Thursday, September 18, 2008

Making the right treestand choice

© By Othmar Vohringer

It often happens that readers send me emails in regard to a post I made on one of my blogs. Some of these emails are comments and others are requests for more information or advice on the subject. One such advice seeking email came in after I posted the article Buckle up on Outdoors with Othmar Vohirnger. The email writer wanted to know what treestand model and brand I would recommend for him. Before I go any further let me explain that I am always hesitant to make recommendations without knowing the area hunted and the physical condition of the person. There are many variables that should be considered before parting with hard earned cash to purchase a treestand.

In the following article I will try to explain the most important considerations that should influence the choice of treestand that’s right for you. Basically treestands are divided into four models. These are: fixed position stands, climbing stands, ladder stands and tripod stands. In a moment I will discuss each model in more detail with you but first lets talk about what all stands should have in common and what they require regardless of model and brand.

All treestand models require some agility and strength on the part of the person to transport, install or set up. In the many years I hunt from treestands I have yet to find a model that is easy breezy to set up and transport. Even the lightest models, which are usually of the fixed position type, can have a considerable weight when combined with climbing sticks or screw in steps. A light quality stand weighs around 10 to 14 pounds but add to that the weight of the steps at around 6 to 8 pounds and you could end up with close to or just over 20 pounds that you have to haul on your back to your stand location.

I strongly recommend going with a stand that has been manufactured by a member of the Treestand Manufacturer Association (TMA). Members of this organization periodically undergo unannounced product safety and quality checks to guarantee quality of the materials used and the workmanship. Stands of TMA members usually are a little bit more expensive than those of non TMA members. In my opinion, on matters that could mean the difference between life and death, it is well worth spending the extra bucks.

A good treestand has a decent sized standing platform of at least 22 inches by 29 inches and a comfortably sized and padded seat. There is nothing worse than sitting perched like a crow on a branch for up to six or more hours. An uncomfortable seat will make treestand hunting a battle of endurance and lead to fidgeting around in the stand and this in turn alerts deer to your presence.
Personally I have a great dislike for small standing platforms. When I stand up to take the shot I want to be able to move my feet around without having to look down where I step. The platform should be big enough that I will be able to shuffle my feet without the toes hanging off the edge.

The treestand has to be easy to install and hang onto the tree. It is a very different matter to hang a stand onto a tree with both feet on the ground compared to 15 feet or more off the ground with the feet balancing on a narrow metal rod step and the person tied to the tree trunk. I like fixed models that can be positioned on the tree with one hand while the other hand is used to strap the stand to the tree trunk.

In a climbing treestand I look for the same things as in a fixed stand: comfort and a decent sized standing platform. In addition I like stands that can be quickly and quietly assembled with only a few bolts. Again it is easy to assemble a stand in daylight with lots of different nuts and bolts using a wrench, but try that same task in the dark and it will became a frustrating task to find small nuts and bolts. Forget it if you happen to drop a small bolt in the dark, you never will find it again.

Once I have attached a treestand in its final position on the tree it has to be rock solid. I hate stands that wobble or squeak and make popping noises each time that I have to move. In short, a good quality stand wears the TMA seal of approval, is comfortable, easy to install and quiet. The brand of the treestand is of no consideration to me– what is important is the model design. All manufactures that comply with TMA standards provide a safe quality product. Discussing brands is like discussing cars. Each person has his or her favorite. There are those that like Fords and others that hate them. It’s the same with treestand brands.

Now lets look at the different models of stands. What stand model suits your needs best depends on what you’re comfortable with but to an even greater degree on what habitat you hunt. If you hunt brush country then a fixed hang-on stand or a climbing treestand would be useless and so would be a ladder stand, because there is no suitable tree to mount the stands on. In brush country, grasslands, cornfields or cattail marshes the logical choice would be a tripod stand. Tripod stands are heavy and need two and sometimes three people to set up depending on the model and size of the stand. A tripod stand is the least portable of all stands. They are heavy and require many parts to assemble. Once set up these stands cannot just be picked up and transported elsewhere without disassembling them completely.

If your hunting area consists of big old Ponderosa pines a climbing treestand is out of the question because most climbers only accommodate trees of up to 18 inches in diameter. Here the typical choice would be a fixed position or ladder stand with extendable fastening belts or chains.

In a river bottom with gnarly willows or other areas consisting predominantly of bent and gnarly tree trunks a fixed position or ladder stand would be the best choice as well. On places with slim straight tree trunks a climbing stand is the way to go. Overall the climbing stand is in my opinion the easiest stand to set up and very mobile but its application is very limiting due to the fact that you need straight trees of a relative small diameter without lower branches that could interfere with climbing up the tree. Climbing stands require considerable strength and agility from the hunters. Not only do you have to move the weight of the stand up the tree but also your own body weight. Because of that I would recommend a “sit down stand up” climbing model rather than the models that require you to hold the climber part above your head and then pull the stand with your feet up while having all the weight held with your arms alone.

Of all the treestand models the fixed position and ladder stand are the most versatile that can be used in a wide variety of treed habitats. Ladder stands are very safe and usually very comfortable too but they tend to be quite heavy to transport and require two people to set up due to their weight and bulkiness and the rather elaborate assembly required for most models. The fixed position stand is quick to set up with a little practice but not as mobile as the climbing stand. A fixed position stand, unlike the climber, is not a “set up and hunt right away” stand. The assembly of a separate ladder or installation of screw in steps takes up considerable time. Once the ladder or steps have been installed the stand needs to be placed in position, taking up more time. Typically a fixed position stand is set up well in advance of a hunt, so is a ladder and a tripod stand.

Each of the different stand models has its advantages and disadvantages. A serious treestand hunter should own at least four fixed position stands that are installed well in advance of the hunting season at different locations. This permits the hunter to quickly change locations from one stand to the next without any delay to wherever the deer action is. To this arsenal of fixed stands, depending on what we have discussed above, I recommend that that you also should own at least one climbing or ladder stand. Owning several stand models gives you the opportunity to use stands in a wide variety of situations and that often will make all the difference you need to be a successful treestand hunter.

Read related articles:
Buckle Up
Making Hunting From a Treestand Safer
Treestand Hunting Tips

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Anonymous said...

Terrific advice Othmar, especially about the TMA. Members of the TMA have standards by which they must abide, and the stands must measure up too.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Absolutely true Kristine. The manufacturers of treestands do what ever is needed to provide a safe product but the hunters must do their part too to keep safe by wearing the provided safety harnesses and follow the owner manual that comes with each stand.


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