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Doing Dumb Things in a Deer Stand Day 4: Surprising Deer from a Tree Stand

A hunter with his downed deer
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Editor’s Note: I started deer hunting years before compound bows, tree stands, safety harnesses, GPS and the other advantages for deer hunting we have today were available. I’m a strong advocate of safe tree stands, full body harnesses and safety devices and equipment to make deer hunting safe and prevent tree stand falls. But in years past, I’ve made some not-so-bright decisions while hunting deer. I’ve spooked deer before and even have fallen out of a tree stand three times in the same day. I’ve shot 24 arrows in one afternoon at deer less than 30 yards from me and failed to cut a hair on them. I’ve fallen asleep in a tree stand. I’ve even dropped bows and other pieces of equipment from my tree stand. I’ve probably committed every sin a deer hunter possibly can commit when hunting from an elevated platform. This week I’ll share the truth with you about some of the dumbest things I’ve done in a tree stand over the years. You may see yourself mirrored in some of my misfortunes. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.

A hunter in a tree standIn my later years, I learned the wisdom of wearing a tree-stand harness. Nowadays I feel much more comfortable in a tree stand, and once I get my harness set-up right, I even can fall out of a tree stand and not go anywhere. I like the Hunter’s Safety System full body harness (https://huntersafetysystem.com/) because it has straps that come under your legs and attach to the harness on your chest. If you attach the harness properly to the tree, even if you fall, you won’t move more than a few inches, and you won’t get jolted. Because I have so-much confidence in my harness, I usually sleep in my tree stand until I have light enough to shoot. On one particular hunt, I carried a small Mag light (https://maglite.com/) to find the way to my tree stand. Once I got to my stand, I put the light in my pocket, climbed the stand, adjusted my harness, got comfortable and went to sleep.

I woke up just before daylight and heard a deer moving down the trail coming toward my stand. Since the sun had yet to rise, I hoped the deer would wait until daylight before it got close enough to shoot. Just as a soft glow pushed back the darkness that enveloped the woods, I spotted a nice 8-point buck moving down the trail about 60-yards away from me.

A deer in the fieldI readied my rifle to take the shot. But before I could get the rifle to my shoulder, the deer stopped abruptly and looked straight at me. Because I’d remained motionless, I knew he couldn’t see me. However, he threw his ears forward, his head went up like a periscope, and he looked like he’d seen a ghost. Quickly he broke to run, and I got my gun to my shoulder. When the deer reached the top of the hill about 80-yards away, he stopped, turned broadside to me, looked straight back at me and gave me enough time to put the crosshairs on his shoulder and squeeze the trigger.

A downed deer in the fieldAs I sat in my tree stand, I wondered what had caused the deer to spook. The wind had blown in my favor. I hadn’t made a sound as I raised my rifle, yet the deer spotted me as soon as he looked-up in the tree. I also wondered what had caused the deer to stop and look back at me. Although mule deer often would do this, I knew whitetails rarely gave you a second chance.

Cover: Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big BucksFinally I decided that something on my clothing had given away my position. I looked down at my chest and below my waist, and I immediately saw what the deer saw. An eerie white glow illuminated from my left pant pocket through the camouflage material. Apparently, when I put my flashlight in my pocket, I either hadn’t turned it off, or it got turned on while in my pocket. If I’d been a deer and seen that weird light in a tree, I would’ve broken to run too. Just like the deer, I would’ve stopped to look back and check if I’d really seen what I thought I saw.

To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks,” available inKindle, print and Audible at http://amzn.to/2bYwYOK. You may have to copy and Elk: Keys to 23 More Hunters' Successpaste this link into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read 10% of this book for free and hear 10% for free). On the right side of the page and below the offer for a free Audible trial, you can click on Buy the Audible book. To see more of John’s deer-hunting books, visit www.amazon.com/author/johnephillips. John’s latest book, “Elk: Keys to 23 More Hunters’ Success,” was just published in Audible on November 15, 2021, and is available in Kindle, print and Audible at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09B2H9V6Y/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i10. You can find John’s book, “Jim Crumley’s Secrets of Bowhunting Deer,” available in Kindle and print and soon to be available in Audible at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008N230PE/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0.Cover: Jim Crumley's Secrets for Hunting Deer

Tomorrow: Learning Tree Stand Deer Hunters’ Mistakes

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