Hunting is a way of life in the United States, and we are here to help you be as successful on the hunt as possible.
Hunters rely on their knowledge and skill to track and catch their prey. Smart hunters also know that choosing the right equipment can really impact the success or failure of a hunt. One such piece of equipment is a tree stand. This item provides the hunter a sturdy place high up in a tree from which to watch for potential prey without being detected.
While there are many factors to consider in choosing a tree stand, the most important one is the characteristics of the land you will be hunting in. Different types of trees lend themselves to be best used by different types of tree stands. Even after choosing the right type of tree stand, hunters should consider other factors. Tree stands may have to be packed and transported to the site so size and weight matter. Hunters may spend many hours sitting in a tree stand. Thus, choosing a comfortable one is highly recommended. Finally, being able to set up and tear down quickly can maximize hunting hours.
There are three main types of tree stands: portable or fixed-position stands (also known as hang-on stands), climbing stands and ladder stands. Each version has advantages and disadvantages depending on the hunting situation and needs.
These stands are known as hang-on stands because they tightly hang onto a tree’s trunk and branches to provide a secure and stable perch. Hang-on stands are generally the most popular among hunters due to their stability and functionality.
These stands are perfect for trees that have trunks with a large diameter along with multiple branches. However, one reason that they are so popular is that they will work in just about any type and size of tree.
Using a set of tree steps or a tree ladder, the hunter can carry the tree stand high up the tree to create the perfect, secluded lookout. A basic hang-on tree stand consists of a seat and a platform connected together via metal poles or brackets. Carrying the tree stand up the tree is often made easier by using of a backpack-type strap. Once the hunter reaches the desired height, the hang-on tree stand is fixed in place with either a chain or nylon strap that encircles the trunk. After that chain or strap is tightened, the hunter can firmly push down on the tree stand to engage the bottom T-screws or spikes to provide support. Finally, the seat and platform are folded open for use.
The hang-on tree stand offers many advantages. Due to its construction, size and light weight, it is easy to store in and transport to almost any location. Its method of attaching allows hunters to reach almost any desired height and because they are firmly attached to the tree’s trunk, they are extremely quiet when in use. For those who plan a long hunt, upgraded versions that offer cushioned seats and padded backrests can definitely improve a hunter’s ability to endure long periods of sitting.
The disadvantages are few, but they do exist. Basic hang-on tree stands (the lightest ones) are really nothing more than a small seat and platform. With no padding and no extra space, they require a hunter to sit in a rather uncomfortable perch. Due to the high heights that can be reached, they can often trigger issues in those that suffer from a fear of heights. For those that prefer to move around to different locations during their hunting day, moving a hang-on tree stand is usually not very practical.
Hang-on tree stands do require some extra tools to use. As mentioned, a set of tree steps or a tree ladder will be needed in order to get the tree stand up to where you want it. Tree steps can be affixed to the tree via either a tie-on, strap method or via a screw-in method. Hunters should be careful to check for any rules regarding which type of tree steps can be used in the area they plan to hunt.
A couple of extra accessories to consider would be a support arm that forms around the tree stand’s outer edge. This arm will not only provide the hunter with a place to rest his gun or bow but also provide an added element of safety against falling. A hunter can add a footrest which will prevent having to dangle his feet and help with the level of comfort during a long hunt.
A climbing stand is a bit more involved than a hang-on stand in terms of pieces, but they do not require the use of tree steps or ladders. What a climbing stand does offer is the ability to quickly scale a tree and move between trees. That said, due to their construction and method of use, hunters will find most useful when climbing tall straight trees with fairly uniform trunks.
Climbing tree stands have two parts. The lower section is attached to the tree first and secured with a fixed and rigid chain or wire. Once that section is securely fastened, the hunter can then step up onto the lower section’s platform to attach the upper section. The upper section is attached in a similar manner as the lower section with a chain or wire encircling the tree’s trunk. Once the top section has been firmly attached in place, the hunter should test its stability by sitting on the seat before beginning the climbing process.
To actually climb the tree, the hunter will place his feet into two foot straps found on the lower section and use them to disengage the section from the trunk. By raising his legs upwards, he can move the lower platform higher up the tree. It is then re-affixed to the trunk by angling it slightly towards the tree and then pushing down. After that, the hunter can stand on the lower platform to be able to move the upper section farther up the tree. It is detached and reattached in the same manner as the lower platform. This process continues until the hunter has reached the desired height. Once locked into their final positions, the upper section will serve as a seat while the lower portion will serve as a footrest.
The benefits of climbing tree stands are plain to see. No tree steps are needed to complete the climb and the hunter can easily move from one tree to another as desired. They are simple to use and provide a fast climb. The disadvantages are mainly that these type of tree stands cannot be used in trees with bent trucks or lots of large limbs sticking out and that these tree stands can be somewhat weighty and cumbersome to carry.
There are no real extras needed when using a climbing tree stand although some hunters like to attach ropes with carabiner clips to haul up their hunting gear after getting into position. Hunters should look for climbing tree stands that come with clear instructions for assembly and use as well as one that offers the exact features they need for the type of hunting planned. Weight and size are, of course, very important as tree stands may need to be carried for long distances.
Definitely look for ones that offer quiet use to avoid scaring away prey and if a long hunt is planned, investigate the models that offer the highest level of comfort desired. Lastly, aim to purchase a climbing tree stand that offers the very latest and best safety features.
This form of tree stand is exactly what the name suggests. It is a ladder that is placed up against a tree and then secured into place. It is suitable for climbing almost any tree no matter its height or size.
Ladder stands are generally divided into sections of between three and four feet long. The sections are connected together to create a ladder with a fixed-position stand or platform at its top. This can range from a small seat with a simple footrest to a large platform with a blind.
When assembling a ladder stand, it is a very wise idea to have at least two people. After the pieces of the ladder are connected, a rope should be tied to a rung near one end. One person stands at the end of the ladder and puts his feet firmly on the ends while the other person lifts the opposite end and raise the ladder into place by moving his hands from one rung to the next one below.
After the ladder stand is leaned against the tree, it should be strapped in place at the bottom. Then, one person should climb the ladder while the other person holds it steady at the bottom. Upon reaching the top, the first person needs to wrap another strap around the tree trunk to secure the ladder. It is a wise idea to first secure a temporary safety line for the climber. and then a permanent one.
The advantages of a ladder tree stand ought to be quite obvious. First, they are as easy to climb as a regular ladder. They are also quite safe due to their stability. This makes them perfect for both younger, inexperienced hunters as well as older hunters who may not be able to climb trees. When in use, ladders stands are very quiet and can be made very comfortable with a few additions. These ladders are perfect for use on private land because they can be set up and just left in place or the entire season.
Their disadvantages stem from the benefits gained. Although it can be left in place for a long time, a ladder tree stand is just not as portable as the other options due to their weight and size. Carrying them to the desired location may require either a vehicle or multiple trips back and forth. Ladder tree stands also do not allow for great heights like hang-on and climbing tree stands do. Instead, you’ll likely be anywhere from 10 to 20 feet off the ground. Furthermore, the ladder itself may be noticed standing against the trunk and scare away prey.
Like the hang-on stands, there are several extras you can add to a ladder tree stand to improve its comfort and function. First, those who desire heights as high as 20 feet should add an extra support brace or two to improve stability. Those who would like more space can install a larger platform. Padded benches can easily fit on that expanded platform and some hunters might even prefer to add a skirt or blind to protect against the weather.
Hunters may also use tree slings which are similar to hang-on tree stands in that they must be used with tree steps. Rather than sitting on a perch, the hunter is suspended in a sling and very close to the tree. While this does increase the hunter’s ability to hide himself, using a tree sling is generally more uncomfortable than using a hang-on tree stand.
For those who may hunt in areas without trees, a tripod or tower tree stand is necessary. With three or four legs supporting the base, these tree stands are somewhat difficult to conceal. Hunters may use blinds to help cover up some of the stand or set it up next to a group of smaller trees to blend in. At the top, there is usually a rotating seat so that the hunter can shoot from any direction. Of course, with such a platform available, hunters find adding padded seats and other creature comforts a bit easier to do. These structures function best when left in place permanently.
This feature will impact the next two features of weight and platform type. Those who wish to have larger, padded comfortable seats and extra accessories such as gun and foot rests will need a larger platform. Consider the spacing between your seat and the footrest as well as the position of the seat in relation to the tree itself. Some seats offer the option of moving slightly away from the tree via adjustable settings.
This factor is determined not only by the type of tree stand you choose, but also by the material it is made of. Newer materials are making tree stands lighter, but the downside is that those materials often cost more. Think about how often and how far the tree stand will need to be carried when in use. Consider how you plan to hoist the tree stand up into place. Determine what extra accessories you desire and what support they will need as well as what weight they will add to your gear.
As the part of the tree stand where a hunter will spend the most time, the platform is a rather crucial feature. While some hunters may be content with just a small perch, others may find that they need more space. Those who need maximum space should consider using a ladder tree stand. Hunters who need minimal space may find that a hang-on tree stand is sufficient. In between these two extremes is the climbing tree stand. Consider whether the tree stand will need to support one or two people, but don’t get some so heavy to carry that it becomes impossible to use it.
This factor is mostly determined by the types of trees found in the area planned for hunting. If multiple types of hunting areas will be covered, purchase the most versatile tree stand available. Carefully examine the different mounting systems and choose the one that best meets your needs. A chain-on system is perfect for those leave-in-place tree stands, but they can make noise. A strap-on system offers a quieter operation, but can weather over a season’s time. A multi-position system allows you to leave your mounting system in place while taking your tree stand with you. That said, this last type also requires the use of fasteners for stability.
Traditional materials such as wood are only used for home-made and permanent tree stands. For the more portable modern tree stand, the metals of aluminum and steel are most commonly used. Aluminum provides a very light weight but not a lot of sturdiness. Steel is very strong but also very heavy. A newer option of carbon has greatly reduced the weight of tree stands while retaining strength. However, this new material also is more expensive.
SAFETY & ACCESSORIES
When using any tree stand, it is wise to use a safety harness. The most recommended one is known as a Fall Arrest System (FAS) due to its having three or four points of connection. Other safety features include armrests, gun rests and ropes for lowering and raising weapons.
Like almost every other pastime, hunting comes with a full array of accessories that can enhance the experience. There are special shelves for storing objects, belts that can hang from a tree or a stand and hold all your equipment, holders for both guns and bows, blinds and skirts, padded seats and cover systems to help the hunter hide from the prey.
There is no shortage of companies making and selling tree stands. Here are some of the most popular ones.
Choosing the best of any product can be difficult because what is best for one hunter is not best for another. With that in mind, here are the two most popular products in each category.
Suitable for both rifle and bow hunters, this product weighs only 20 pounds and comes with a backpack strap for carrying. It has a 4-point safety harness as well as an adjustable, padded seat. The 5 channel aluminum frame fold into an easily portable format. When in use, the product measures 36 by 20 by 36 inches and provides a solid front bar suitable for aid in climbing as well as a gun rest. This product uses sound deadening technology to provide quiet use and is covered by a five year limited warranty. Reviews on this product rave about its performance. Hunters use words such as “perfect”, “versatile”, “best” and “strong.”
This lightweight product is easy to carry at just 17.5 pounds. Its one-piece cast aluminum platform measures 30 x 19.5 inches and offers a contoured foam seat pad. When folded down for carrying with the backpack straps, the tree stand is just 5 inches thick. It includes bungee strap to aid packing and the platform itself features a unique 3-D camouflage design. It can hold up to 350 pounds and comes with a 6-point Fall Arrest System. When looking at reviews for this product, it is clear that hunters either love this tree stand or hate it. Those that love it speak about its light weight and how easy it is to carry for long distances compared to the Summit product above. Users caution that the climbing method with this tree stand is different and requires practice. In fact, those that did not like the product felt that way mostly because of the difficulty in climbing.
This tree stand is divided into three sections for easy carrying. It weighs 52 pounds and can support up to 300 pounds when in use. It features a full-body, Fall Arrest System as well as an adjustable ladder-support bar. The foot platform measures 17.25 x 12.5 inches and the seat offers 19.25 x 13.5 inches of space. It is attached to the tree with a sturdy ratchet strap and 2 additional stabilizer straps. It is assembled using a sleeve fit and pins. Hunter feel that this product is great when considering the low price. They overwhelming state that it is strong and reliable. Those that did not like the product complained that it was confusing to assemble and somewhat uncomfortable to use.
This tree stand offers room for two hunters and includes a blind. It is made of steel and features a dual-rail ladder construction. The curved and cushioned seat measures 36 x 15 inches and comes with a padded backrest and armrests. The 53.5 x 19.5 inch mesh platform is curved and sits 18 inches below the armrest. The product offers stabilizing straps and an adjustable ladder support bar. It weighs about 102 pounds and can support a combined weight of 500 pounds. It comes with two FAS harnesses and a safety video. Its sections are easily connected via a series of pins. Most reviews on this product are positive and hunters speak of its strength, comfort and performance. They do warn that it is heavy to transport. The few negative comments were in regards to the ladder’s finish and a concern about the quality of some of the accessories.
Guide Gear’s Deluxe Hang-on tree stand can hold up to 300 pounds on its 17 x 10 inch, padded suspension-style seat. Positioned 21 inches above the foot platform, this seat also comes with padded armrests and a backrest. The foot platform itself is thick mesh with cable supports and offers a roomy 24 x 29.5 inches. Made of steel, each seam is welded together for strength. The tree stand includes a Fall Arrest System harness for safety and two ratchet straps to attach the tree stand securely to the trunk. It is coated in a green powder to help prevent rusting. Hunters give it overwhelming positive reviews provided that the user is looking for a functional stand and not worried about the cosmetics of the product. They feel that it is an excellent product for the price. Those who disliked the product felt that the straps were not sturdy enough and that the stand itself would not stand up to weather as is. Still, they admitted that for the price it was a good product.
Made of steel, this tree stand can hold 300 pounds, but only weighs 19 pounds. This tree stand has a platform that measures 24 x 33 inches. The 21 inch sling seat can fold up to allow a standing position when shooting. It includes a footrest, a chain and backpack straps. This tree stand folds flat when not in use and sets up easily and quietly. It offers a durable power coat finish and meets or exceeds the TMA safety standards. In their reviews, hunters felt that this product more than met their expectations with its strength and performance.