Whether you prefer to use a rifle or a bow, deer hunting season is a great time of year. Spending quality time outdoors is always beneficial – but it’s your experience, technique and having the right gear that will all help to successfully fill that tag.
This is a huge subject and one that we certainly can’t cover completely here. For the purposes of this edition, we’ll focus on the use of tree stands and will break it up into two parts. Read on for a basic intro and an outline of what it takes to help keep you safe.
Of course there is a strong appeal to stealthily stalking a trophy buck through the brush or driving deer to a preferred zone, but there’s definitely something to be said for setting up in a stationary spot and letting the animals come to you. Deer are wary as we know and an elevated position keeps you out of their line of sight and minimizes the effect of your scent. It also provides you with an ideal perch to both watch and listen.
There are a TON of tree stand products available on the market and this is not meant to be a buyer’s guide by any means. A lot of it comes down to your preferred method of hunting, the number of branches you have to deal with, how mobile (and comfortable) you want to be and how much you’re willing to spend. Serious hunters will often have an inventory of various stand types to accommodate specific hunts, as they all have their pros and cons. As always, it’s better to invest in higher quality, certified equipment to help ensure safety and comfort. Also try and avoid anything home made if you can help it. There are three basic categories of stands available, with other formats like freestanding tripod structures and easy-to-handle saddle types as well.
Some assembly required for these versions, as they are the heaviest and bulkiest of the bunch. They are more visible to deer but can be a good option for reliable hunting hotspots. Ladder stands also offer more comfort, space and easier access for those who aren’t as adept at climbing. There’s also typically more flexibility with setting up around heavy branches.
These one-piece, fixed position stands are great for fast, easy and quiet access to your perch. It can take a little effort to haul them up, but once you’re strapped in, they can be left for days at a time.
As the name would suggest, climbers actually help you with your ascent as you use the unit to help shimmy up the tree. The seat and the platform are in two pieces and they offer lightweight mobility that is handy if you go off the beaten path. You may have to do a little more trimming if you can’t find a branchless trunk.
Here are a few items that you’ll need to make everything go smoothly when out in the bush. Always better to be prepared.
- Folding saw – for fast and quiet branch cutting
- Pruning shears – use a bypass type for thicker branches
- Several 25 – 30 ft. lengths of rope to haul up the stand and other gear
- Wind meter – to check direction & thermals
- Pole saw for long-term set-ups that are particularly overgrown
- Small cordless drill for step pilot holes – be sure that steps are allowed in your area
- Extra sticks or steps for hand holds or higher access
Statistics show that 1 in 3 hunters who use tree stands will have a fall at some point. That’s a pretty substantial number. Although the majority of injuries tend to be minor, there have been those that have been much more serious.
Ensure that your tree of choice is live, healthy and suitable for your stand.
Continuously check all gear for damage or signs of obvious wear.
Practice hanging your stand at ground level before you climb.
Pre-adjust straps whenever possible.
Be aware of wet or slippery conditions when climbing.
Follow the manufacturers instructions for proper stand mounting.
Use a haul line to pull up and lower your gear and weapons. Never have anything in your hands when climbing.
Always utilize a high-quality, certified safety harness.
Secure your harness life line rope above your stand position and stay hooked up whenever your feet are not on the ground. A sliding Prusik knot allows you to ascend and descend smoothly. Ideally use a commercially manufactured version rather than something home made.
Hang packs and weapons within easy reach of your perch.
Always climb slowly and safely. Don’t take chances.
Carry a radio or cell phone with you and be sure to let someone know exactly where you’ll be set up.
Tree stand hunting is a highly effective method of minimizing your presence and allowing for clear, clean shots at prey animals. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot (no pun intended) – it can be a great addition to your current hunting methods.
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