Hiking through the woods one day, I came upon an empty tree stand and had to chuckle. I could almost reach up and touch it! It was maybe 9 feet off the ground.

Another day on a public area, I was walking a log road back to my truck when I heard a whistle. I looked round and round but didn’t see anybody. Finally, I heard, “Up here.” I craned my neck and looked some 35 feet up into an oak. The guy grinned down at me and whispered, “How it’s going?”

Talk about extremes! At 9 or 10 feet off the ground, any deer that walks anywhere close is bound to see you. And a “skyscraper stand” 30 feet or higher has all sorts of problems. Safety is an obvious issue, and most people are uncomfortable sitting and especially standing on a small metal platform at an extreme height. Plus, the higher you hunt, the more difficult it becomes to draw and shoot your bow safely and accurately.

After bowhunting from every make and model of tree stand that you could imagine over the past 40 years, I believe that most archers should hang their stands 17 to 22 feet high, give or take a foot either way depending on the size and configuration of the tree. You’ll be well above the eyes and noses of deer, but not so high that you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Plus, at 17-22 feet you have the perfect sight picture and shooting angle out to a buck’s vitals at 20, 30 and 40 yards.

Bonus tip: Once you’ve picked a tree for your stand, walk out 20 to 50 yards, crouch down to a deer’s vantage point, walk round and round and look up into the tree from every possible angle. That will help you decide whether to set the stand 17 or 18 feet or 19-20 depending on background cover in the treetops and how you’ll be best hidden and positioned to shoot a deer.

Disclaimer: Always wear a safety harness when climbing up or down a tree, and cinch it tight to the tree every second you’re in a stand.