Hang'em right: there's much more to hanging a tree stand than just getting it fastened to the trunk. think your way through every step and your hunt will be safer and more productive.
Someone else had hung the stand, and they'd put it a foot higher than the top of the climbing sticks. I'll admit right up front that, even though I was wearing a safety harness and it was firmly attached to the tree, I was scared stiff being in that stand. It shifted left and right whenever shifted my weight. I wondered how I'd ever stay steady if I had to stand up to shoot. Fortunately, no deer ventured near before it was time to climb down for lunch.
Hands down, that was the worst tree stand I've ever been in. Spend a few hours in a poorly hung one, and you'll really appreciate the good ones.
No pun intended, but a good tree stand setup is no accident. One that's quiet, comfortable, safe and easy to get into and out of and well hidden from approaching deer requires serious thought. And that's true regardless of where you hunt. Different tree species (and sizes) across North America present different challenges for hanging stands, but here are some tips to keep in mind when you hang your stands for this deer season--wherever that might be.
GO AS BIG AS YOU CAN
When choosing a stand for hanging, think about the fact you very well could be in it for up to 12 hours at a time. Do you really want one with a platform barely bigger than your feet? Go for the biggest stand you can fit into the tree. There are many inexpensive stands with large platforms on the market today, so price is no excuse for picking a small one.
The bigger the platform, the more room you'll have to move your feet into better position for a developing shot. Such stands also tend to have bigger seats, which means you'll have room to shift your weight as needed. Having a lot of room in the tree is more comfortable, and it will make you feel more secure. The last thing you need is to get vertigo because there's hardly any metal under your feet as you stand to grab your bow.
Any time you ascend a tree, you must think specifically about safety. Wear a full-body safety harness approved by the Treestand Manufacturers Association. And while attaching yourself to the tree by the tether on your harness is better than nothing when you're hanging a stand, a better choice is a lineman's belt.
Most safety harnesses include loops or rings at the hips that can be used to create a lineman's belt, which is a safety belt commonly used by workers who climb utility poles. Basically, wrap a suitable rope or strap around the tree, connect it properly to the hip loops and you have a lineman's belt.
This setup allows you to lean back when you're standing on your tree steps, freeing both hands while still keeping you firmly connected to the tree. If you use just the harness tether, you'll have to constantly hold the tree with one or both hands to keep from falling.
AVOID SCREW-IN STEPS
It's not always possible, but try, try, try to avoid screw-in steps. For one thing, they'll damage the tree. Some states don't allow them on public ground for that very reason.
Besides that, they've been known to break under pressure. Hunters leave them out in the elements, and they start to rust and weaken. Eventually, they can break. Even if they don't, they're pretty sharp on the ends. If you do fall, even an intact tree step can cut you open. Also, if not installed properly they can pull out of the tree when you put your weight on them.
Opt instead for stacked climbing sticks or individual ladder sections that strap to the tree. They're far more reliable than screw-ins, and they're just plain easier to put up and take down. If you must use a screw-in or two, be sure to pull them at the end of every season--for the tree's sake and yours.
A BETTER WAY TO LIFT
Now that your climbing device is set, it's finally time to think about getting your stand up the tree. You of course can pull it up using a rope, but that's awkward and hard on the back--not to mention that, until it's up, the stand will be pulling you toward the ground.
Here's a better way: Securely hang a pulley in the tree above the spot where you plan to attach your stand. Then run a rope through it. If you have a buddy handy, he can hoist it to you as he's standing on the ground. If you're by yourself, you can hoist the stand from the ground, tie off the rope, then climb up and transfer the stand to the tree. Either way, the pulley acts as a third hand, holding the stand's weight while you hang it. If you've hung even one stand while holding all of its weight as you maneuvered it and strapped it in place, you know how valuable a "third hand" can be.
PLAN FOR HAND-HOLDS
Be sure your climbing device extends well above the stand, so you have something solid to hold onto when you step onto and off the platform. You don't want to have to bear-hug the tree to get in/out. That's not a good grip.
Tree stand accident statistics indicate most falls occur when a hunter is transitioning from the climbing device to the platform or vice versa. You need to climb to the top of your sticks or steps, then step sideways, or even down a bit, onto the platform. That's a safer transition.
And plan that critical step. If you hang the stand to the right of your climbing device, you'll want to have your left foot firmly planted on it, then step onto the platform with your right foot. Of course, reverse that for a stand hanging to the left of your climbing device. Avoid crossing your legs to step over your anchored foot to get into or out of the stand. That's a recipe for tripping.
GET THE WIGGLE OUT
A solid climbing stick and a solid stand platform are critical for keeping you safe. When you're any distance off the ground, sudden, unexpected movement of whatever you're standing on can cause you to lose your balance. Your body already is going to be tenser than if you were on the ground, and any unanticipated movement will only aggravate the tension.
So make sure nothing moves: not the stand and not your ladder or steps. Tree stands are meant to hang. Your weight is what locks them into the tree. So don't put something under it for the platform to rest on, such as a screw-in step or nails, thinking those will improve stability. Let it hang.
HOW HIGH TO HANG How
far up the tree you go depends on various factors, of course. For starters, you can only go as high as the tree itself will safely allow. On the High Plains or in woods growing back from the clearcut stage, that might be only 7-8 feet off the ground. In other places, such as in mature woods in the Southeast, the sky's practically the limit.
Naturally, just because you can hang at 30 feet doesn't mean you should. Higher isn't always better. Yes, 30 feet helps you escape a deer's eyes, nose and even ears. But many hunters simply don't feel comfortable that far off the ground, opting instead to stay 12-18 feet up.
Once you get above 20 feet or so, you're likely out of a nearby deer's normal line of sight. So it's easier to move and get away with moving, especially if you have a broken background (from the deer's perspective) and a bit of cover around you. But the higher you go above 20 feet, the harder it is to score a double-lung hit at distances under 25 yards, because your shot angle is so steep.
A tree stand's purpose is to give you an ambush advantage. That's what matters. Hang yours only as high as necessary to gain that advantage.
BEST SPOT ON THE TREE
Take your time deciding exactly where on the tree to place the stand. Remember: In addition to being in position to shoot a deer, you need to be comfortable and above all, safe, while you're up there.
Don't hang where there's a big knot sticking into your back or where a branch keeps you from standing up straight. Don't hang your stand in a spot where you can't get the platform level from side to side or where your body is pitched forward. Leaning slightly back toward the tree is far better than leaning forward. And of course, you want to make sure nothing is in the way while you're sitting or standing. (Check to make sure there's plenty of clearance to draw your bow.)
, Any of these considerations might mean you have to abandon the tree you really thought you wanted to hunt from. But don't force yourself into the wrong tree. Keep looking for the right one. If you're uncomfortable or unsafe, your hunt is likely to be ruined anyway.
USE A LIFELINE
More and more, whitetail hunters are employing lifelines along with their hang-on stands. And this is smart. I mean, we're taught to attach the safety harness tether to the tree at ground level when we use a climbing stand, so why wouldn't we be attached at ground level when climbing into a hang-on stand? A lifeline is a rope that stretches from above your stand platform down to the ground. It's attached to the tree at both ends. This rope of course must be rated to hold more than the weight of you and your gear. Rock-climbing ropes work great.
- You'll need another piece of rope tied into a Prusik knot attached to the lifeline. You hook your harness tether to this knot, then slide it up and down the lifeline as you climb up and down. If you fall, the Prusik knot will tighten its grip on the lifeline and stop your fall.
In areas with at least a decent amount of hunting pressure, it sure seems deer are learning to watch out for danger in the trees. If you just slap your stand onto the side of a tree in a stand of timber where every trunk resembles a telephone pole, you're going to stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe not every deer will spot you, but it only takes one to ruin your day.
So find a spot where you can hang your stand in some cover, such as underneath or among branches. (Again, remember the need for shooting clearance.) Setting up in this way certainly will help break up your outline. Remember, a deer is looking up at you from the ground, so your silhouette will be against the skyline.
One of my favorite places to hide is where two trees are very close together. I'll hang my stand on one and face the other. When I'm in my stand, I blend in with the two trunks.
THIN YOUR LANES
Clear shooting lanes are a must--especially if you're hunting with ar-chery equipment. So once your stand is set, take a look around to see where you might need to do some brush trimming to get a clear flight path for your arrow.
But don't overdo it. All you need is enough room to get an arrow through--not a tractor trailer. I've seen hunters cut every branch around their stands that might deflect arrows, no matter where a deer could be standing. Again, you want some brush around, so an approaching deer's view of you is obstructed. Not to mention that deer feel much more comfortable in cover than in the wide open.
So rather than go crazy with your saw or shears, strategically cut a few narrow shooting lanes in different spots around your stand. Then, when a deer is working toward you, just wait for it to step into one of them.
If you're strictly a gun hunter, you might feel it unnecessary to trim around your tree stand at all. And in many cases--especially overlooking a field or right of way--you'd be safe in taking that approach. But be sure you can shoot to every trail and opening within range.
Even if you expect the shot to be at a deer in the large opening in front of you, it can pay to have options for shooting into the cover behind and to either side.
As with every other aspect of whitetail hunting, there's an art to hanging stands. To increase your sightings and shot opportunities, put some extra thought into your hang-on setups this season. After all, the goal is to be a safer, more effective whitetail hunter every time you leave the ground in pursuit of your quarry.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
To find out still more about safety standards and helpful guidelines on the proper use of elevated stands, visit: tmastands.com.