How to Choose the Right Treestand for Your Hunting Needs
Bernie Barringer 09.22.14
There are several styles of treestand to choose from. Picking the right stand for the situation will make your hunt more comfortable and productive.
I have been fortunate to hunt in many states. Each fall, I travel to two to four states to bowhunt whitetails with a load of equipment in the back of my truck. Some of the most important equipment, of course, is a treestand and attendant climbing gear. Going to a new area can present a hunter with some unforeseen obstacles when it comes to get perched in the right tree, and I admit I have found myself unprepared on occasion.
Take my first trip to North Dakota, for example. I arrived with several hang-on stands, one ladder stand, and a ground blind. It didn’t take me long to figure out that none of the snarly, crooked trees in the area’s shelterbelts were suitable for a hang-on stand. They remained in my truck for the entire trip while I made do with one ladder and one ground blind.
I found myself just as handicapped my first trip to Montana, when I discovered all the trees that seemed to be in the right place for a stand were 150-year-old cottonwoods with trunks so big you couldn’t possibly get a treestand strap around them.
There are three major categories of treestands, and each have their place. Let’s take a look at each of them and examine their strengths and weaknesses.
Ladders have a lot of attributes that work well for hunters. They are safe and easy to climb. Most anyone can get up a ladder, and even people who are uneasy with heights tend to feel more secure with a ladder attached not just to their tree of choice but also to the ground. The stability of a ladder is one of its greatest attributes. Another is the fact that you can attach them to just about any kind of tree.
The downsides of ladder stands are their weight and bulky nature. Carrying one a long ways through the woods will wear you out. I like to use ladders in areas where I can drive a four-wheeler or a truck right to the stand site. I also use ladders around my food plots and on private land where I know I will hunt the stand year after year. Put them up and leave them up; just check them prior to each season for weaknesses in the straps and make sure the joints are tight.
Climbers are light and mobile. These stands are perfect for the day-hunter who is going into an area to hunt then bringing the stand out with him. Strap one on your back and go. You can go up a tree and be hunting in minutes. If you don’t like a tree you are in, just climb back down and move.
Climbers do have their drawbacks. Trees with lots of limbs can be a challenge. You can get up these trees, but it takes a lot more work and it can be a little dangerous because you have to disconnect and reattach your straps to get around some limbs. Carrying a small saw allows you to cut off smaller limbs. The biggest drawback of a climber is that you must often choose your tree based on your ability to ascend it, rather than the location. Sometimes this might put you a little farther away from your intended target than you want to be. Getting in and out of a tree can be a noisy process with a climber.
You might not think of one of the disadvantages of climbers until you drop something from your stand and you realize you have to take the stand all the way down the tree with you to get the item. Same goes for the feeling you get when you have a full bladder.
Another disadvantage of a climber is that you are carrying your stand on your back, but you also have a backpack full of gear plus a bow that you also have to get to the site. Hunters who use climbers tend to learn to downsize the amount of equipment they are taking to the tree with them and often leave things behind they would really like to have a long.
Climbers can be very comfortable stands, but also restrict your movement. It’s difficult to stand and shoot from many styles of climbers. Learn to shoot sitting down and from a reclining position if you are going to spend a lot of time hunting from a climbing stand.
Hang-on stands are the most versatile and popular of the three main types of treestand. You can hang them on most trees, and limbs are often a positive rather than a negative. Limbs provide a helping hand to get up a tree, and help with concealment. The drawback with a hang-on stand is the fact that you have to carry your climbing apparatus with you. This is a problem that many treestand manufacturers have addressed; climbing sticks are lighter, safer, and more secure than ever before. Hawk Razor Sticks are a perfect example of a lightweight climbing stick that stacks together for easy transportation.
Quality hang-on stands are comfortable to sit in for long periods and make it easy to ascend and descend a tree quietly and with all your gear. I hang many of these stands each year in all the states I hunt because I love the ability to hang one and then come back for the hunt and get in the stand quickly and quietly.
Many times I have carried a hang-on stand and a set of sticks a mile or more into the woods, and it’s a lot of work—much more work than carrying a climber and going up a tree. But if it’s a site that I plan to hunt several times, the hang-on stand is the way to go.
Choosing a hang-on stand is a balance between weight and comfort. Many of the new stands have comfortable seats and weigh much less than you would think. For example, Hawk’s Helium hang-on stand has a 21-inch by 27-inch platform and weighs only 10 pounds.
Another attribute of the hang-on stand is the way you can move about in one. You can stand to stretch your legs or turn around to shoot at a deer positioned in a direction you didn’t anticipate.
Each of these three styles of stands have their positives and negatives, and each seem to the be the best tool for the job in a given situation. It’s best to analyze the place you are hunting and make your choice based on the conditions you are faced with.