Stan Potts, pictured above, is one of the country’s most successful deer hunters who often takes huge whitetails on public land. One trick Potts employs is “hunting backward,” the practice of placing a tree stand in a location where deer will approach the back of the stand.
Of course, you can’t always predict the direction deer will approach, yet hunting behind your stand can have advantages with a bow, rifle, or shotgun.
Bowhunters seek the perfect shot angle on a whitetail: the quartering-away position so that an arrow can pass behind the shoulder into the heart/lungs area for quick, lethal dispatch. A deer approaching from behind your stand will often present this angle once it passes with the added advantage of the reduced chance of detection.
Drawing a bow on an approaching deer puts that movement clearly in its vision. A deer facing your stand can see movement in a tree while it’s eating an acorn or sniffing the ground. However, once the deer walks past your stand, its vision is focused on where it’s going, not where it’s been. You can quickly draw, aim, and shoot.
A portable tree stand gives the center-fire hunter an advantage, however, deer often approach or pass a stand site where the hunter must shoot offhand because the tree trunk is behind them. By placing the stand “backward,” the hunter can use the tree trunk as a rest and make long-range shots accurately.
I use the same stand for archery and center-fire season and relish the backward position that allows me to shoot 100 yards or more through small shooting lanes. I use a large tree-step as a hanging post for my rifle and have the added safety and comfort of holding onto the tree trunk and my safety harness.
Movement is the one disadvantage of hunting backward. If deer approach your stand, you can often see or hear them well in advance. You can sit as still as a stone in your tree or rest your back against the trunk, and see anything that approaches with very little movement.
When hunting backward, you are “hiding” behind the tree’s trunk, yet you must look out from each side, which requires frequent movement. Once the leaves fall, peeking out from side to side can reveal your location and spook deer.
Whether you hunt backward or traditionally from your stand, always follow safety precautions. Use a full body harness and attach it while standing on the ground. Today’s tree stand safety gear makes hunting much safer, yet it won’t help if you don’t use it properly. Frontward, backward, whatever, good luck and be safe out there.