The days of the stationary ladder stand that you leave up year-round and hunt every fall are over. That is, if you expect to kill mature bucks. Studying methodology of top whitetail hunters reveals that most of them have one thing in common: they hunt from a mobile setup. This is not to say they never have trees prepped ahead of time or have presets, but they all have the option to go mobile in their toolbox. You need this ability too. If you hunt private land, or especially if you hunt public land, you must be mobile to succeed as a whitetail hunter in the modern age. This article will only be a brief overview of why going mobile works, what you can do to lighten your gear weight, and different options for a mobile setup.
Why Going Mobile Works
If you are only interested in killing does or small bucks than you can likely skip this article. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing and you can accomplish those goals. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time during the hunting season. If, however, you want to kill a mature buck this season you’re going to want to have the option of being a mobile hunter. Mature bucks are a much different breed of deer than your 2-year-old bucks or does. They are less predictable, more intelligent, and can outsmart you 90% of the time.
To one-up these mature deer and have a shot at killing one, you need to be adaptable. If the wind changes, the weather changes, or different nearby foods change rotation you need to be able to change what tree you are hunting. Being mobile means you always have a plan B.
Lightweight Means Mobility
There are some extremely comfortable ladder stands and climber stands out there. However, ladder stands are simply not portable due to their size. Climbers are touted as being portable, but as someone who has lugged a 21-pound Summit Viper SD into the woods during multiple seasons, I can tell you that “portability” is subjective. I found the weight to be extremely unmanageable given the awkwardness of the frame of the stand on your back. By the time you add in a small pack and your weapon, you are toting 35 pounds of unwieldy and unbalanced bulk through the woods. As we know, to get the mature bucks you need to go deep into the woods and get off the main trails and this is where the bulk comes into play. Trying to traverse thick bush and understory to get to a great spot can be almost impossible with a large framed treestand on your back.
If you truly want to become a mobile hunter you need to cut weight. Every ounce you can shave from your setup will pay dividends. 30 pounds may not seem like a lot of weight, but at 6 am dressed in winter camo walking through 10 inches of snow it will weigh you down fast. As you run out of energy you will compromise where you set up and end up hunting a less than ideal spot. Shave weight and, of equal importance, shave bulk. Your goal is to become lighter, faster, and quieter.
Best Mobile Lightweight Options
- Hang-On Stand and Sticks. This is the classic mobile option. For a couple hundred dollars you can pick up a lightweight hang on and sticks from lone wolf custom gear, xop, or other companies. The traditional systems typically weigh in at around 14 pounds with some of the newer more lightweight options coming in around 10-12 pounds. The lighter you go the more expensive the setup will be. A big improvement over ladder stands or climbers there are still some bulk issues associated with hang-on stands unless you get into the $500 range.
- Hunt From The Ground. No really, this is an option. It’s not something you are going to learn overnight, but plenty of guys do it. If you have the patience and time to master the ground stalk on whitetail deer it will greatly expand your options and make you into a great hunter.
- Saddle Setup. The average hunting saddle weighs between 16 and 25 ounces. The only other pieces of gear you need are a way to climb the tree and a couple of climbing rated ropes. You can easily get a saddle setup weighing under 10 pounds with the least bulk of any of the mobile options. Not the cheapest option, but there are some DIY saddle hacks that many have used. To learn more about saddle hunting read this article.
Summing It Up
If you are a serious whitetail hunter who wants to start targeting mature bucks you need to have a hunting plan that is fluid and able to be rapidly changed to fit information from the ground. Mobile hunting setups give you the versatility you need to have a plan B, plan C, and so on. If you don’t have a lightweight setup yet start researching and shopping for one now. Deer season is only 6 weeks away in Michigan.