Treestands were developed to serve several simple roles - namely, to provide the hunter more visibility, while keeping the hunter out of a deer’s direct line of sight, as well as keeping the human scent above the deer’s nose. As simple as these goals are, not just any stand will work for all situations. To help you get the right perch for your hunt and to ensure your hunt is fun and - most importantly - safe, here are a few things you should consider before buying a treestand.
Where are you hunting?
The first thing to consider when selecting a treestand is the terrain you will be hunting in. A heavily wooded area that has straight trees with few limbs can accommodate almost any stand. But what about heavily branched, river bottom trees? Or how about the Texas brush country where a cactus is the tallest "tree" around? It is easy to see how terrain can dictate what kind of stand is appropriate.
Aside from the differences in terrain, many hunters have to haul their stand into their favorite spot. In this case, treestand weight is a concern. On the other hand, some hunters can drive right to their chosen site, and weight is not much of a factor. Let’s look at a few models and determine which may work best for your needs.
Lock-on or Hang-on
Lock-on or hang-on treestands are one of the most versatile and most popular stands available. One of the main reasons is that a lock-on stand can be used in many different types of trees. They will work in trees with multiple limbs and with large diameter trunks. In addition to their versatility, bowhunters find the lock-on stands very quiet, a necessity when animals are close. They’re quiet because they secure tightly to a tree and don’t shift or move under a hunter’s weight, decreasing untimely game-spooking clanks or groans that set deer on a dead run to the next county.
Lock-on styles are also popular because of their light weight. Many companies offer basic lock-on stands under 20 pounds. For hunters hiking to their favorite spot, weight is definitely an issue. Fortunately, many lock-on stands have backpack-type straps that make transporting them a lot easier. But many of these "basic" models are just that - basic. Those in the 10-13-pound range have relatively small seats with little or no padding and a platform just big enough for your feet. This can make an all-day hunt not as comfortable as it could be. However, for situations that require a light stand, these models are still the best option.
When a stand is placed in a permanent position for all-day use, a larger, more comfortable model can be used. A cushioned seat with a padded backrest makes the day much more enjoyable. In addition to padding, a large platform will make you more comfortable and will allow you to get into a good, stable position to take a steady shot. Another good idea is an optional footrest. A footrest is a great way to minimize fatigue, allowing blood to circulate freely through your legs so they won’t fall asleep or get cold while sitting. All these features add up to make a long day up in the tree much more comfortable.
Since lock-ons don’t have a built-in climbing function, tree steps or climbing sticks are needed to achieve your desired height. Tree steps are relatively easy to install, quiet and can be carried with you when packing in. Some public hunting areas restrict the use of screw-in type steps, so tie-on steps or climbing sticks must be used.
Some hunters like to hunt one area in the morning, another in the afternoon and another in the evening. With a single lock-on stand, this becomes impractical unless it is designed to be used with multiple hanging brackets. Anohter solution would be multiple stands in different locations or the use of a climber if the terrain permits.
Climbing stands are an ever-popular stand among hunters who want immediate mobility both on trees and between hunting sites, while not being hassled with screw-in steps or portable ladders.
The climbing function is made possible by the two-piece chair and platform design. With the platform and chair secured around the tree, simply raise the upper portion, put your weight on it and draw your legs upward with your feet then "lock" the lower platform, into the tree with your body weight and repeat the process - basically "inch worming" your way up the tree.
While climbers do have some advantages over other stands, before you run out to buy one, consider your terrain you will be hunting in. To use a climber effectively, it is extremely important the trees in your hunting terrain have no large low-level limbs. Limbs on the lower levels of the trunk make climbing impossible. If your hunting area has huge cottonwood or oak trees, you might not be able to wrap the climbing cable or strap around the tree, making it impossible to use a climber. But if your terrain allows a climber, they are a quick, simple way to hunt from a tree .
For hunters who are more concerned about comfort and stability and don’t care about weight, a ladder stand is just the ticket. Ladder stands have some advantages that the climber and fixed-position stands don’t. With a ladder stand, as the name implies, a fixed-position stand is integrated into a ladder that usually comes in three- or four-foot sections, for easy transport. This gives you an easy way to get up into your favorite tree without having to shimmy up the trunk, negotiating limbs and small branches.
This is good news for older hunters who find climbing trees not as easy as it used to be. For those who suffer from acrophobia (fear of heights), many ladder stands have large platforms for more stability and comfort. Larger platform models will usually allow you to install a padded bench seat and even a skirt or complete blindto add comfort to your time aloft.
The biggest drawback to the ladder stand is its weight. Since most ladder stands are made of steel and have an average weight of 45 pounds, they are for hunters who can drive either an ATV or a truck close enough to their stand site or who don’t mind making several trips on foot when initially setting up the stand. They are certainly not practical for hunters who need to hike miles to reach their hunting area. In addition, most ladder stands can’t be installed more than 20 feet high. Even at that height, an additional ladder section and support brace between the tree and ladder has to be used to ensure safety and stability. While not for the hunter on the move, ladder stands rank high for stability, safety, comfort and are a great choice as a main stand to be left at your honey hole for the entire season.
Towers and Tripods
Hunters who wander the Southwest among sagebrush or hunt agricultural crops on the prairie of the Midwest find it painful to mount a treestand on a cactus and ineffective to mount one on a fence post. Tower or "platform" stands have been especially designed for these situations. In most cases, tower stands sit on three or four legs and come with a platform and some have a enclosure to give you concealment from the elements and the eyes of a wary buck.
Tripod stands set up on three legs with a padded seat or "platform" that usually rotates 360 degrees for an unlimited field of view. However, tripod stands generally don’t come with an enclosure, but a platform blind can be added for extra stealth. Since they are bigger and more visible than other types of stands, it is important to place them beside a large bush or rock to make them more inconspicuous to game. Once in place, leave them permanently and animals will get used to them over time like any other structure.
Most stands now include a safety harness or belt. But keep in mind that a three or four-point harness (often termed a Fall Arrest System, or FAS for short) is the best.
A FAS splits your weight completely by going around your legs as well as your arms. A FAS provides more movement, as well as a safer, more secure feel which equates to a more comfortable hunt.
Precautionary measures to ensure your safety in the event of a fall are not to be taken lightly. Many falls occur because hunters nod off while sitting in their stand. Other accidents happen when hunters lose their footing or slip on early morning, dew-covered platform or steps. One way to curb accidents that happen from falling off the seat is to buy a stand that comes with armrests. But just because you buy a treestand with armrests doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about a harness - they go hand in hand to increase your overall safety.
Being up in the tree all day can be tiring if you have to balance or hold your bow, rifle or muzzleloader, binoculars, rangefinder or rattling antlers. Rifle and bow holders, shelves and hang-it-all belts secure tightly to the tree or to your stand to give you enough room to hang all your equipment for instant access. Cover systems, or branch brackets, attach to your stand, or to the tree itself, and allow you to strategically place limbs and branches around you and your stand for added concealment when no natural usable cover is available.
When buying that perfect perch, keep in mind your hunting area, your personal comfort needs and the treestand’s ability to meet those needs. If it doesn’t meet your needs, you’ll find yourself disappointed when you get out in the field, making your hunting experience more work than play.
And finally, if you plan on hunting many different locations and terrain, keep in mind that one treestand won’t do it all. You might have to purchase two or three different types of stands to meet the many needs you have and the many demands the terrain places on your hunting equipment.