Safety, comfort and ease of use are key traits in a tree stand, and several models on the market deliver the total package.
By Bill Winke
If we learn best from our mistakes, by now I must be a genius. I've certainly made my share.
My first tree stand is a case in point. The huge, homemade steel stand weighed at least 35 pounds. I would have plunged to the ground in short order had I tried to climb with that monster on my back, so I had to pull it to the proper height on a rope — a big rope — banging and bouncing off limbs all the way. I wanted to stay a step ahead of the deer, but by the time the rut started, my spirit had been crushed.
A poorly chosen stand makes hunting miserable. On the other hand, a good stand not only makes your time more enjoyable, it also makes you a more effective hunter. We face enough challenges from the deer themselves; we don't need tree stands that make the hunt harder.
Here's a look at several current stand styles, so you can choose the one that best complements your hunting:
FIXED-POSITION TREE STANDS Fixed-position stands are pulled up to the proper height and locked in place on the tree by way of a strap or chain. Such stands are at their best when you're hunting new areas, because they have the flexibility to attach to a wide variety of trees: angled, large, small. Some trees might only have a two-foot length of straight trunk. If you can't position your stand right there, you'll have to hunt someplace else.
In general, strap-on stands are quieter to install than chain-on models and are easier to lock into exactly the right positions. Chain-on stands are more secure if left in the woods from year to year, but they must often be wedged into position; their installation isn't as precise.
Summit Headhunter Lite
SUMMIT SPECIALTIES now offers an excellent new line of fixed-position stands that will serve the needs of mobile stand hunters. There are three stands in the new line: the Headhunter Mini, Head-hunter Max and Headhunter Lite.
All three stands attach to the tree by means of a heavy nylon web strap. A loop integral to the strap is used to capture a hook-shaped plate at the top rear of the stand. The stand hangs from this loop.
Not surprisingly, the Lite is the lightest of the three at 10 pounds. It will fit any tree from 8 to 22 inches in diameter and has an aluminum platform with an aluminum slat floor that's 20x24 3/4 inches. The stand has a built-in, under-seat storage pouch.
The Max has the largest platform, again aluminum grate, at 21x24 3/4 inches. It weighs in at 17 pounds and also features the storage pouch. The Mini also utilizes a grate floor, has a platform size of 18x24 3/4 inches and weighs 14 pounds.
MULTIPLE-POSITION TREE STANDS These mounting systems permit you to put the stand up, cut your shooting lanes and then take the stand down without removing the bracket that attaches the stand to the tree. Having several such mounting brackets/pins allows you to set up multiple locations and carry the stand with you each time you hunt. Such systems are highly portable and eliminate the expense of extra stands. As an added advantage, you don't have to hang the stand initially, just the bracket or pin. This is easier and safer.
All three Headhunter fixed-position stands fall into this category. The only item you need to carry up the tree when setting the stand is the strap. Once it's in place and necessary limbs have been pruned, you simply pull the stand up on a rope and hook it onto the strap's loop. It's a simple, quiet system that minimizes the risk of being heard by deer as you set up the stand, even in pre-dawn darkness.
CLIMBING STANDS The most comfortable tree stands are self-climbers. They all offer the benefit of eliminating the need for steps or sectional climbing ladders. Of course, if you get a climber, first be sure your area has straight, limbless trunks on which to use it.
Success is often a matter of spending enough time in good spots to have the right buck come by. But you must be there when it happens. In short, don't underestimate the importance of being comfortable and staying long. No stand style accomplishes this goal better than the climber.
SUMMIT manufactures 10 models of climbing stands. All have aluminum construction and a "no-pins" method for adjusting the tree-circling cable system.
On the side of pure luxury is Summit's Revolution. It has a big (platform 20x28 3/4 inches) and ample padding; in fact, along with the high padded backrest there are padded arm rests, a fully padded sling seat and a padded footrest that can double as a climbing bar for stand-up, sit-down climbing. This aluminum stand weighs only 24 pounds.
The 20-pound Broadhead Back-packer is the company's lightest climber. Made for bowhunters, it has an open seat that permits easy shooting in all directions. The padded sling seat and armrests make the stand comfortable, though there's no backrest. The seat nests inside the 20x28 3/4-inch platform for easy packing.
Between these extremes is the popular Viper Ultra. It has a footrest built into the 20x28 3/4-inch platform, a fully padded climbing bar/safety rail, padded armrests, a fully padded backrest and a pivoting gun rest. This aluminum stand weighs 22 pounds.
Tree Lounge climbing stand
If maximum comfort is your goal while hunting above ground level, TREE LOUNGE makes your ideal stand. This climber is unlike any other on the market. It's called a "lounge" for a reason: You literally recline in the stand as you wait for a buck to show up. It's almost like sitting in your favorite chair while you watch a hunting video. The stand climbs using the stand-up, sit-down method. Once you reach hunting height, you pivot around and settle into the sling seat.
Tree Lounge has always sol
d its stands direct from its factory; however, starting this year you'll also be able to get them from a national network of retail dealers.
The company offers 16 stands, all variations of the basic design of the original Tree Lounge, the System 1-A. The System 1-A features the company's trademark parallel-bar sling seat system. There's also a small foot climber, but no platform. The stand doesn't fold for transport; rather, it telescopes down to 33 inches and extends again to its full length of 75 inches when you reach your tree. It fits trees from 8 to 18 inches in diameter and weighs 19 pounds.
Several variations on the system make it more flexible and comfortable. For example, the Bowhunter Special features a bowhunting adapter, a camo seat pad, a bow holder and a platform so you can stand to shoot. This stand weighs 24 1/2 pounds.
The Gun Hunter Special features a gun holder, a large platform for stretching and a fully padded sling. Other stands are slight variations, but all utilize the same reclining seat style and assortment of optional accessories such as additional pads, platforms, blinds and gun/bow holders.
Tree Lounge also offers extended versions of each stand to fit hunters who are 6 feet, 2 inches or taller.
CONCLUSION Wherever you hunt whitetails, and no matter if you're carrying a bow or firearm, at least one of these stand options should work well in your woods. Today's professionally made tree stands are sturdier, more stable and more comfortable than ever, and picking the right one will increase not only your enjoyment but also your success this fall.
2003 WEB DIRECTORY -- TREE STANDS Summit