The air is crisp. The leaves are golden. And you’ve got the best view around in your tree stand. It’s the perfect hunting scenario!
Tree stand hunting is one of the most productive ways to hunt. It puts you above the ground so you have a better view—and it gets you away from the keen senses of your quarry.
Today’s tree stands are safer and more comfortable than ever before. So if you haven’t tried tree stand hunting, it’s time to give it a whirl!
Here is our guide to tree stand hunting for beginners with our best tips to make your first hunting trip a success.
Choosing the Right Stand
It’s important to choose a stand that fits your needs. If you’re hunting on public land, you’ll need something different than if you own your own land. Let’s take a look at the three main types of tree stands and some of their individual pros and cons.
Climbing tree stands, like the Summit Viper SD, consist of two parts. A floor platform and a seat platform. These platforms are separate from each other to allow you to climb up the tree.
They attach to the tree using a cable that circles around the tree and snaps into each side of the platform. The platform also has a V-shaped bar with knife teeth that dig into the tree giving the stand a firmer grip.
To use a climbing stand, attach each platform to the tree, making sure they are both set firmly into the tree. Stand on the foot platform and move the seat platform up the tree, high enough so you can sit on the front bar. Then raise the foot platform to a level just under the seat by placing your feet into the foot straps and pulling it up toward you. Now stand on the foot platform and move the seat platform up again. Repeat this process until you’ve reached the desired height in the tree.
Climbing stands are great if you’re looking for portability because they pack up tight and you can carry them on your back. They’re lightweight, relatively quiet, and can support a heavy load. They work well if you’re hunting on public land or if you like to take your stand down after every hunt.
But you’ll only fit one person into a climbing stand. And they’re small so you won’t have a ton of room to move. Plus, it’s hard to put a climbing stand into most trees. The tree has to be straight with no branches to get in the way of the platforms as you climb up.
Hang On Stand
Hang on stands are similar to climbing stands in that they’re very portable and you’ll climb up the tree to place the stand. Our favorite is the Muddy, the Boss XL because of its comfortable seat and wide stance platform.
If you’re looking for the ultimate portable stand, a hanging stand is your best option. They’re smaller and lighter than climbing or ladder stands. And they’re easier to maneuver into the tree.
To set up your stand, you’ll need a set of climbing sticks like this Big Game Quick-Stick Climbing System. You plant the climbing sticks into the tree, one at a time using a harness to secure yourself to the tree while you make your way up. Then you place your hanging stand at the top.
With this type of stand, you’ll have more options for which tree to hang it in because it doesn’t have to climb up the tree the way a climbing stand does. Since you bring it up the tree using the climbing sticks, you can put it in a tree that has low branches or isn’t perfectly straight.
The drawback to this type of stand is that it has more parts to keep track of. And it might take you a little longer to set up than a climbing stand would.
The ladder stand is the most stable of the three types of stands. Ladder stands come as one unit that you assemble before you take it out into the field. But they’re great if you want more room to move or want to hunt with more than one person. We like the Big Game Guardian XLT because it has the capacity to hold two hunters and up to 500 lbs.
Ladder stands must be set in place before your hunt because it takes some work to get them set up. And you can’t put one up yourself. We suggest using three people to set up a two-person ladder stand. One person to climb into the stand and secure it. And two people to hold the ladder.
These stands are heavier, so you can’t bring them in on your back. You’ll need a truck or ATV to take them out to the hunting spot. But they can attach to almost any tree, as long as it’s big enough to meet the load requirements of the stand.
And you can leave high-quality ladder stands out for several seasons without having to move them around. There are some additional steps to take to ensure your ladder stand remains safe if you do this. And we’ll get into that later in this article. But if you’re looking for a stable, sturdy stand that stays put, the ladder stand is your best bet.
Choosing the Right Spot
It’s best to scout out your spot at least a week before your hunt. If you’re using a ladder stand, this is essential to get the stand up in time. And if you’re using a portable stand, you want to know that there are good trees in the area that can support your stand.
Take into account how you’re hunting: rifle, shotgun, or bow. Obviously, you’ll want a shotgun or bow spot to be closer to the deer. So keep that in mind while scouting your spot.
Look for signs of deer traffic. Deer droppings, footprints, and tree rubs are the most common ways to identify deer. Also, consider sources of food and water. Place your stand between a source of food (such as a cornfield) and heavy woods to catch them while they make their way back from feeding.
Don’t put your stand up too high. First, it’s more dangerous to do that. And second, it cuts off your angle and puts you further away from the animals.
But you also want to avoid placing it too low in the tree. This negates the advantage of sitting in the tree in the first place. And it raises the risk that the deer will see or smell you. We suggest 15-20 feet as the prime height for tree stands.
Choose the position of your stand on the tree based on shooting lanes. You can clear out shooting lanes before hunting season (and if you are on your own land or have permission to do so).
But if you can’t clear out lanes, place the stand in view of the spot with the fewest obstructions. Also, stay upwind of the deer. You can take steps to control your scent, but give yourself every advantage by staying out of the wind as best you can.
It’s also a great idea to have more than one stand. During the hunting season, you’ll find there are hot and cold areas for deer traffic. Having more than one spot scouted out gives you the best shot at finding the most traffic. And if your stand is portable, don’t be afraid to move if your spot isn’t working out.
Safety is so important in hunting. But tree stand hunting adds another level of safety that you must consider before you hit the trails.
Always place your stand on a live, healthy tree. Never choose dead or diseased trees. And make sure the tree is large enough in diameter to support the stand based on the stand’s safety specs.
Check that the bark is in good shape to hold the stand. Certain trees have flaky bark and if your stand is secured only to the bark, you run the risk of slipping. Choose trees that have rough, secure bark.
Before every hunt, inspect your stand and harness. Make sure all clasps, carabiners, and bolts are functioning properly. Tighten screws so that your stand is nice and sturdy.
This also applies when you leave a ladder stand out over the offseason. Before you climb into the stand, do a visual inspection every time to make sure that there are no missing bolts or screws. And before you leave the stand for the season, loosen it up so that it’s not so tight on the tree. The tree will grow and change during the offseason and you don’t want this affecting the integrity of the ladder stand.
Always wear your safety harness! Most tree stands come with a harness. But you can always invest in a heavier harness if necessary. Or a replacement harness if yours gets old or torn. Almost all tree stand accidents come from falls, so make sure you’re safely attached to the tree at ALL TIMES. That includes climbing up, climbing down, and sitting or standing during the hunt.
Never carry your gun or bow up to the tree stand with you. Hook it to a rope and pull it up after you’ve settled yourself in the stand. And always make sure your gun is unloaded when you pull it up into the stand.
Here’s to Successful Tree Stand Hunting!
Are you ready to start tree stand hunting? We hope these tips and tricks give you some ideas to get started.
Remember, choose a stand that works for your needs. Do you need a portable stand? Or one that’s more stable? Look at all your options.
Scout out your spot several weeks before you hunt. Make sure the tree is alive and in good health. And always keep good tree stand safety in mind!
Need help choosing the perfect tree stand? Visit one of our locations to talk to a Gander Outdoors hunting expert. They can give you advice and point you in the right direction for all the gear you’ll need for a successful hunt.