Gone are the days when hunters used to track deer through dense bush, losing their quarry at the first snap of a dry twig underfoot or touch of downwind scent. These days, deer hunters elevate themselves out of the undergrowth using tree stands, which gives them an increased range of vision, raises their scent above their prey’s nose and hides them from a deer’s field of view.
There are different kinds of tree stands – climbing stands, hang-ons, tree steps and ladder stands. Regardless of what tree stand is used, you will need safety harnesses, straps and ropes to secure yourself and the stand safely.
A climbing stand has a built-in mechanism for climbing up and down trees, so no extra climbing gear is required. This sort of tree stand is best suited to relatively straight trees with no limbs lower than where you plan to set up and is of a medium thickness. Using a safety strap attached to the tree as you climb will reduce the risk of falling.
Ladder stands are bulky, but sturdy alternatives as long as they are well maintained and anchored securely to the tree. There are safety straps dispersed at regular intervals along the ladder and should be used to cinch the ladder tightly around the tree trunk.
Another easy to use tree stand is the tower stand. Several manufacturers sell portable hunting towers that are made up of a platform on a metal frame. Some hunters prefer to build their own towers from wood; however these take up a considerable amount of time and require standard construction tools.
Tree steps are small blocks or bars that protrude outward from the tree trunk, giving hunters a foothold to climb up on. Tree steps either have straps that can be cinched around, or a sharp end used to screw into the tree trunk. These take some time to set up properly and if not used carefully, may come loose, snap under weight or pull out from the tree. For increased safety, an experienced hunter could try using a climbing stand and harness to climb up the tree. Before installing tree steps, ensure you check with local laws and obtain landowner permission to drill into a tree.
Some hunters use climbing sticks, which are long poles with horizontal bars that extend off the side. You can attach these to the trunk of a tree using safety straps, and are similar in execution and style to tree ladders.
Safety is the main issue when using tree stands. A hunter must inspect ladder stands, hang-ons and tree steps carefully for metal fatigue, rot, basic design faults, splitting wood and rust. Look at what is holding the tree step or ladder stand to the tree – is the rope chafed or rotten, do the bolts look secure and strong enough to take your weight? Always strap yourself into a safety harness when using a tree stand. To avoid bruises from these, tether yourself tightly to the tree when you sit down. This will reduce your fall should you or the stand slip. Look out for dead branches and never fasten a tree stand to a dead tree. The brittle material will not take any weight. Lastly, never climb a tree stand with a rifle, loaded or otherwise. Instead, use a rope to pull it up after you are secured in the tree.