There’s Another Hunter in Your Stand. Now What?

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On public land, you might find a squatter in your stand or blind. Here’s the best way to handle it

Public-land hunting pressure is high these days, but avoiding confrontation with other hunters is always the best approach. (Bill Konway Image)

One night a fellow named Dave watched me hunt deer from a treestand on public land on my television show, and it brought back sour memories for him. He wrote in an email:

“Mike: One day I was sneaking into my bow stand, and when I got 50 yards away, I looked up and saw some dude sitting in it. He looked over, saw me and waved at me to get away. I didn’t know what to do, I just stood there. He kept waving and waving me off. I got so d___ mad I was steaming. I couldn’t believe and was at a loss, so I just turned around and left. I felt bad about it then and still do. I feel like I wasn’t much of a man that day, but what else could I have done? This was on public land.” —Dave W.

I wrote Dave back:

“Stop beating yourself up, man, you did the right thing. Your only other choice would have been to march up to the tree and confront the guy — tell him that was your stand and get out. But the way that clown was acting and waving, he would not have listened to reason. Things could have gotten ugly in a hurry.

“Confrontation in the woods is never a good thing, and can cause people to do stupid and dangerous things.

“You took the high road and I applaud you for that. Hopefully you went back in a day or two, pulled that stand and found a new spot to hunt far away from that squatter.” 

Knowing how peeved I would have been had this happened to me, I was going to suggest to Dave that as he left, he should have turned and yelled a few choice words at the guy. But that probably would have caused a bad scene that Dave didn’t need. 

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Public Land, Public Stand

Technically, that nitwit in Dave’s stand was doing nothing wrong. In states that allow a hunter to leave a treestand or blind in the woods overnight on public land, that stand becomes public domain and therefore anybody can use it. 

That might be the law, but in the deer hunter’s code of conduct it’s a bunch of BS. Anybody who would hunt another man’s stand without permission is a skunk.

In states that allow a hunter to leave a treestand or blind in the woods overnight on public land, that stand becomes public domain and therefore anybody can use it. 

If it’s legal in your state and you decide to set a stand and leave it for a few days, here are three things you can do to keep a squatter out:

  1. If you use a lock-on, remove the bottom steps and haul them out when you leave after a hunt. A bit of a hassle, but nobody can climb easily into the stand. Bring the lower steps back when you return. 
  2. If you keep a climber at the base of a tree, secure the sections with a lock and cable (nobody can use or steal the stand). 
  3. Consider a nameplate. In response to squatter confrontations in treestands on public ground, the Iowa Senate passed a law that requires hunters to affix metal nameplates to their stands when leaving them overnight. This is a good thing. A nameplate denotes ownership of the stand and should help to deter others from using it. 

The pandemic of 2020 has masses of people wanting to get out of the house and social distance in the outdoors. Hunting license sales are up in many states, and most of these new hunters will be looking for a deer on public land. If a newbie sees a stand in a tree in a good-looking spot, he might climb up and hunt, not even realizing he is breaking our code of conduct.

If you walk up to your stand (wherever you hunt, affix a nameplate to it) and find a person in it, first thing, control your temper. Turn and leave. Or, in a firm but civil voice, tell the squatter he is in your stand, and to look at the nameplate. He should come down and go. 

But if he doesn’t, bite your tongue and leave. Again, nothing but trouble can come from a confrontation in the woods. Come back later, pull that stand, and go find a new spot to hunt well away from the squatter.       
 
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