How to properly choose and use the right treestand for you.
By Dan Young
Opening day is just around the corner, which means now is the perfect time to shop for the gear that will give you the best chance of filling your tag. Having equipment you know you can rely on is important, especially when it comes to treestand hunting. If you’re new to treestands or looking to improve or upgrade your current gear, then this article was written specially for you. I’ve broken down the top five things I consider the most important to remember when shopping for, and using treestands.
1. Type of Stand
First and foremost, you need to know what type of stand will work best for you. The three basic types of stands are climbing, ladder, and hang-on. In order to know which one will fit your needs best, you need to think about the area you are hunting, and how you plan to hunt it. Ladder treestands usually have more room, and are easier to get up into, but they are often too heavy to carry long distances and sometimes they require more than one person to set up. So if you plan on hiking into the backcountry for your hunt, a climbing or hang on stand might be a better option.A climbing stand will work best in an area that has tall, straight trees. You can’t safely climb or secure a climbing stand if the tree is bent or leaning. It also can’t have any branches on its trunk where you will be climbing, as they’ll get in the way, and the climbing apparatus on the stand is limited to a specific diameter, so you’ll need to find a tree that is the right size as well. If you’re in a wooded area that fits these parameters and you plan on traveling on foot, then a climbing stand could be a great option for you.
Finally, if you want the fastest and easiest mobility, a hang-on stand is a great choice. They’re lightweight and quiet to haul around and set up. They’re also the most versatile as they’re secured via ratchet straps and ties and can be placed in almost any viable tree, regardless of branches, leaning, or trunk size. They’re not as comfortable as ladder stands, since they’re smaller and don’t have the railings or seating that some ladder stands do, but they’re a great choice for a lone hunter, or anyone who wants to easily and quickly move locations during the hunt.
Next you’ll need to take your own comfort into consideration. Can you sit in the same position for 10 straight hours? If you’re constantly shifting, standing, or moving around, you’re going to alert the game to your presence. So do your best to make sure you’re comfortable enough to last for the entire hunt. If you anticipate trouble with sitting for that long, consider opting for a ladder stand, and they tend to have larger and more comfortable seating. Also, pick a good tree. As I mentioned before, crooked or leaning trees are not ideal. If you're using a hang-on stand and it’s evenly slightly lopsided, you’re going to feel the fatigue in your back and core muscles fairly quickly.
Obviously location is important. You want to be near enough to where the game is that you can easily spot and shoot them. However, you don’t want to be so close that you scare them off. For example, I typically use a treestand when I’m bowhunting whitetail. A standard hunting bowshot in North America is about 17 to 18 yards, so that’s about how far away I’ll set up my treestand from the trail I’m staking out. This distance is far enough away that my scent won’t carry as easily to the deer’s noses, but close enough that I can still see them and take a good shot.
When you’re staking out a spot for your stand, it’s also a good idea to avoid things like bedding areas and field entrances. It’s very easy to disturb the game you're hunting if you’re setting up, taking down, and constantly moving around the areas they consider “home.” If they’re unsettled enough they might abandon the area completely, leaving you without anything to hunt.
Similar to scouting your location, you also have to consider the types of trees around you. You might’ve found the perfect tree that’s tall and straight, but have you taken into account its surroundings? Do the nearby trees have enough branches and growth to cover and camouflage you? Is there room for your ladder or climbing stick? Once your stand is in place, can you comfortably stand and have a clear shot through the vegetation? These are all important questions to consider before you get to work securing your stand. You also have to remember that your body is a foreign shape and it will stand out, if you don’t make an effort to blend in. It might be tempting to place your treestand higher to get a wider range of view, but it’s not going to do you any good if you place your stand too high and skyline or silhouette yourself. I’ve found that 18 to 20 feet is usually a good height for me. This gives me the best combination of the high ground, coverage, and visibility.
Most importantly, you have to take precautions to keep yourself safe. A 20 foot drop out of a tree can do some serious damage and it’s never worth the risk. The first thing I do when climbing is put on a lifeline, so I can stay connected. As soon as I take the first step of the climb, to when I’m back on the ground, I'm hooked up to a tree. I also wear a full body safety harness. You want to make sure that you’re covered from shoulders through hips, so if you do slip or fall, your weight is going to be evenly transferred and you can more quickly and easily correct yourself.
Also, always check the manufacturer’s specifications for the weight limit on your stand. The most common rating is for anywhere from 250 to 300 lbs., but you should always double check before you assume the stand can handle the extra weight. I also personally look for the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association (TMA) label on every treestand I consider buying. This means the stand has been tested by a third party for safety and reliability according to the industry standards.
As an extra tip, I also recommend having a way to lock up and protect your gear. If you’re using a climbing stand, or hunting on private land then this might not be as necessary for you, since you won’t be leaving your stand up in a tree or running into as many other people. However, I prefer to take precautions, since replacing gear can get expensive. When using a ladder stand on public land, I lock up my ladder with a cable lock that has my name and phone number scratched into it. Another option is to take a few steps out of your climbing stick, so that your stand is unreachable. Either way, taking a few precautions could save you frustration and money in the long run.
Now that you know a bit more about choosing and hunting from treestands, it’s time to get out there and enjoy the season! If you have any additional questions about treestands, or would like help picking one out, feel free to reach out to a representative at Sportsman’s Warehouse, either online at Sportsmans.com, or at one of their local stores.