and ample cedars provided secure bedding. A nearby farm trail allowed me to exit and enter easily from a downwind drainage. I immediately set a stand.
Two days later under ideal winds I opted to sit all day. At 11 a.m. a doe flew down the parallel draw followed by a puffing, exhausted buck. A quick check with my Sig BDX rangefinder confirmed less than 30 yards, and I smoothly drew my Prime bow. The arrow flew perfectly and an hour of waiting later, I collapsed in celebration next to a Kansas trophy. I could thank some “virtual flyby” scouting using HuntStand’s unusually helpful 3D Mapping.