When used properly, a tree stand is unlikely to spook a deer. In fact, in all my years of hunting, I’ve never lost a quarry because of my tree stand. If anything spooks the deer, it’s me. That’s why I find it important to understand how a tree stand helps you and how to keep yourself hidden while you’re in it.
When hunting, using a tree stand can be beneficial as deer rarely look upwards, especially if the stand is 15-20 feet high. Deer have poor depth perception and are red-green color blind, making camo or neutral colors effective. Setting up the stand weeks before hunting helps deer acclimatize to it.
Avoiding noise when approaching and climbing the stand is vital. Although deer have a keen sense of smell, tree stands disperse scent particles, reducing detection risk. Properly addressing noise, smell, and sight ensures that tree stands effectively keep hunters hidden.
Can Deer See You in a Tree Stand?
Deer rarely check above themselves for danger, so if your tree stand is 15 to 20 feet up, you’re out of their line of sight. However, even if they did look up, deer have poor depth perception relative to humans and are red-green color blind. If you and your tree stand are covered with camo or a neutral color, they likely can’t see you unless you make a sudden movement.
Do Deer Avoid Tree Stands?
Whitetail deer are skittish and will avoid new things in their environment, especially new man-made things if they notice them. However, they also quickly get used to new things, so set up your tree stand several weeks before the hunting season at least.
How to Get to Your Stand Without Spooking Deer
You’re far more likely to spook a deer than your tree stand is, and you’re most likely to do it while hiking to and climbing into your tree stand. To avoid spooking nearby game:
- Use a noiseless path: If you don’t have a path marked out or are hunting on public land, try to find a dry creek bed where you won’t step on too many leaves and twigs.
- Walk slowly and deliberately: Don’t rush to your stand, but take your time, avoiding rustling leaves and brush and pausing occasionally to make sure you don’t hear any game nearby.
- Head out early: Whether hunting in the morning or at night, head to your tree stand at least 30 minutes before you expect the deer to pass by.
- Secure your kit: Before walking into the woods, make sure you don’t have any loose clothing or straps that could catch on the brush and make noise.
Seasonal Considerations- Does the Time of Year Matter?
The part of the season can make a difference, but not enough that you should ever forgo good camouflage and scent-blocking practices. For example, bucks during the rut are more focused on chasing does than checking their surroundings for tree stands, but that doesn’t mean they throw all caution to the wind. Get your tree stand high enough, keep it camouflaged, cut down on noise, and, above all, eliminate any odors.
Other Factors That Influence a Deer’s Reaction to a Tree Stand
Frankly, the visibility of a tree stand is the least significant factor when it comes to a deer’s reaction to it. More important factors include:
Since they’re made of metal, tree stands can make a lot of clanging noise if you aren’t careful. Many climbing and hang-on tree stands have noise-deadening features, but if you make your own, consider using foam padding to prevent banging around in vulnerable places. And just try not to be too clumsy once you’re up there.
Deer can smell even better than dogs. It’s their main line of predator detection and the one you have to be the most vigilant about. In addition to good scent-control practices for yourself, you should eliminate odors on your tree stand.
Tree-stand parts are usually industrially manufactured materials like metals and rubber, and these really stick out to the deer nose. Wash your stand with unscented soap and scent eliminators.
Additionally, don’t use a tree stand right when you buy or build it. I always bury my stand—and other gear—in a pile of raked leaves to replace the factory scent with something natural.
Okay, just because I said a deer’s vision is its least powerful sense doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Don’t paint your tree stand yellow, obviously. If not a camo pattern, make sure the fabric, like the seat, is a neutral color like brown or forest green. Cover any shiny metal with similarly colored paint.
Deer in densely populated areas are more used to man-made objects, so they’re less likely to get spooked by a tree stand. However, if you’re deep in the wilderness, you need to be more vigilant with your camouflage and scent control.
Is It Harder for Deer to Smell You in a Tree Stand?
Tree stands not only get you out of a deer’s line of sight, but its line of smell as well. Even if the wind is blowing in a constant direction, the scent particles disperse much more before reaching the level of the deer’s nose.
Plus, it’s possible to reach a height where the wind is actually blowing in a different direction than at ground level. I wouldn’t go up to 40 feet just to find this air current, but pay attention to the wind and climb a couple of feet higher if you notice a change in direction.
A tree stand can spook a deer if the animal isn’t used to man-made objects or if it’s loud, noisy, or strangely colored. However, if you address sound, smell, and sight appropriately, the benefits of a tree stand far outweigh its potential to spook game. In fact, it can help keep you hidden from your quarry’s ears, nose, and eyes.
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.