Introducing Dan Infalt
Dan Infalt is a friend of Stealth Outdoors, and a friend to any deer hunter that desires the information to go after mature whitetails. Dan Infalt (AKA the Big Buck Serial Killer) has shot many mature whitetails on heavily pressured public land in Wisconsin and he openly teaches and discusses his tactics to anyone willing to travel to his website. You can go there by clicking the logo below:
Treestand Strategies: by Dan Infalt
Stand Height: Every situation is different. Cover is the main factor, but there are many others. Given an ideal situation, I would sit about 18 feet high. In the hilly terrain of Buffalo County Wisconsin for example, in order to hunt in the staging area, at least the ones that are adjacent to bedding points jutting off of bluffs, you must hunt very high. The thermals and wind swirls will often play mean tricks to even the most seasoned hunters at just the wrong moment. Getting your scent as high as possible can be just the ticket to slapping your tag on a Slob buck in that situation.
There are no thermals in the marshes I often hunt, but there are definitely problems with swirling winds when hunting the points that extend out into the cattails where the swamp slobs hang. On more than one occasion, a buck’s life has been spared due to a sudden change in wind direction off a point like this. So, again, the higher the better anytime terrain will play with wind direction.
You must be higher in open woods too. You have to either get up to where you have enough cover to conceal you, or higher than the buck will notice.
You might say, “Well, easy! I’ll always hunt high!” But there are some good reasons to hunt low as well. The most important reason for hunting lower is safety. The shorter the fall, the lesser the impact. Another major factor for choosing a lower stand is in arrow trajectory. A deer’s lungs sit side by side. When a deer is on ground level and broadside to you, both lungs are in line. If you hit one, you almost always get both, cleanly killing the animal. However, as you raise your position higher, your shot angle gets steeper, making you much more likely to just hit one lung and lose that animal while tracking.
If you are hunting open territory like I have experienced in Iowa and Illinois, or if you’re in the only tree in the middle of an ocean of cattails (and who hasn’t been there), you have to hunt low to avoid the deer seeing you from his bed or seeing you up in the tree from a distance. The good part is open areas tend to have predictable winds.I still like to hang my stand 15 to 20 feet high if possible in these open areas. However in a lot of situations I will have my stand only a few feet from the ground to elevate me just high enough to see or shoot over thick low cover such as cattails or brush.
Where: Choosing exactly where to hang your stand can be the most challenging part of your hunt. I like to pick my hunting ambushes in February and March when you can see real well in the woods, the deer sign is still noticeable, and the deer have plenty of time to forget about you walking through there living room and cutting shooting lanes. I usually try to keep my stand position as close to a bedding area as possible without spooking the buck. If you consider the law of averages, this is where you will see the most daylight deer activity, especially with mature animals. When scouting in the first few months of the year, make sure to look closely at the tracks and trails that tell you exactly how the animals enter and exit there bedding area. Hunting in, or adjacent to bedding areas means making sure your equipment is completely silent. There is nothing worse than waiting for the perfect time and the perfect wind direction, only to have one of your pieces of equipment make a loud clank as you go to hang your stand. Every piece of equipment needs to be silent.
Approach: Your approach to your stand should be well thought out. I have plenty of stands which take me a half mile walk out of the way to circle in from a direction that is less likely to spook game. I try hard to avoid crossing the trails that I feel the buck I am hunting is using. I also avoid letting my scent blow across these same trails, and for sure not into the bedding area. Just like a blood hound can pick up a 3 day old trail, a deer’s nose can smell where you have been, and can even pick up where your scent has drifted to. I have watched plenty of deer react to human scent trails, even a few that were a couple days old. Every mature buck reacts different, but they all notice it and consider it a threat.
A lot of hunters mistake this reaction as some sort of sixth sense. They falsely believe a deer can “feel” you staring at them, or thinking about killing it. In all the cases I have had deer sense me, it could always be explained by where I walked earlier or a fickle wind.
Some of my favorite stand sites have been along rivers or or streams where you can access a tree stand site without leaving a scent trail by walking in the stream, or using a canoe. These spots can be hunted a little more often than your other sites because deer can pass by without smelling your presence has been there.
Most hunters know we have to be quiet and still in our stands. However, I feel a majority of hunters make too much noise traveling to there stand positions and tip off the deer before the hunt has even started. There have been several mornings where I sat on stand waiting for daylight to break into legal hunting time, and sat back listening to other hunters walk through the woods to their spots and set up. I could take you right to the tree they were set up in usually. If I can hear them, you know a deer certainly can.
In dry leaves, crunchy snow, slushy swamp muck, or other noisy conditions, I sneak very quietly to my intended tree, carefully placing each step. I avoid stepping on branches or other noisy objects. I look for exposed rocks or logs to quietly place my next step. When noise is inevitable, I slow my approach way down and try to sound more like an animal with pauses in between steps. There is no sound more identifiable than the steady walking of a person in the woods. If you break up that rhythm a little, it will at least sound less human like. If I do inadvertently make a loud noise or break a branch when nearing my stand site, I will stop and remain quiet for a while. Big bucks are not much different than us in that regard. Think about it. If you’re in your stand and you hear a branch break in the distance, you will try to figure out where the noise came from and concentrate on that area for any movement or more noise for awhile to determine whether or not something is coming in your direction. However, after a few minutes goes by, you start to concentrate less and less on that noise till it is forgotten and dismissed on something other than your quarry such as a squirrel.
Unnatural noises should be greatly avoided. Noises such as metal stands clanging, chains rattling, or hunters talking, will immediately alert deer that you are human and not a “squirrel”. My experience has shown that most deer that hear or see your approach either sneak out before you’re in position, or remain motionless until after dark. If they do get up, they will generally head the other way, and likely will not return to bed there again tomorrow. I try to get to my predetermined stand site early enough so that if a deer does hear something, there is a good chance he will forget about it before it’s time for him to get out of his bed, or in the case of a morning post, early enough so he is not in the area yet.
Diving In: I already touched on hunting predetermined locations found in February and March, however I would also like to mention the effectiveness of just grabbing a stand throwing it on your back and slipping around transition areas, where open cover meets thick bedding cover and just setting up where ever you find sign that is “hot” right now. Another tactic, is to just sit back and watch these areas from a safe distance and see exactly where the buck comes out, then the next day return with your stand and set up where you seen him.
Equipment: I like to have enough stand locations that I never hunt the same stand more than just a few times a season. This being the case, I have two portable Lone Wolf treestand set ups that I have sound proofed. One is my Hand climber, the other a hang on stand and 4 climbing sticks. I pack my stand in and out every time I hunt. This takes a little practice on getting quiet set ups down, but is well worth the effort, and the cost savings on the 50 stands I would need to hang in order to leave stands out in each of these locations.