There was a time when hunter would visit the hardware store, pick up a bag of nails and some wood and head to their favorite spot to erect a stand. Treestands, when used correctly, are one of the whitetails hunter's greatest advantages over their prey. In this day and age, hunters have a vast array of methods to get above a whitetail. The type of treestand you choose depends on the situation and surroundings you’re hunting in.
First and foremost, a hunter must read the manufactures instructions on the gear they are using. He or she must also remember to wear a safety harness while climbing into and using a stand. The majority of accidents and injuries sustained while hunting come during the climb into or out of a treestand.
The ladder stand is used simply by leaning it up against a tree and strapping it around. It is one of the easiest to climb into and out of, but limits the hunter's mobility because of its bulkiness. One thing to look for when selecting a ladder stand, is finding one that uses nylon straps rather than a metal chain. Straps will allow the hunter to cinch the stand much tighter around the tree, creating a much more stable stand.
In instances where the tree is too large for a climbing stand or hang-on stand, a ladder is great to use. A hunter can elect to buy their own tie down straps that are longer than normal in order to secure the stand to the tree. A ladder stand is also great to use when tree is not perfectly straight.
A disadvantage of using a ladder stand is the fact that it is quite large and if not installed well before the season, the deer may be spooked by the ladder section rising from the ground. As I touched on earlier, it is also bulky and not easily moved.
Climbing stands offer hunters the advantage of the surprise attack over whitetails. A climbing stand allows the hunter to select a tree, and within minutes be 20 ft. with no sign left behind. This stand comes in two sections which allow the hunter the climb the tree while in the stand. There are two versions of these stands: a sit and climb style, or a hand climbing style. The sit style allows the hunter to sit while pulling up the bottom section with his or her feet. The hand style, which takes more strength to use, requires the hunter to brace themselves with their forearms while pulling up the bottom section.
This stand allows for the surprise attack. There is not ladder leaning against the tree, nor are there any steps or climbing sticks attach to the trunk. It can be backpacked in, installed around the tree by cable or belt and quietly used to reach as high as the tree allows. Many of them also have a bar across the front for added safety and a great gun rest. Most also have padded seats, backrests, and arm rest for added comfort which makes them hard to beat for an all day hunt.
Some climbers are a bit bulky to carry on your back for long periods of time. If you plan on hunting a deer section of woods that will require a long hike, you’ll want to look for a climber that is light weight and is compact while strapped to your back. Some climbers weight less than 20 pounds, while others are over 30 pounds and extend a few feet off the hunter back while in transport. You will also want to think about the area you hunt in. A climber requires a tree that is virtually straight and has little or no limbs to allow the hunter a quick and quiet climb. In some woods this is hard to come by, while in others, such as the pine forests of the south, they are easily found. Climbers are also limited to the size of tree they can be used on. The majority of them are confined to a 6-24 in. diameter tree. The strap or cable will either not be long enough to go around the tree or be too loose to make the stand stable.
A hang-on stand is simply a stand that is hung to the tree and reached by using climbing sticks or screw in steps. The majority of them are lightweight and not too hard to install. They come in a variety of platform sizes. Some guys would rather a small platform which is easier to hide in the often time bare fall woods, while others would rather a large platform that allows them some movement. It is up to the hunter to decide which suits him better.
These stands can be hung well before the season and left alone until the hunter decides to sit in it. If a tree is crooked at the bottom then straightens out or too large to attach a climber, the hang-on will allow the hunter to bypass that and set it up at their desired height. Some hang-on's have adjustment systems that allow the hunter use it in a crooked or leaning tree.
There are two forms of climbing sticks: those that piece together to form a ladder, and ones that are in individual sections. The individual ones allow the hunter to adapt to a somewhat crooked tree or tree that have limbs that you need to snake around. They also allow the hunter some mobility since they can be pieced to together, strapped up and carried in and out with the hunter. The ladder style requires a straight tree, but they give the hunter a continuous climb that is supported by the ground and multiple straps around the tree.
Screw-in steps are great to use on large based tree since there are no straps to go around the tree. They can also be spaced however the hunter wishes. For shorter hunters they can be spaced very short, while taller hunters can put them further apart. They are cheap for just a few of them, but in order to get twenty feet up in a tree requires a good number of them. In the long run, to get up to the hunters desired height, screw in steps and a good set of ladder style climbing sticks will cost virtually the same.
The type of stand that you will use greatly depends on the area you are hunting. The types of trees will either limit you or allow you to use whatever stand you choose. One thing to remember is, you get what you pay for. Don't try to save a few bucks when purchasing your next stand and get one that isn't safe. The stand is the only thing between you and the ground, so choose a quality made, safe stand and always wear your safety harness.