Spending the day standing on a platform half the size of a coffee table might sound like cruel and unusual punishment. But a lack floor space doesn’t mean treestands are uncomfortable and unorganized. The 10 tips that follow will help make the most of your bowhunting time in a treestand.
1. Selecting a Stand
Several types of treestands are available, but most fall into one of three categories.
Ladder stands have an integrated ladder that is also the main support structure. These stands are larger and heavier than other options, making them less portable and better suited for long-term placement.
Climbing treestands are ideal for bowhunters who often change locations. They consist of two pieces – a seat and platform – that attach to the tree. When used together they help a bowhunter climb a tree without steps or a ladder. The only limiting factor with a “climber” is that they require a fairly straight tree with no branches from the ground to the stand’s hunting height.
Hang-on stands provide excellent versatility. They can be used with screw-in steps, a one-piece ladder that straps to the tree for long-term use, or short lightweight ladder sections called climbing sticks. Be advised, however, that screw-in steps are usually forbidden on public lands because they damage the tree. To learn more about treestands and which types best suit you, visit an archery shop for expert advice.
2. Safety First
Always take the proper safety measures when hunting from treestands. Every treestand hunter should own three pieces of gear whenever leaving the ground.
A full-body safety harness is generally worn over all other clothing or beneath the top layer. It includes a backstrap called a tether, which attaches to a strap fastened around the tree.
While hanging (installing) or removing a treestand, a lineman’s harness keeps you in stable contact with the tree. These harnesses use a belt that encircles the tree trunk and attaches to two anchor points on the harness’s front. They adjust to fit every size of tree.
Once a stand is securely in place, attach a life-line above the stand. This is a long rope with a sliding knot. Attach your harness tether to the sliding knot, which “follows” you as you ascend or descend the tree so you’re secure the entire time you’re off the ground. The knot only slides when free of weight. If you fall, the sudden weight/tension locks the knot into place.
3. Easy Entry and Exit
When installing a hang-on stand it’s important to keep the last step about the same height as the stand’s platform, or slightly above so you step down onto the stand. Stepping up into the stand is dangerous. Shifting your weight and moving to and from the ladder or steps to the treestand might be easy in daylight, but it can be daunting in the dark. And when bowhunting in cold weather, bulky clothing can restrict movements, making the task dangerously difficult.
4. Let There Be Light
A good flashlight is vital for all bowhunters, but those who bowhunt from treestands need a headlamp or light that clips to their ball-cap’s bill. Head-mounted lights let bowhunters operate with both hands while climbing and setting up in the dark. They’re also handy when packing up after sunset.
5. No Muddy Boots Allowed
Before leaving the ground, check your boot treads. Boots caked with mud, slush or snow can be treacherous while climbing the tree or when stepping into the stand. Clean those soles before heading up.
Doing a thorough cleaning job brings a bonus. If you leave mud in your boot treads, chunks of it will dry out and fall through the stand’s platform to the ground. Why does that matter? When the woods are still and silent, falling chunks of mud hitting dry leaves below can alert deer to your presence.
6. Bow on a Rope
If you’ve never hunted from a treestand, and you’re wondering how you’ll get all your gear up to the stand, here’s your answer: A rope. It’s simple and effective.
Always use a pull-up rope or cord to lift your bow and other gear to the stand. Never climb with gear in your hands. Just tie the rope to your stand’s seat or a nearby limb. The rope should end at roughly head height above the ground. That ensures you can get your bow or crossbow on and off the rope without it touching the ground.
7. Hangin’ Out
Even the largest treestand platforms provide only about 5 square feet of space. Therefore, all gear is best stored by hanging it on the tree’s trunk or nearby limbs. Specialized hangers for bows and crossbows screw into or strap onto the tree and keep your bow available. Hang the bow so it’s on the same side of the tree as your bow arm when looking forward from the stand. Make sure you can grab it quickly and quietly with minimal moves.
8. Quiver Stash
Some bowhunters like hunting with their quiver attached to their bow. Most do not. That means one more thing to store when hanging up gear. The objective is to keep your quiver handy should you need a second shot. For right-handed bowhunters, place a small hook on the tree’s left side (as you face the tree) as high as you can reach. Then hang your quiver there close to the trunk. The height keeps your arrows from interfering with shots on that side of the tree, but easily accessible for follow-up shots.
9. Pack Placement
Other gear can be hung closer to the tree. Small screw-in hooks will hold calls, binoculars and other lightweight items. Use a more substantial hook for a hunting pack, which is usually heavier. I hang my pack high enough to keep its pockets accessible without bending over much. Hang it far enough around the tree’s backside so it doesn’t interfere with any shot opportunities.
10. What to Pack
The time of year, species you’re hunting, and length of your hunt all play big roles in deciding which gear goes into your pack. Mainstays in my pack include an extra attachment strap. The strap not only connects my life-line to the tree, but also connects my harness tether to the tree in the absence of a lifeline.
Other essentials include an extra pair of gloves, a beanie and lightweight rainwear. Next up are snacks, water, knife, sharpener, flashlight, headlamp, marking tape, toilet paper, compact emergency kit, and an extra release aid.
If you’re new to treestand hunting, these tips should help make things safer, and more comfortable and organized. And if you’ve never bowhunted from a treestand, it’s time to try it. Few things are more remarkable than a bird’s-eye view of a forest awakening at dawn.