My dad has always had a treestand obsession. When I was growing up, my mom, sister and I would tease him about it. At that time, I never thought about treestand hunting myself. Ladder stands, portables and climbers were all lumped into the label “treestand” and set aside, left for my dad to deal with.
However, after five seasons of on-the-ground hunting, I wanted a change. I wanted a new experience and to be like my dad and his friends. Although my dad started out in what he calls “death trap treestands,” he wanted to be sure I started off safe and comfortably. As a combined graduation, birthday and early Christmas gift, my parents surprised me with a Summit Viper climbing tree stand.
I spent some time in the front yard learning how to manipulate and set up the stand. However, there are some things that perching in your front yard just can’t teach you. Here are eight things I learned on my first official treestand hunt:
Dealing with Extra Weight
A climbing treestand is great for packing in and out of a hunting area. This ensures that your equipment won’t be stolen or damaged, because it is with you at all times. However, carrying a large stand on your back takes some adjustment. Typically I set up blinds ahead of time, so I never had to bring much more than my bow or firearm to my hunting spot. It was challenging at first to manage an awkward weight to which I was not used. But after some packing and repacking, I learned how to organize my gear by stuffing my jacket and a pack in between the two parts of the stand.
Quelling the Noise
An incorrectly or inadequately packed stand can make a lot of noise. It goes almost without saying that you should minimize noise in the woods so as to not alert your quarry of your presence. The first time I put my stand on my back, it clanked with every step. That taught me to carry an extra strap for securing the top and bottom of the stand together. It’s also helpful to deal with any dangling pieces of plastic or metal that will hit the frame during travel before you set out. Eventually, I found stabilizer straps that were even more effective than a single extra strap.
I will never hunt without stabilizer straps. They immediately outperformed my expectations. As I climb a tree, they provide enough slack for me to manipulate the stand, but catch the bottom of the stand if it comes loose from my feet, saving me from being stuck with no way to get down. When I reach my desired height, I tighten the straps and they add stability to the stand that not only makes me more comfortable, but allows me to lean in one direction or the other to take a shot without disturbing the stand’s balance.
It occurred to me just before I left the house ... how would I get my bow into my stand, and where would I put it once I got up there? While some people use just a plain rope, there are also haul lines with connection points on either end. You can attach one end to the stand and the other end to whatever you want to pull into the stand. As you climb, it releases more line until you reach the top. Then, you can pull up your gear and the line spools back into the device. Once you’re settled in the stand, it’s nice to have a hanger for your bow. I recommend one that straps onto the tree without damaging it.
I Love This Bar
The Summit Viper climbing stand contains a bar that I can sit on as I work my way up the tree, moving the platforms up as I go. It saves a lot of arm strength and allows me to take a break while climbing if I need to. It also serves as something else for me to hang equipment on when I get into the tree.
Be Sure You Have Everything You Need
If you forgot something, you’ll have to do without it or interrupt your hunt. Once up in a climbing tree stand, there is no getting down unless you undo everything. There is no ladder that you can use as an escape to retrieve a fallen or forgotten item. Therefore, tying everything down is a useful precaution. Another concern is going to the bathroom. You have to either find a way to answer nature’s call from the stand or cut your hunt short. If you do have to go in the stand, don’t remove your harness, although it may be awkward to work around.
A properly fitting safety harness is paramount. You should be attached to the tree before you even start climbing so that if you do fall, you are caught. I use a Lady Hybrid harness from Hunter Safety System. It is incredibly comfortable and easy to put on. The multitude of pockets is also a plus. Don’t rely on the tangled mess that may come with your tree stand; your safety is more important than anything.
After several hours in the stand, I readied myself to climb down after sunset. I picked up my feet to move them, only to find they had been replaced by ice-cold bricks. I will admit I was scared, and it was difficult for me to climb down. A climbing stand consists of two pieces that use the leverage of your weight to keep themselves affixed to the tree. With one stable, you use your weight to move the other up or down. While cold feet are tolerable on the ground, they can be dangerous in the stand.
I now know that, for me, treestand hunting will be more enjoyable in the early season’s warmer weather due to poor circulation. I need to be able to move with the climbing stand, so I still have to be mobile with any clothes or boots I wear. HotHands handwarmers and toe warmers are lifesaving … Granted, I only discovered the toe warmers after the scary experience detailed above. Everything is a learning process; hopefully my discoveries will help prevent you from making the same errors!
The author's father snapped this photo from a nearby tree the first time she hunted from the stand.