Deer hunters spend hours-sometimes an entire day, days at a time-in their treestands, waiting for that one golden opportunity for a shot at the buck of their dreams. And when that moment comes along, you certainly don’t want it to be blown because your stand wasn’t set up right or you weren’t set up correctly in it to make that important shot. However, that is exactly what happens to many hunters every year.
They practice months in advance with their bow, or they hit the rifle range until they are comfortable lobbing rounds into a silver dollar-sized spot 100 yards away. But when it comes to actually making a shot from their stand, they forgot to trim that one branch hanging a little low or angle it the right way for the shot, or even worse, set it up so they are comfortable and able to move on command after sitting near motionless for hours.
Don’t let that be your excuse. Here’s everything you really need from the right gear to right stand hanging tricks to make sure you and your stand are ready to make the shot.
Which Type of Stand
Ladder Stands-If you have an old faithful spot that doesn’t require you to get too high to remain hidden, there is nothing like a sturdy ladder stand that you can just leave up all season or only have to move on occasion. These stands are also best for field edges or areas not far off trails as they can be a bear to lug through the woods. They are best for older hunters and children as they are typically safest to ascend and descend, and some models are big enough to allow two hunters to sit together.
Hang-Ons-If you hunt an area with a lot of low-limbed or crooked trees, a hang-on might be the ticket. Typically the most lightweight and compact, they are great for hanging along deep woods creek crossings and ridges. Screw-in steps work fine and have been the standard for accessing these stands, but a quick-ladder held to the tree with ratchet steps is both safer and easier to hang. Not a stand to move everyday, it is still easy enough to set up that you can move it as seasonal changes dictate.
Climbing Stand-For the versatile hunter who likes to change it up a lot in order to capitalize on near-daily changes in deer patterns during the pre-rut and rut, a climbing stand can’t be beat. No ladder required on these, though a straight trunk without limbs is! If you plan on going deep, choose a lightweight model. Some engineered more for comfort and sturdiness cross the line on weight benefit and feel like you’re toting a small man on your back.
Hang ‘Em High (Enough)-I know hunters who aren’t happy unless they are 25 to 30 feet off the ground in order to avoid thermal drafts. I say, “knock yourself out.” Fifteen to 20 feet up is plenty high enough to keep out of a whitetail’s line of sight without unduly risking your neck. The higher you go the steeper the angle of your shot, which also creates a narrower target area when looking down on a deer.
Look This Way-Think about if you’ll be hunting a stand mostly in the morning or mostly in the evening. If the morning, hang the stand facing West so you won’t be staring into a rising sun for what will be probably the best hour of the morning. If hunting the stand mostly in the evening, face the stand toward the East.
Pick the Best Angle-Another directional concern: If you are hunting over a field or along a trail where you expect deer to most likely be moving, don’t hang the stand looking straight toward that area. Rather, if you are right handed, hang the stand slightly angled toward the right so you can swing to your left. Making swinging shots toward the right will be difficult. Likewise, if you are a lefty, do just the opposite.
Keep It Solid-If a tree has a dead top or dead limbs in it, or even long, lateral splits in the bark of the trunk, keep looking. You want a healthy, solid tree, ideally about 15 to 18 inches in diameter, Even if not using a climbing stand, you want the trunk to be straight so you can angle your platform slightly back toward the tree for safety and balance. Always hang a stand with the help of another hunter for safety as well.
Outfit Your Stand
These products will help you make your stand organized, comfortable and safe.
Hunter Safety System Pro Series HSS-6-This safety harness/vest is one of the best investments in your safety you can make. It’s pricey at around $130, but worth every penny. No more fumbling with tangled harnesses, you simply put the vest on and cinch the straps utilizing a simple mix of seat-belt-style latches and quick-snap buckles and away you go. (huntersafetysystem.com)
Hunter Safety System Lifeline-Did you know most falls from a stand occur when a hunter is climbing up to or down from his stand? Another safety accessory every stand should have, this 30-foot rope attaches near the bottom of your ladder and runs up over your stand allowing a hunter to clip his safety harness to it as he climbs. Sturdy D-ring and a sliding Prussic knot doesn’t hinder climbing, but keeps you safe from the time you step off the ground. ($134; huntersafetysystem.com)
Hunt Comfort Climb-On Seat Cushion-Most included seat cushions for stands will leave your rear numb within an hour of solid sitting. Aching limbs and uncomfortable seating will leave a hunter restlessly moving in his stand and more likely to be spotted by game. These seat cushions are designed for the typically small seating platforms of climb-on and other stands, but provides 3 inches of thick, sitting comfort. ($35; huntcomfort.com)
Team Realtree EZ Hanger Bow Holder-This quick screw-in, folding bow hanger allows you to hang your bow to the side of your stand where it can be easily retrieved with your grip hand with minimal game-spooking movement. Hang it so your bow dangles just at head height and extend the arm so it is far enough away to allow you to reach, grab and quickly go on aim. Keeps the bow off your lap or where you need to uncomfortably hold it for possible hours. ($15; realtree.com)
Hunter’s Specialties Tree Belt-Like a shelf for your tree, the H.S. Tree Belt straps around the trunk above your head and has two large hooks and numerous straps for hanging calls, optics and anything else with a loop or lanyard so you can easily access it without noisily digging into pockets. This is a must-have for keeping organized up high. ($15; hunterspec.com)
Hunter’s Specialties Tree Stand Umbrella-Rain gear is great, but when a downpour hits, the H.S. Tree Stand Umbrella can’t be beat for keeping you and your gear out of the rain and still comfortably hunting. The umbrella is specially made to fold against the tree. Strap on holder and rod fold tightly for easy packing. ($29; hunterspec.com)