21 Great Early Season Treestand Locations

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Whitetails use the land differently throughout the year. From bedding and feeding perspectives, whitetails have different needs in spring, summer, fall, and winter. Core areas shift. Different parts of home ranges are utilized. But for now, it’s the early season, and there are certain things to know.

First, let’s define “early season” as the portion of deer season leading up to the pre rut. In most states, this generally falls between August and mid-October.

Every good whitetail treestand location should be chosen with careful thought and consideration. Wind direction, proximity to bedding, food, water, or security cover — it’s important to give yourself as many options as possible as deer patterns shift. But there’s another way to categorize stand locations. These two groups include topography-specific or habitat- and terrain-specific hotspots.

Once a hunter knows what characteristics to look for, HuntStand helps reveal these gems. That’s true for brand-new properties, and even those you’ve hunted forever. As someone who’s hunted some of the same properties for 25 years, sometimes you learn new things about tracts, even when you thought you had them completely figured out.

Topography-Specific Hotspots

Topography is best defined as change in elevation. Hills, hollows, bottomlands, ridges — these and more are characteristics of changing topography. In short, it’s the opposite of pancake-flat ground. And if I’ve learned anything in my 25 years of deer hunting, it’s that topography can make or break a hunt. It can also create and present excellent early season treestand locations.

1. Leeward Ridges: The downwind sides of ridgelines oftentimes have bucks, and other deer, bedded on them. This is true even in the early season, especially if hunting pressure is already ramping up.

2. Low Spots: During the early season, deer like low spots for multiple reasons. First, scent gathers here. Second, it’s cooler. Third, water is more likely to be present. And fourth, green food sources are more likely.

3. Near Water: Water is important all year, but especially when it’s hot. Not just for drinking, though. Usually, it means lush growth for eating, and cooler air for comfort.

4. Watering Holes: Focus on secluded, stagnant (or slow moving) water sources to see mature bucks.

5. Ridge Lines: Oftentimes, ridge lines have hard or soft mast, including oaks. When these start dropping, be there.

6. Ridge Points: Deer commonly bed on ridge points (endings), especially if a hot food source is down below.

7. Thermal Hubs: Also referred to as crow’s feet, thermal hubs are where multiple ridge endings taper down (from multiple directions) in the same spot. Here, thermals collect, and deer use that to their advantage.

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8. Solar Bedding: Pinpoint northern-facing slopes, which receive less sunlight. (Pro tip: You usually see more daylight walking by mature bucks here.)

Fortunately for HuntStand users, key HuntStand layers help identify topography specific hotspots. Some of these include 3D, Contour, Quad Topo, Terrain, etc.

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Habitat and Terrain-Specific Hotspots

While topography-specific stand locations tend to have greater effect on reliable deer movement, there are many more habitat- and terrain-specific spots to consider. These too can create an excellent opportunity for stands.

9. Ag Field Edges: Alfalfa, clover (in hay fields), soybeans, and others, are all great ag field options.

10. Appearing Rub Lines: As bucks come out of velvet, and start to establish their travel routes, rubs will appear. Use these markers to help choose stand locations.

11. Draws: U-shaped fields and openings with timber on three sides attract deer. If good bedding areas and food sources are present, expect deer movement.

12. Crossings: Pinch points are relevant all year, especially for bowhunters. Keep creek, fence, and other crossings at the forefront.

13. Hidden Fields: Secluded fields are excellent options for deer hunters. Mature bucks are more likely to use these than fields that are more exposed.

14. Inside Field Corners: Anywhere a field creates an L shape in the timber is an inside field corner. If a relevant bedding area is close to it, give it bonus points.

15. Mast Trees: Hard and soft mast trees are important elements of the early season. Hard mast trees, such as chestnuts, red oaks, and white oaks, are key trees to pinpoint. Soft mast trees, such as apples, pears, and persimmons, are hot food sources, too.

16. Micro Food Plots: Small food plots positioned in strategic locations can be incredible plays during the early season. Of course, this requires a plant species that hits peak attractiveness at this time, though.

17. Scrapes and Mock Scrapes: Whitetails hit scrapes (and mock scrapes) all year long. But this action really starts to ramp up during the early season and pre-rut.

18. Staging Areas: Anywhere that deer tend to congregate at last light is a staging area. Find these that are located between early season bedding areas and food sources.

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19. Thermal Bedding: Throughout the year, deer use different types of bedding cover. During the early season, that’s oftentimes thermal bedding, such as cedar thickets. These hold cooler air in the heat of the year and warmer air in the cool of the year.

20. Trail Emergences: Anywhere a trail leads from a bedding area to a food or water source can be a solid bet for killing a target deer.

21. Trail Intersections: Don’t quite have your deer patterned yet? Consider trail intersections. This increases the odds of seeing the deer you are after.

As with topography-centric areas, key HuntStand layers help identify habitat and terrain specific hotspots, too. Some of these include 3D Map, Hybrid, Mapbox Satellite, Natural Atlas, National Aerial Imagery, Satellite, Tree Cover, Whitetail Habitat Map, and more.

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Patterns Change Quickly

Now that you’re equipped with plenty of target treestand location types, understand that these spots aren’t guarantees. You still must scout in the field, study the situation, and determine if deer are currently using these spots, or not. Deer have short-, mid-, and long-term patterns. Each of these are driven by bedding needs, changing food sources, hunting pressure, and more.

Naturally, the most recent info is most important. Things change quickly. If running trail cameras, or glassing deer in the field, focus on that. Also, property conditions and layout being similar as past years, reflect on historical trail camera photos and in-the-field encounters to see how, when, and where deer used the land.

For those interested in knowing what bedding areas are being used by target bucks (or deer in general) at a given time, consider soaking cellular trail cameras on the fringes of these. Pair these with external battery sources to maximize battery life. Because, once these cameras go dead, you won’t want to invade bedding areas to revitalize these during the season.

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Prepare for the Pre-Rut Shift

As we move closer to some opening days, and deeper into seasons already open, expect disbursement to happen. Eventually, as many as 50% of bucks will shift into their fall ranges, which might not overlap with early season stand locations.

So, as you begin to see new bucks on the landscape, work to identify bucks as new or returning. When trying to determine who a specific buck is, pay attention to physical identifiers, including antler mass, antler spread, antler structure, body markings, body scars, body size, brow tine characteristics, facial coloration, fur coloration, fur patterns, tine length, unique points, and more. Also, pay attention to behavioral tendencies.

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Once we transition out of the early season, and ease into the pre-rut, consider looking to treestand locations for that period. Focus on key food sources at that time. Generally, these are geographic specific. Solid picks include seasonal bedding area edges, food sources edges, pockets of falling mast crops, staging areas, micro food plots, and more. Additionally, under the right circumstances, don’t overlook all-season locations, including funnels, inside field corners, isolated watering holes, pinch-points, saddles, scrapes, mock scrapes, and more.

But until then, continue to focus all efforts on great early season treestand locations. And keep using HuntStand to dial in on those early season hotspots.

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HuntStand Pro vs. HuntStand Pro Whitetail

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Early Season Stand Locations 6

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>