A Buyer’s Guide to Hunting Tree Stands
Hunting from a hunting tree stand is one of the most effective ways of bagging a big buck, especially for the bowhunter, but certain tree stands are better suited to certain hunting situations. Here’s what you need to know to make a wise purchase.
When it comes to construction, almost all commercially-made tree stands are made of either welded aluminum or steel. Steel is stronger, but aluminum stands are lighter. A stand’s construction will determine its weight capacity, which can vary from 250 to 500 pounds and will be indicated on the packaging or product description. Don’t forget to allow for the weight of extra clothing and all equipment when determining the capacity you need, and although most manufacturers allow a safety margin in their ratings, always err on the side of caution and get a stand that can hold more than you think you need.
In terms of comfort, which can be critically important for spending long hours on stand, the actual seats vary from small folding slings to thick, padded foam seats. Some models also have a padded backrest and armrests. Take it from me, the more comfortable you are, the longer you can stay in your deer stand, and the less you will fidget around while up there, both of which increase the chances of you finally bagging that big buck.
There are three basic types of tree stands, each unique in design and function: climbing stands, hang-on stands and ladder stands. Like most other products, each has certain pros and cons.
Climbing stands are two-piece units that consist of a seat assembly and a platform assembly. The beauty of climbing stands is that, as their name implies, they are not only a seat in the tree, but also a means of getting up there. This eliminates the need to worry about tree steps or ladders.
To use a climbing stand, you must first attach both pieces to the bottom of the tree (with your feet hooked onto the platform and your torso inside the upper section). You then climb the tree by unlocking one of the pieces and moving it higher up, then repeating the process with the other piece and alternating until the desired height has been reached. Special chains or blades on each of the two pieces grab the bark of the tree as you move up.
Climbing stands offer a couple of advantages over hang-on stands. First is that they don’t require the use of screw-in steps (which may not be allowed on certain lands), which makes moving your stand to a new location a much quicker proposition. These stands are ideal for the mobile bowhunter, as they allow quick position changes to adapt to game location and movement. Another advantage is that because they are removed each time you descend, they can’t be stolen and won’t give away your stand location to deer or other hunters. On the down side, climbing stands tend to be bigger and heavier than hang-on models, ranging in weight from 15 to 35 pounds, which can be a factor if you have to pack the stand in a long distance. Depending upon the tree, these stands can also require quite a bit of branch pruning to allow the arms of the stand to move up the tree. They are also more expensive than hang-on stands.
Hang-on stands (part of the fixed position stand family) are much simpler, one-piece units, consisting of a platform and seat attached. They attach to the tree using one or more chains or straps with adjustable buckles, and some even use a special T-shaped screw for additional support once the stand is in place.
Hang-on stands range in weight from about 10 to 35 pounds, making them a little easier to carry than climbing models, but the biggest advantage they offer is that, once in place, they are a lot quicker and quieter to get in and out of. If you tend to leave a stand in place for more than a day or so, hang-on stands are the way to go. The only real negative for these stands is that they can be tricky to hang in the first place, and require quite a bit of work installing and removing steps if you decide to move your stand.
The third type of tree stand is the ladder stand. These stands consist of some type of multi-piece ladder assembly with a seat and platform at the top, all of which are secured to the tree usually by means of belts or straps.
The beauty of these stands is that they can be used on virtually any tree and, like climbing models, don’t require screw-in steps. Some deluxe ladder stands are virtual aerial loveseats, offering padded benches and room for two people. However, such luxury comes at a cost, namely weight. These stands can be as heavy as 100-plus pounds, requiring more than one person to carry and erect, or a vehicle for transport. Most models are also much more obvious and visible to deer than either climbing stands or especially hang-on stands (although some use very small ladders), making them best suited to rifle hunters, rather than bowhunters who need deer to approach very close for a shot. Ladder stands vary in price, but most cost about the same as a climbing stand.
Hunting Stand Accessories
A myriad of convenience accessories are available, including camouflaging blind kits, umbrellas, security locks, etc., but for hang-on stands, the main accessory is tree steps (never use tree limbs to ascend a tree). Most steps are screw-in models, but strap-on versions are also available and are a lot easier to install (and won’t damage the tree). Padded seats and adjustable shooting rails are also available for added comfort.
Treestand Hunting Safety Tips
Treestand manufacturers recognize that safety should always be the paramount concern when using a tree stand, so many models now come with a safety harness. Always wear it while in the tree or installing/removing the hunting stand.
You should also make sure that you are completely familiar with the operation and function of your new tree stand, especially climbing models. Practice installing your tree stand, at ground level, on a typical tree at home before you head out into the woods for the first time.
Also make a point to inspect your tree stand before every season to make sure that all connections are tight and no belts, cable or chains are worn or broken.