Bowhunting is an exhilarating experience that combines skill, patience, and a deep connection with the outdoors. As a long-time bow hunter with years under my belt, I can tell you that the height of your tree stand can greatly influence your hunting success. Here’s what you need to know.
The ideal tree-stand height for bowhunting is 20 feet. This gets you high enough to hide you from the deer’s eyes and nose without making the angle of your shot too steep.
Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where it might be better to set up your tree stand at a lower—or higher—height. The ideal height at a certain time and place depends on several personal and environmental factors.
Factors to Consider
Before deciding which height to place your tree stand at, there are a few things you should know about your hunting conditions.
Line of Sight
This one seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many hunters I come across that are putting their tree stands where it makes it harder for them to see. Guys, the idea is to hide from the deer, not hide the deer from you.
If you find an ideal tree, but at 20 feet, there’s still a lot of foliage, blocking your view from a food plot or travel corridor, put it a bit higher or lower. It’s okay. A little leaf cover can help keep you camouflaged, but if it’s right in front of your face, it’s a problem.
Most hunters only think about a deer’s eyes, but its nose is actually much more powerful. It’s more likely to smell you than see you, and a tree stand can help you with that too.
When you’re setting up your tree stand, take note of the wind. Ideally, you want to be downwind of where you expect the deer to come from. By climbing higher, you can catch a different air current or get out of the wind altogether.
How Tall Is the Game?
I almost exclusively hunt whitetail deer whose eye level is a bit lower than mine. I’ve found that 15 feet is enough to get out of the line of sight of most deer, and 20 is above the biggest bucks.
However, if the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ever finally draws my name for an elk permit, I know I’ll need to climb up a little higher, probably 30 feet. The reason is simple: elk are taller, and their line of sight goes higher.
Choosing the Perfect Height
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, understanding the terrain, considering the factors, and leaning on personal experience will guide you to the optimal tree stand height.
Is 10 Feet High Enough for a Tree Stand?
Ten feet is the lower limit of what I would consider worthwhile to even use a tree stand. Below that, you should just get a ground blind. Ten feet will likely make you visible to large bucks, but it does have a few advantages:
- Easy setup: If you’re using a climbing or hang-on tree stand, it’s easier to stop at 10 feet than keep climbing up to 20.
- Easy shooting: Ten feet is much more similar to shooting across flat ground if that’s been your only practice.
- Safety: A fall from 10 feet is much less likely to injure you severely than one from 20 feet. It’s a common choice for those scared of heights.
Is 12 Feet High Enough for a Tree Stand?
Twelve feet is better than 10 feet and is often considered a middle ground for those who want more height but don’t want to go all the way to 20 for safety or convenience reasons.
Is 15 Feet High Enough for a Tree Stand?
Fifteen feet is a good height for a tree stand, especially if you don’t have a lot of practice shooting from steep angles. While it may not get you out of the line of sight of all game, it’s enough for even most bucks and, more importantly, helps to hide your scent.
How High Is Too High for a Tree Stand?
For bowhunting whitetail deer, I do not recommend going higher than 25 feet. Even if you have a lot of experience shooting from steep angles, this is the height at which you actually start decreasing your range with a vertical bow.
Even if you’re hunting really big game like elk, moose or bear, 30 feet is plenty. I’ve never heard of a hunter going higher than 40, and even then I’m not sure what the point was.
Tree Stand Height Recommendations
I recommend a height of 20 feet off the ground for most bowhunters. This provides a good balance between elevation and shot angle.
However, remember that each situation is unique. You might be able to set up at a lower height in heavily wooded areas, while in more open areas, a higher perch might be required.
Okay, let’s make things simple. Let’s take each height and list some situations where they might be beneficial.
- Environment with weak trees (much of the Midwest)
- Primarily hunting does
- Concerned about safety
- Still learning to shoot from a tree stand
- Too much foliage higher up (Southern climates)
- No options at 20 feet
- Expecting deer to come close on a travel corridor
- Gold standard ideal
- Plenty of tree stand practice
- Increasing range over open spaces
- Rising above wind current
- Hunting big game like elk, moose, or bear
Other Factors to Consider
- Foliage and Cover- One of the key reasons for using a tree stand is the natural cover. If leaves and branches can hide you at 15 feet, then there’s no need to climb to 25 feet. But in late fall, when leaves are scarce, going higher might be necessary.
- Game’s Line of Sight- Deer, for instance, don’t usually look up unless they sense danger. Elevating yourself at least 15 to 20 feet off the ground generally keeps you out of their sightline.
- Scent Dispersal- Your height can influence how your scent is dispersed. The higher you are, the more likely your scent will diffuse before reaching the ground, reducing the chances of detection.
- Shooting Angle- As a bowhunter, a steep downward angle can make it challenging to get a clean, ethical shot on a deer. If you’re too high, the angle could be too sharp, potentially leading to a poor shot placement.
- Safety- This is paramount. While climbing higher can offer advantages, it also comes with risks. Ensure you’re using quality safety gear, including a harness.
How does wind direction factor into tree stand height?
Wind direction plays a role in scent dispersal. On windier days, being higher can help disperse your scent over a larger area, reducing the chances of detection.
Are certain types of tree stands better for higher placements?
Ladder stands and climbing stands offer great stability for higher placements. Hang-on stands can also be used, but ensure they’re securely attached.
Do I need to adjust my bow setup for higher tree stands?
It’s essential to practice shooting from elevated positions before hunting. You might find that your anchor point or sight alignment needs minor adjustments.
Is there a “too high” when it comes to tree stand height?
Safety and shot angle are the limiting factors. You’re probably too high if you feel unsafe or the angle is too sharp for an ethical shot.
For more, check out How to Bowhunt From a Tree Stand | All You Need to Know.
Christian grew up in the Ozarks where he spent much of his childhood on his grandparents’ homestead learning about guns, hunting, and the great outdoors.
An avid traditional bowhunter, much of his writing covers this and other similar topics, but he also covers just about everything from history and economics to motorcycles.
See more of his work at ChristianMonson.com.