The answer, like most things in whitetail hunting, is that it depends. Probably the easiest way to answer is to take you through step by step how we go about figuring it out.
Scenario: Public land, early November, hang’n hunt, in an area you have scouted and marked on a map. So, you know how to get to the exact tree you are putting your stand in.
Our first thought when planning is, how long does it take to get to the piece of public we are hunting? For easy addition we will say 30 minutes. We usually add at least 5 minutes to each time just to make sure we have plenty of time. Because if something can go wrong, it usually does.
Next, we allow 10 minutes for getting gear ready at the truck.
The next step in the process is the walk in. Remember you might have a stand on your back, so it might take some extra time. Again, let’s say it is a 25 minute walk in, add 5 minutes just to be safe for a total of 30 minutes.
Here is where things get different for each hunter. How fast can you put your tree stand up? For us with two people and camera gear, we allow 30 minutes. Again, we play it safe. We would rather sit in the dark in the tree then be racing the sunrise. If you can do it in 15 minutes, perfect, allow for that amount. If it takes you 45, allow for that amount.
The last step we always do is add at least 15 minutes. This again is playing it safe and making sure we are in there plenty early and have time to sit in our stands in the dark and let things settle down a little. If you are quiet putting up your tree stand (which you should be) and allow that extra 15 minutes, that should be enough time not to spook the buck you are after. The easiest way to put it is that you need to be sitting in your tree stand waiting at least 15 minutes before legal shooting light.
From what we have seen bucks generally get to their general bedding location and then walk around a little before they bed down. We haven’t seen to many times where right at daybreak they are already bedded down. So, by allowing 15 extra minutes and putting your tree stand up quietly you should avoid spooking any buck that appears earlier then you expected.
In our scenario let’s say sunrise is 7:15. In Nebraska we can shoot a half hour before official sunrise. So, we can shoot (and it is light enough to shoot) by 6:45. So now let’s do the math on our times. The added 15 minutes is 6:30. A half hour to put stands up is 6:00. So that means for a 6:45 shooting time we are at the base of our tree 45 minutes before we can legally shoot and if you add the walking to our stand location, we are walking in by 5:30. Add in a 30 minute drive and 10 minutes to get gear ready and we have to leave home by 4:50. As you can see it makes for some super early mornings!
Hopefully that helps you plan your hang’n hunt setups for next year when you are hunting over buck beds and gives you an idea of the time frames that Brody and I use throughout the fall.