Perhaps you’re thinking of making a switch to ladder stands but concerned about getting busted. Or maybe the season is about to open and you’re worried you’ve left it a bit late to install a ladder stand.
But do deer actually notice ladder stands?
Despite a few ladder-stand-haters, the majority of the hunting community is of the opinion: no, deer do not notice ladder stands. Or rather, deer do notice ladder stands, but they don’t really care. Far more important things to consider include reducing noise, not getting seen and not getting winded.
It’s a bit more complicated than that though. For example, over what timeframe might deer “notice” a ladder stand?
How Long Before The Season Should You Put Up A Ladder Stand?
Received wisdom recommends setting up a ladder stand at least two weeks before you intend to hunt it. They say that a month is better.
That said, many hunters will tell you that they’ve put up a ladder stand AND harvested a deer ON THE SAME DAY.
That might be luck, but it does suggest there are no hard and fast rules.
So if you’re worried you’ve left installing a ladder stand a bit late in the day, just go ahead and see what happens. Because if you keep quiet, reduce your movement and do good scent management, there’s no good reason why you couldn’t have a successful hunt.
Do Deer Avoid Ladder Stands?
This is a much more interesting question and one that sees more division in the hunting community.
On the one hand, deer get used to anything over time. Yes they’re shy and yes they have amazing senses. But they can’t flee any time anything slightly wigs them out. And so ask enough hunters and you will hear plenty of stories of deer walk between a ladder and the tree.
Similarly, you will know people who have taken plenty of deer, year after year, from the very same stand. Which suggests deer might not avoid ladder stands, even over time.
On the other hand, some folks suggest that if you put too much pressure on a stand, or if you regularly get busted, deer might alter their pattern. I haven’t seen the evidence but some people say that radio trackers have shown older deer rerouting to avoid stands over time.
One theory is that when you hunt the same stand over many seasons, you will only see younger beasts; the older ones having shifted their pattern.
Another suggests that if you set up a stand to cover a really well-established track, then your occasional outing is not going to impact the collective memory much. Whereas perhaps on less-well-established routes, it’s easier for the deer to shift.
And a third theory suggests that your resident deer population may avoid a heavily-pressured ladder stand. But the travellers moving in and out (or through) territories won’t.
Oh! And of course when it comes to the rut, all bets are off! There won’t be much noticing of anything that doesn’t directly involve rutting!
So the answer on a long term basis is probably: suck it and see! If a stand stops producing, just move it. Hunters need to adapt and it’s no different when ladder stands are involved.
Where To Set Up Your Ladder Stand So The Deer Won’t Notice
If you stick a hunk of metal right on a trail and make no effort to screen it, you will get busted. So here’s 3 quick tips to avoid deer noticing your ladder stand.
Position Away From A Trail
OK. A bit obvious. But I bet some first timers get this wrong. You’re looking to have shooting lanes down onto the trail. So you need to set your ladder stand away from the trail.
Think about your approach and try to ensure there’s a decent amount of cover as you make your way to your stand.
If you can find a tree that has some bush, or a sapling, or any sort of cover between your ladder and the trail, then you will stand a much better chance of not getting busted as you enter your ladder stand.
What Else Can You Do To Stop Deer Noticing Ladder Stands?
Most folks reckon (rightly in my mind) that a ladder stand itself isn’t a huge problem when it comes to getting busted. Noise, movement and scent are bigger things to minimise.
I’ve published a full article about how to stop a squeaky ladder stand. Suffice it to say that you want your rig to be tight and silent. Do everything you can to stop rattling, bouncing, squeaking, creaking and pinging.
Again I’ve published about how to camouflage a tree stand. But remember that movement is perhaps more important that camo itself. Especially when the leaves have gone, you can easily skyline yourself. So be aware of what you back onto, how you blend in and NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS!
Don’t hang around too long. Set up quick. Manage your approach well. Don’t overthink it. But do be aware that getting winded is far more likely to spoil your hunt that shooting from a ladder stand.
Do Ladder Stands Spook Deer?
Ladder stands in and of themselves do not spook deer. Deer may be spooked when you first install a ladder stand in the same way that they would be spooked by anything new. However, they will get used to them. Movement, scent and noise are all things that are much more likely to spook deer than the presence of a ladder stand.
Can Deer See Ladder Stands?
Yes, deer have excellent eyesight and so can definitely see ladder stands. At first they may be scared but over time they will come to ignore them.