When I hunted deer as a kid in East Texas, we mostly ran them with dogs. A “stand” was a convenient tree to lean against, preferably on a road or other cleared area that offered a chance for a shot at a deer that might well be running flat out. Of course, we also used shotguns and buckshot, so being able to see more than 50 – 75 yards was not really necessary.
Several years ago I left the Gulf and began hunting again, under much different circumstances. The stands I was placed in on invited hunts on leases of friends and relatives were permanent, enclosed structures. Because rifles were now used, shooting distance could be increased, and since most of the deer would be coming to a feeder or walking the trails while not being pursued, shots were largely taken at stationary targets. Some might think thus makes things a lot easier, but there are still challenges – like making damn sure you estimate the antler spread at more than 13″ before shooting! I also found some stands were built without a lot of thought as to how they might be used. Windows, for instance, often don’t match up with the height of the chairs provided to sit in, and are seldom padded to keep the rifle from recoiling off a hard surface. The old office swivel chairs most folks prefer often squeak when moved, and/or flop around a lot.
When I started building my own stands, I decided to do some things differently. Size was the first thing. Because my wife and I often sit in the same stand (we both hog and deer hunt from them), I wanted room for us both without cramping. I try to make them at least 4-5 feet by 8 feet, with plenty of head room to stand. I like carpet on the floors to deaden sound, and not just the sound of standing or moving around. I also put insulation in some stands, more to keep sounds inside than for warmth in winter. I don’t need tall stands for most of my hunting, but I like the stand elevated some off the ground. Less chance of snakes or high water “dampening” a hunt.
I make “windows” of plywood, usually, hinged at the top to open to the outside. This gives me a sun and rain “shade” and extends the shadowed area to include the gun barrel sticking out before a shot. I also hang camo netting off some of the windows, to further block an animal from seeing motion inside the stand. The netting can be shot through, although the muzzle blast will burn a hole in it! The window sills are padded, and the right height – for me, at least – to be a comfortable and accurate rifle rest. I usually put black plastic “solar” style screen on the interior walls, also – and I don’t wear white shirts when sitting in there expecting game to come by. I like to paint the outside of the stand in camo colors, and sometimes cover the exterior wall with netting that is either already camo, or can be spray painted. I do not like sliding windows, or glass or plexiglass windows. When I am in the stand, the window needs to be open so I can be ready to shoot. In one of my stands I use a tall bench with two swiveling, high-backed wooden “bar stool” type chairs instead of office chairs on the floor. The bench also has a good foot rest. I provide shelves for peripheral equipment within easy reach, and storage for extra gear. In one stand I have strategically mounted gun “racks”.
My stands are normally 50 – 75 yards from the feeder or other area I expect the target to be, except my “pig stand” where I often kill hogs around a pig pipe 25 yards away. If my property was such that I could arrange it, I’d have the feeders further away. While I use various scent to disguise my own, I feel the enclosed stand hold most of the human scent inside – and since I often smoke a cigar while I wait, with no bad results, I think this has been proven. Just don’t leave a door or window open that can create a cross-flow to spread scent in front of you and be careful entering to not smell the area up too bad. Also, keeping a plastic container to answer “nature’s call” is a good idea. I have the stands on my property positioned with the north at their back side because that is the way it has to be there. Since the prevailing wind on the Texas Gulf coast is normally from the SE, this is not really a bad thing, but if a brisk north wind is blowing I usually forego the cigars until later.
I regularly put mouse poison in my stands, and several days before a hunt will set off roach bombs in them. One night I sat in a stand accompanied by several mice, and I prefer different company. Still rather have mice than roaches! The bug bombs also help get rid of wasps. Because my stands are rarely left open, I haven’t had a problem with owls or other birds getting in, and since I started keeping them locked, I haven’t had evidence of trespassers visiting them.
Tripod stands are also very useful, but I modify mine with a makeshift top and hang various camo netting over it. I also like to place the stand where the ladder and base are concealed behind cover, and the top part is at least partially behind limbs that have been trimmed back so they don’t interfere with a shot.