Updated: Jan 3
Many sportsmen debate whether to hunt from the ground or an elevated tree stand. My opinion varies depending on which game you are pursuing and obviously your physical condition. Some circumstances require tree stand hunting in order to be successful on a consistent basis. Both deer and black bear hunting with archery equipment comes to mind. The two elements we are trying to conquer here are proximity to the game, and scent control.
The industry has developed an array of tree stands for each and every application. The main styles include climbers, lock- on and ladder stands. A climbing stand is a portable two piece that walks its way up a tree, by the hunter sitting and standing. Your feet are strapped onto the lower section and you lift the seat or upper portion with your arms. An important aspect of this style is the need for a straight tree of suitable diameter, with little to no branches for the first 20 feet. If your concern is having your stand stolen by others; these can be moved at moments notice and brought in and out of the woods with you on every trip. A lock- on stand is chained or strapped onto the tree at the desired height. Tree steps are needed to climb up to the stand and this style is more permanent. Be selective when buying this type of stand because quality does make a difference. Always chose one for its platform size and seat comfort, because it’s here you get what you pay for “in the end “. A ladder stand is just that, a tall aluminum ladder with a foot rest and seat constructed at the top. The average height of ladder stands is 12 feet, with an option for another four -foot section to be added. The purpose of elevated stands is to put human scent above the nose of the animal. It also provides a better lookout position, and animals are not instinctive at looking skyward for danger or predators. The only drawback is the lack of instant mobility to pursue game and the safety factor. Each year many sportsmen are injured from elevated stands. There is a common situation of falling asleep while the wind rocks you a peaceful lullaby. The most important piece of equipment is the safety belt used to harness the hunter to the tree providing protection from falling. Stands come with a wide variety of accessories from rain umbrellas, drink holders, camcorder brackets, camo skirts and portable urine bottles.
The average sit while hunting can be 3 -6 hours and usually requires being motionless for the entire time. I think the popularity of tree stand hunting comes from the feeling of blending in with the surroundings and being part of nature. Bow hunters use stands to get within shooting distance to the games sense of smell, that rival’s any dog.
While filming many hunting television shows, I have spent countless hours sitting atop the trees in quiet contemplation of the opportunity I might encounter to put a bead on a big game animal. I think it’s a good idea to leave your watch at home or you’ll be looking at it every 15 minutes saying to yourself “that was a long time already”. Last fall I was on a bow hunt for whitetail bucks and during our time aloft, we watched all sorts of animals walk by unaware of our presence. The last hour of each day usually finds the winds calm down and the woods fall into a deep silence. Its then the animals slip towards their evening feeding locations. After a few hours I heard the signal from the cameraman that he spotted antlers up on the ridge. We quickly fired up the camera and turned on the microphones to anticipate recording some footage to end the show we were working on. A young doe raced below our tree and scurried up the hill, looking back to the buck. The tension thickened and you could hear your own heart beat with every passing second. I swear I could hear the theme song from Buckmaster’s TV show as the dry leaves rustled under the buck’s feet. My stomach went upside down as I knew I would have to draw my bow from 24 feet in the air while sitting and do it without spooking the deer. Mysteriously the buck came closer only to make a 90 degree turn and head into the thick woods beside us. He stood under a maple tree and pawed at the ground making a scrap. He then used his rack and teeth to chew up an overhanging branch and placing his orbital gland secretions for all to notice. He continued up and out of sight on some pre - determined evening path. It just proves not every opportunity is a successful one. Next time you want to become invisible in the woods, try hunting from an elevated tree stand.