Bow hunting: Tree stand versus Still hunting

Let me start by saying that these are merely my opinions and observations on the differences between these two styles of bow hunting. Over the years I have meet many people that prefer one over the other, and some hunters who find them both merely two useful aspects to their hunting style. Also each style has many variations; this is merely my examination and comparison of the two in summary.

Tree stand hunting is the use of an in place constructed or portably deployed structure designed to allow a hunter to sit up in a tree to elevate their observation and firing point. As a style of hunting it is straight forward, and can be used with both firearms and bow hunting for a wide range of game, including swine, deer, and elk. The key to good tree stand hunting is preparation and location. By scouting out the location and the use of trail cameras a hunter can build up a good picture of the local game trails and game activity about the planned location.

Once a promising location is decided upon a hunter can place a tree stand by either construction of a portable structure or a more permanent wood structure. Some hunters use mobile deer stands that can be carried in and used. Bow hunters do have a few additional considerations when tree stand hunting. Even with modern bows and the accuracy enhancing attachments, effective practical range for archery in hunting is approximately 30 yards. A hunter will scope out firing clearance when picking a stand location, but the tighter constraints of archery will require the hunter to watch for intruding branches, or undergrowth that might interfere with a clear shot.

Hunting afoot has the goal of putting the hunter into a position for an ideal shot of a game animal through the movement of the hunter, instead of setting up an ideal ambush position such as used for stand hunting. Hunting afoot uses two methods which are dependent upon the terrain. Still hunting has the archer moving slowly through a game area. Still hunting is best used for an area of with concentrations of animals inhabiting heavy cover. The practice is to move a step or two, observe by sight and sound, and then move again. Camouflage and scent masking are critical practices to keep from spooking game animals. The hunter should avoid noisy brush and trees, while attempting to keep aware of the direction of the prevailing breeze. By being aware of the breeze and wearing scent masking clothing, the hunter can attempt to avoid situations where his scent drifts into the cover and startles a potential target animal. This type of hunting produces point blank firing opportunities. A bow hunter must be especially aware of his shot opportunities, because he is likely only going to get one arrow off.

The second method of hunting afoot is stalking and glassing.  The goal in this style of hunting is to place the hunter in a position that he can spot and eventually stalk wild game. The whole process is a number of steps. Often a hunter will spot game from a vantage point, this is often called glassing, and then the hunter will begin to stalk their targeted animal by attempting to get into position to get an ideal shot. Stalking is best used in semi open terrain where there is sufficient cover to stalk a game animal, but still enough visibility to observe at a distance. Using this method it is critical that the hunter has an excellent pair of binoculars, which are comfortable to use and have sufficient magnification.  The hunter will likely be sitting in observation for hours attempting to pick out the ideal animal and opportunity before beginning their stalk.

When deciding to use either method of hunting a bow hunter should pay careful attention to their choice of quiver. For bow hunters quivers usually come in three options: back, waist, or bow mounted. A back mounted quiver can be part of a backpack or a stand alone accessory. Such quivers make long walks easier, but can make reaching a spare arrow awkward in various positions and situations. Side or waist quivers hang from the belt. These quivers allow ready access in most situations but can become bothersome over longer walks in the woods. Modern bows often allow a bow quiver attachment. These present spare arrows readily at hand, but are more limited. They often only carry 3 to 4 arrows. Also a bow quiver can change the weight of the bow. So it is advised that a shooter practice with a bow quiver in place.

When hunting afoot is almost impossible to perform quietly, such as autumn woods full of dry leaves, or when the terrain offers no cover, than a hunter is should default back to stand hunting. By developing both styles, a hunter increases both their chance of a successful hunt and of getting the most out of their outing. The limits of range, and less effectiveness of a bow compared to a firearm means that even more skill is needed to pull either style off successfully.  With time and patience a bow hunter can greatly expand is repertoire of hunting style and methods for a successful season.