I spend a lot of time hunting whitetail deer—over 70 days a year. Most of that time is spent sitting in a tree stand. There are other ways to hunt, but I feel that this is the best way for me to be successful in the area that I hunt, especially when hunting during archery season.
Many may think that hunting is a dangerous sport. However, hunting is the third safest sport as rated by the NSSF in 2011. What is dangerous and where a lot of major injuries and deaths occur is hanging and hunting from a tree stand. According to the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, about 90 percent of bowhunters hunt from a tree stand, and falling from one represents the single greatest risk to a hunter in the field. The first part of this two-part series covers two things: the different types of stands according to hunting style, and tips for how to safely hunt from your tree stand. There are four basic types of tree stands: climbing stands, hang-on stands, ladder stands, and homemade stands.
Climbing tree stands
A climbing tree stand is a two-part stand and does just what its name says: It climbs the tree. This is usually accomplished by sitting on the upper part of the stand and pulling up the bottom part with your feet, then standing up and lifting the top piece, sitting again and repeating the process. The advantage of climbers is that they are portable. You can walk into a new area, scout it, and set up very quickly and easily. Typically, you can be up in your tree, ready to hunt in 10-15 minutes from the time you pick your tree.
These are relatively light and easy to transport, and because you take them with you each time you leave, you don’t have to worry about people stealing them. The disadvantage is you have to find the right types of trees where you hunt to be able to use them. Many trees in the northeast work well. They have to be fairly straight and without branches for the first 20 feet or so. People in places like Texas or Kansas might have a more difficult time, as many of the trees in those areas are crooked, with many branches low on the trunk. I use the Lone Wolf Sit & Climb. It’s very comfortable, lightweight, quiet, and very easy to set up.
Hang-on tree stands
A hang-on tree stand is one that attaches to a tree with straps. You climb into it via a ladder, screw-in steps, or climbing sticks. A hang-on can be a big, bulky-but-comfortable stand designed to sit in for long periods, or a smaller, lightweight one designed for shorter sits. I have over 30 stands from several different manufactures. My favorite, and the one I think is the most comfortable, is the Millennium M150. It’s very comfortable, easy to hang, and you can sit all day, several days in a row, when the bucks are moving.
The advantage of a hang-on is that it is already set up when you get there. You can sneak in and quietly get up in your tree. They are relatively light and you can hang them in many different types of trees. They are also fairly easy to get into. The disadvantage is, not only do you have to carry in a tree stand, you need to carry in a way to climb into it. Also, because you leave them in the woods, others can use them or steal them.
A ladder stand is a platform you sit on that is attached to the top of a ladder and leaned against a tree. These stands are the largest, and are great if you have kids, as you can easily and safely put two people in one. Because they are large and heavy, they can be difficult to carry in and set up, but at the same time that makes them more difficult to steal. You can put a canopy over a ladder stand to keep you dry during rain. And as you can see from the photo below of my oldest boy, ladder stands are great for being able to catch a couple minutes of shut-eye.
Homemade stands can range from pieces of wood thrown up in a tree to ones fabricated to resemble a commercial stand. Because your safety is always at stake, I would never recommend using anything other than a Treestand Manufacturer’s Association-approved tree stand.
The last thing to consider when choosing a tree stand is the material it is made with. The two principle types are either steel or aluminum. Steel is cheaper, but heavier, and can creak when cold. Aluminum can either be pieced-together parts or extruded. Both are lighter than steel and the extruded is extremal quiet, especially in the cold. The disadvantage is that aluminum costs more.
So which stand is best for you? It really all depends on where you hunt. Some hunters will never have a need for a climber. They may not have any trees that would work. Others may only hunt out of a climbing stand. Some hunters prefer the ease of getting into a ladder stand over all others. It may be more difficult to set up, but once the stand is set, all you have to do is climb the ladder.
I have ladder stands set where it is easy for my young boys and my wife to get into and out of safely. I have hang-on stands that I use in places I know the deer frequent each and every year. These are typically funnels or pinch points. I use my climber when I see a particular deer I want to go after, or when the deer are out of range of the hang-on stand. The climber allows me to go in and set up quietly and quickly.
In part two, I will go over how to pick a spot to hang your tree stand.
(Featured image courtesy of galleryhip.com)