A tree stand is an elevated platform used by hunters to gain a superior vantage point. These platforms may be simple or relatively complex, open or closed. The tree stands that bowhunters and gun hunters find the most versatile tend to be simple and easy to set up. Tree stands have their downsides but can be highly beneficial to the hunter for a variety of reasons.
Why Use a Tree Stand?
A tree stand, at its simplest, consists of a platform attached to a tree. It may also include a seat, although this isn’t a requirement. By elevating your position relative to the ground, the tree stand increases your field of view significantly, allowing you to see farther.
Detection and Visibility
One way animals detect hunters is by scent. By elevating your position in the tree stand, you are lessening the chance that your prey can detect your smell in the surrounding area. This elevation also increases your visibility to other hunters. Your bright orange vest will stand out more because there is less foliage in the way. Making yourself visible to other hunters is a great way to stay safe and alert others you are hunting in the area.
As you’re aiming downward, should your bullet or arrow miss or pass through your intended target, it will hit the ground safely. A stray arrow can travel a surprising distance, especially if launched at an upward angle.
Bow Hunting Stands
There are a variety of different bow hunting stands to choose from. These include climbing, ladder, and hanging variants. Two of the most common types are:
1. Climbing tree stands
A climbing tree stand is one of the simplest designs available, consisting of a platform and seat. There are no steps or ladders. You’ll climb the tree using the stand — it’s part of the set-up process. The simplicity of this variant also reduces the weight in comparison with other designs.
2. Ladder tree stands
A ladder tree stand consists of a platform and seat with an integral or removable ladder. These types of systems can be convenient to enter but, depending on the design, may require multiple people to set up.
Selecting the Right Tree
Regardless of the type of tree stand that you decide to take into the woods, you’ll need to ensure that the tree you intend to scale is in good health. Look for signs of rotting, dead branches, and detached bark. You need a tree whose trunk is neither too big nor too small. It must have a sufficient diameter to both permit climbing and also support the stand.
Aiming From a Tree Stand
First, when aiming your bow, bend at the waist or knees to adjust to the necessary shooting angle. You want to preserve your anchor point as much as possible. Always apply the fundamentals of archery and practice consistent follow-through for the best results.
Second, when aiming at a deer or other game animal, take in your surroundings. Your dominant eye can only focus on one object at a time. Focusing on the game animal can cause you to miss intermediate-range obstacles, such as tree branches, that may interfere with your arrow’s flight path.
Safety Above All Else
When erecting, climbing, or disassembling your tree stand, safety is critical. Your priority should be to wear a full-body harness. This harness encircles the tree trunk and attaches to your body at two points. You’ll wear this harness for the duration of your hunt. If you lose your footing or the stand fails, the harness will prevent you from falling, potentially saving your life.
During inclement weather, ensure that you are wearing proper footwear. You are at increased risk of losing your footing when climbing a tree stand that uses a ladder. A pair of boots with a non-slip tread can reduce this risk. You should also inspect your boot treads for mud or dirt that would reduce traction.
Don’t fall asleep in your tree stand. Although you should have a proper safety harness in place at all times, you still risk falling out of your stand if you doze off.
Prepare for the Weather
In an open tree stand, you are exposed to the elements: wind, rain, and snow. As a result, you should ensure you are dressed appropriately during the autumn and winter months.
Cold weather can not only increase your risk of hypothermia and frostbite, it can also cause trembling, which will affect your accuracy and control regarding your weapon. While this is true regarding all ranged weapons, it’s especially true regarding bows that require muscular effort to draw.
Proper Light is Key
If you intend to hunt after dark in a tree stand, you need to exercise caution. The darkness can be your friend, but you need to ensure proper visibility. You should, as a rule, have a flashlight in your possession at all times. Check the batteries and, ideally, pack spares.
However, while a flashlight should be part of your standard equipment, it can also reveal your position. A discreet alternative that allows you to see effectively under low-light conditions is a night-vision device (NVD). An NVD can be an optical sight for a weapon, a monocular, or a binocular system that you wear or hold in your hand.
Adequate light or visibility is also important for gaining sure footing. If you’re setting up a hanging stand, place the last step level with, or above, the platform. That way, especially when it’s dark, you won’t have to worry about shifting your weight and potentially losing your balance.
Lift Your Equipment
Don’t climb your tree stand with your bow or pack. Instead, fasten a cord or rope to your bow and lift it from the ground to the tree stand. This allows you to maintain control of your equipment without compromising your balance.
Maximize Available Space
Tree stands don’t provide a significant amount of space for equipment. The platform can only usually accommodate one person. As a result, many bowhunters hang gear from a tree branch or separate fixture.
Aside from standard hunting equipment — e.g., weapon and ammunition, camouflage clothing, hunting knife, calls, and scent eliminators — you should also pack a suitable first-aid kit, insect repellant, food, water, a way of starting a fire, and more. You may also consider packing duct tape, rain gear (e.g., a poncho), toilet paper, and at least one extra mechanical release (if you’re using a compound bow).
To understand more how a recurve bows work, read this article.
Disadvantages to Using Tree Stands
Bow hunting stands are not without their drawbacks. First, they’re heavy. When you’re carrying everything required for hunting, this can be an exhausting exercise. Some require multiple people to set up and vehicles to transport. Second, it’s noisy. When you set up a tree stand, take care that you don’t startle game animals in the vicinity.
A tree stand can be a valuable addition to a bowhunter’s equipment list. Regardless of the design, the tree stand elevates your position, improving your visibility and allowing you to take in your surroundings. By providing you with a superior vantage point, you can see your quarry farther away while also remaining undetected by animals on the ground.
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