1. Narrow the Possibilities
Sun: Next consider the sun. Many hunters forget about the sun's arc from the east to west when choosing a stand location-until they find themselves looking into the sun from a leafless tree in November. In the northern hemisphere, the sun's arc dips farther toward the south as autumn progresses. Ideally, you want the sun in the buck's eyes, not yours.
Entry/Exit Strategy: Unless you only plan to hunt a location once, you'll need to plan an entry and an exit route that won't spook deer from the vicinity of your stand. Look for a stream, fencerow or another terrain feature that can get you in and out with little disturbance to the whitetails' bedding and feeding areas.
2. The Right Tree
Cover: Naturally, choose a live tree (unless of course you aspire to win a Darwin Award), but also consider what deer will see when they look up. Limbs located behind and above you that will break up your outline are important. You shouldn't position yourself so that you're silhouetted against the sky or the horizon. Think of stand hunting as hiding in a tree; just make sure you have adequate gaps for shooting lanes and be sure you can draw and swing your bow or gun freely.
A Tip on Cheating: If a bottleneck constricting deer movement is too wide to cover with your bow from the downwind edge, you can consider hanging a stand toward the middle of the funnel if you climb high enough or where the downwind area drops away. Use a wind indicator that allows you to watch how the wind carries your scent-a talc or milkweed indicator will do this.
3. The Right Height
4. Side of the Tree
Bow: Ideally, a bowhunter should be standing, facing the tree as a buck approaches from the opposite side of the tree. This position gives you cover to draw your bow unseen and then to shoot as the deer passes and quarters slightly away. If you're right-handed the ideal scenario is for the buck to pass on your left side, as it is easier to swing the bow that way. Your climbing harness needs to be just loose enough to allow you to get your bow between you and the tree so you can shoot from either side without having to turn.
5. Make the Kill
When to Draw: Deciding when to pull back your bow is dependent on the buck's behavior and the terrain. Judge a buck's speed and, before the buck shows, make decisions about when you'll draw given different scenarios. Be aggressive and take the first shot you know you can make. If you have to stop a cruising buck, draw first, then grunt with your mouth. Shoot as soon as the buck stops.
Shot Angles: When you're in a ground blind on the same level with a buck, the size of a whitetail buck's "kill zone" (the area behind the shoulder that allows you to pierce both lungs) has an average width from top to bottom of about 9 inches. If you're 20 feet up and a deer is 10 yards from your stand this kill zone shrinks to about 7.5 inches. If the buck is 20 yards from your stand its kill zone grows to about 8.5 inches. These numbers grow smaller as you move up a tree and as a buck gets closer to your perch.