Of the three main senses we must fool while hunting deer, sound is very much something a hunter can control. The hunting industry is obsessed with noise reduction. Just look at all the ads in the hunting magazines; quiet bows, quiet clothes, quiet quivers, quiet arrows, limb dampeners, string silencers.
With all this talk about quiet we don’t know why the hunting industry has left it up to hunters to address the noise made from contact with a trees noisy bark on their own.
We have all seen and read tips that some hunters use to manage every decibel of noise they can. Quiet freaks use cloth tape to cover metal buckles, mole hair on their bow, zip ties and bungies to hold things together, rubber materials to coat, stuff, and wrap points of potential contact.
Quiet freaks usually talk quiet, walk quiet, and climb quiet. Rather than provide simple tips, which we could come up with over 35, we would like to present a discussion of the following 5 topics and how you can be quieter on stand based on this information.
1) Clothing Materials
High performance materials (i.e.: waterproof, windproof, and many scent absorbing garments) add a degree of noise through a laminate or lining on the backside of what otherwise looks to be very quiet material.
Wind and water resistant materials are quieter than wind and water proof materials. Using an aftermarket, durable, water-resistant product will keep your clothes almost waterproof and they will be much quieter.
Purchasing hunting clothing is getting more and more complicated. Despite claims such as “completely silent”, “super silent”, and “ultra quiet” by clothing manufacturers, staying quiet on stand is the responsibility of the hunter.
I am not going to refute their claims with a decibel meter at this time, but will say that all of our testing has yet to reveal a completely silent material.
It has been proven, however, that any clothing material will make less noise against a super silent fabric – like the BARK Silencer® – than it will against a tree’s noisy bark. Additional items to consider keeping off the tree bark include; safety harness, nylon strap from the safety harness, back tags, hats, arm guards (while reaching for your bow), to name just a few.
2) Types of Tree Bark
Smooth bark trees are noisy too. Rough bark trees are not the only trees that are noisy when a hunter scrapes against them.
Most hunters see cherry, hickory, scabby looking pine barks, even deep ridged oak and cottonwoods as obvious sources of noise as your coat, hat, or other objects rub against them.
I have tested many smooth barked trees against dozens of materials, and contrary to what your eyes tell you, a smooth bark maple or beech can really make a coat sing when you least expect it. The surface area of the smaller and more plentiful irregularities cause the bark to make as much, if not more, contact as the rougher looking bark.
It is difficult to differentiate the noise level when comparing a material against smooth bark trees versus rough bark trees. You can and should test different pieces of your hunting clothing against different types of trees. You should immediately notice which combinations of tree bark and clothing make the most noise.
Once you have done this, you can begin to manage this potential source of noise while on stand. Of all the time we spend on our equipment, this is probably one of the most overlooked areas.
Treestands don’t make noise – Hunters DO.
Movement causes noise. All hunters move while on stand, some more than others. Common noises include; creaking or popping from the stand itself caused by weight shifts, the incidental contact of the hunter scrapping against the tree bark, or metal hitting metal.
In all cases it is the movement that causes the unwanted noise. Even Velcro doesn’t make noise without movement. To address these sources of noise a hunter can:
- Buy a higher quality treestand and minimize unnecessary movement.
- Address the bark noise by covering it.
- Apply a rubber-like coating or cover potential metal to metal contacts with cloth tape.
Another major source of unwanted noise during treestand use is from the backrests of many treestands, where the seat and backrest are all one piece. When the hunter sits or stands (moves), the top of the backrest, where it fastens around the tree, often rubs the tree.
This unwanted noise happens at a critical time, as many hunters stand to shoot. By tucking a BARK Silencer® a couple inches below the top of the back rest, this unwanted noise can be avoided.
Brand new super quiet bows come with all types of silencers. Treestands come with noise makers – You. By setting up your treestand and all accessories before the season begins will allow you time to uncover potential sources of noise and address them before opening day.
4) Decibels and Sound
A human can hear 20 decibels approximately 20 yards away. Once while at a hunting show with a seminar speaker and friend, I mentioned that I should present more technical information on decibels to help sell my product.
He said most hunters don’t know what a decibel is.
Decibels are commonly referred to for measuring sound. The Wikipedia definition of a decibel is: a logarithmic unit of measurement that expresses the magnitude of a physical quantity (usually power or intensity) relative to a specified reference level. The decibel is useful for a wide variety in measurements in science and engineering, particularly acoustics.
Now, I see why he said that. Let’s try to put in simple terms we can all relate to.
Fact: Rustling leaves or stepping on a stick is about 30 decibels; A normal conversation is 60 decibels; A modern compound bow is approximately 80 decibels; A lawn mower is 90 decibels; A jet taking off at a distance of 1,000 feet is 100 decibels; a fire cracker is 140 decibels; A .44 magnum handgun at 1 foot is 155 decibels.
Based on my observations, a human can hear 20 decibels at approximately 20 yards. The sound of a waterproof coat against the tree bark can easily be 20 decibels, and up to 35 decibels, depending on type of material.
Researchers claim that a deer hears 3-5 times better than humans, and have the ability to rotate their ears independently to pinpoint the location of a sound.
One popular manufacturer of string silencers claims to eliminate up to 20 decibels of noise. A BARK Silencer® can eliminate up to 20 decibels also. But unlike the silencers on your bow, a BARK Silencer® will keep you quiet BEFORE the shot.
5) Weather Conditions and Trains, Plains, and Automobiles
Learn to use these sounds as cover.
Wet conditions definitely quiet everything down. Last year on opening day gun season, I was wearing my noisy waterproof coat. It was 38 degrees, raining, and the wind was blowing. After shooting at a coyote, my hunting partner called me on my cell phone to see what I was shooting at.
At that moment a buck appeared beneath my stand. There I was with my noisy coat, no BARK Silencer® and having a conversation on my cell phone. With the noisy rain and wind as cover, I hung up, swung my gun around and shot the deer.
It is important to understand how weather and other sounds provide cover to the sounds you make while hunting. Wind gusts, driving rain or even a current from a river can cover your sound during your walk in, while climbing your tree, or even setting up a stand.
I have used planes flying overhead and cars driving by to cover sound on the way to my stand on a calm, dry day. I also have hunting spots near railroad tracks. I have the morning trains timed in October for my morning entries. These are just a few examples.
The next time you are in your stand or on your way to your stand, who knows maybe a woodpecker, squirrel, or sandhill crane will provide you some cover.
Something else to keep in mind is that the foliage of late summer and early fall acts like an acoustical ceiling and absorb many sounds. But as the leaves of summer begin to fall, so does your acoustical buffer. Later in the season especially on a crisp calm morning, you will hear 20 decibels from your coat against the tree bark and cringe.
I don’t believe the hunter will ever know how many deer they have spooked by scraping against the tree’s noisy bark.
Last updated: 4/08/2022