Currently, hunting is described as a practice that involves seeking a game, identifying it, and pursuing it before capturing or killing it. The animal to be hunted is called the game. Regulations serve to differentiate between (acceptable) hunting and poaching (which is illegal).
Across human history, man has invented different methods of hunting, and one of these methods is called stand hunting.
Stand hunting, also known as blind hunting, is the practice of waiting for the game to appear into sight and then shooting it, with the hunter either concealed or perched at an elevated position. Basically, the hunter is stationary when shooting the game.
Historically, hunters climbed on trees and positioned themselves on thick and strong branches that served as platforms that allowed them to shoot games.
This came with the risk of falling down, and to mitigate this risk, a piece of new hunting equipment called the tree stand was invented to allow the hunter to hunt from an elevated position without using tree branches as his/her seat.
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The Tree Stand
A stand is basically any platform used to raise an object from the ground and ensure that it remains elevated.
An example of a stand is a tripod stand which is a 3-legged rack whose top surface serves as a platform where an object is placed.
If this top platform is large enough for a hunter to seat on it, as well as shoot from it, then this tripod stand can be used for stand hunting. Usually, most hunters prefer stands that can be fitted on trees and then raised or lowered to the desired height.
A tree stand is described as a platform that can be secured to tree trunks so as to allow a hunter to seat, or stand, on them and gain a vantage position that allows him/her to see the game and shoot it. Because it is usually used in blind hunting of deer, this stand is also described as the deer stand.
The tree stand gives the hunter an advantage over the game by providing an elevated hunting position which allows the hunter to have better visibility of the field, while making it hard for the game to see him/her, as well as preventing human scent from being directly wafted into the nostrils of the game.
The whitetail deer can easily make out the position of a hunter after smelling human scent of the hunter pitched on the ground.
Even though the tree stand gives the hunter a better view of the field as compared to hunting from the ground, foliage density and height should be considered when setting up the stand as thick and tall foliage require the stand to be raised far high up a tree so that one can look down into the foliage.
Likewise, foliage of nearby trees can obstruct view, and one may need to cut shooting lanes through these tree foliage so as to see the field.
Another thing that can shorten line of sight when using the deer stand, regardless of how high it has been placed, is fog.
The deer stand must be secured to the tree trunk and must be able to hold the weight of the hunter, as well as his/her hunting gear.
Moreover, it should serve other unique needs of the hunter, such as allow for bow hunting or shooting of hunting rifle from a standing or seated position.
There are therefore different types of tree stands to suit different hunting needs, but they all share a basic construction and functional design.
Basic Components of a Tree Stand
There are 5 basic parts that are connected together to form the functional whole that is described as the tree or deer stand. The climbing stand (which are explained later) has 4 parts. These parts are the climb (not mandatory in the climb stand), clamp, safety harness, stand, and seat.
1. Stand platform
This is the rugged platform that the hunter places his/her feet on, and it carries the weight of the hunter when standing. In fact, it should be able to carry the weight of the hunting gear and accessories that the hunter carries up to the stand.
As expected, it should be able to handle heavy loads and prevent slips. Usually non-skid material is layered on top of the platform so that the user stands on an anti-slip surface. The location of this platform on the tree trunk determines the height of the deer stand from the ground.
Most platforms are square or rectangle, or a customized derivative of these shapes.
It must be made of a rigid material with the build design allowing for reinforcement of platform corners and edges, sometimes using metal strips.
This platform can come with a brace, like a V-shaped brace, that secures it to the tree trunk. The brace can be bolted to the platform. This brace also allows the platform to be pivoted by means of hinges, and this allows the user to fold the platform and brace during transportation.
Regarding safety, the brace can use downward projecting spikes that are oriented towards the trunk to prevent slips. These spikes will sink into the trunk if the platform tries to slide down, and this prevents downward movement of the platform.
2. Seat platform
This allows the hunter to sit on the deer stand. It is either attached to the stand platform by a pair of support rods, or it is independently secured to the tree by means of braces and clamping mechanism.
Like the stand platform, it is pivoted in the deer stand so that one can collapse it during transportation or storage.
As expected, this seat platform is smaller than the stand platform, and some are a third the size of the stand platform.
Those that are attached separately from the stand platform have the advantage of allowing the hunter to adjust the seating height. Seat height adjustment is also possible if the seat and stand platforms are connected to each other using telescopic (support) rods.
In basic deer stands, the seat is just a rectangular solid platform. In more expensive deer stands, the seats are padded for comfort, while others feature padded arm rests and padded backrest for extra comfort.
3. Harness & Safety Features
This is the body harness that secures the hunter to the tree. It is called a safety harness and serves to prevent accidental falls from the deer stand.
It is therefore a personal protective equipment (PPE) that offers protection against falls, or as experts describe it, a fall protection PPE. The occupational safety and health administration (OSHA) organization classifies this fall protection PPE as a personal fall protection equipment (PFPE).
This fall protection PPE, stand platform, and clamping mechanism of the deer stand are the 3 parts of the unit that ensure that the hunter does not fall from the tree. As expected, one must always be secured to the tree by a harness when raising up the climb stand.
As expected, hunting from the deer stand without a harness predisposes the hunter to accidental falls that can result in catastrophic fractures and blunt force injuries which occur when one falls to a hard surface from a height.
There is also need to wear the safety harness properly to avert injuries associated with improper use of anti-fall straps.
The most lethal accident that can occur due to harness misuse is positional asphyxia. This occurs when the hunter falls from the stand platform and is suspended by a harness that is tightening around his/her torso.
This can reduce air intake and subsequently reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the brain and vital organs. This results in asphyxiation.
4. Climb Mechanism
As expected, the hunter must be able to climb the tree truck to reach the elevated stand platform. Some deer stands provide ladders that must be secured to the trunk to allow hunters to climb or disembark from stand platforms, while others provide climbing sticks which must be secured to the tree trunk via a clamping mechanism.
Climbing sticks are basically sections of ladders that can be fitted vertically on the pole. Other models provide tree steps that can be clamped, screwed, or nailed into the trunk.
Therefore, the climb mechanism allows the hunter to climb up the tree to reach the deer stand, and then after hunting, descend down the tree. Likewise, it allows the hunter to set up the deer stand, as well as remove it from the tree.
The aforementioned parts are found in deer stands regardless of their construction customization. As mentioned earlier, there are different types of tree stands.
5. Clamp mechanism
The deer stand must be secured to a vertical pole for it to be used. The tree trunk serves as this pole if it is able to hold the weight of the stand, mounted hunter(s), hunting gear, and other accessories; as well as withstand movements made, for instance, when taking a shot.
For this stand to be used, it should remain steady on the pole, and this is achieved by clamping it to the pole. The mechanism used to achieve clamping must be able to prevent vertical movements (that is, the stand sliding down) and lateral swings.
The clamp mechanism is made up of a combination of braces, thick cables, chains, and non-extensible harness straps that are tied around the tree trunk.
The chains and non-extensible straps can be attached to the stand and seat platforms by turnbuckles, and this allows them to be tightened around the pole so that the deer stand is clamped tightly to the pole.
Use of chains and straps allow for the stand to be fitted to poles of different diameters, that is, trees of different thickness. This is beneficial to a hunter who needs to constantly change the hunting spot.
Some stand platforms feature prongs in their rear frames that are oriented to penetrate into the pole if the stand starts to slide down.
Types of Tree Stands
There are 4 main types, and they are:
1. Hanging Deer Stand
In this stand, the seat is attached to the stand platform to form a unit that is then strapped or chained around the tree trunk.
It is the simplest type of tree stand. As expected, it lacks an inbuilt climb function and therefore its climbing mechanism is provided separately.
Usually, climbing sticks or tree steps are used to provide the climb function, though some hunting regulations prohibit use of screw-in tree steps (because they harm trees).
Moreover, the safety harness must be secured separately to the trunk. This stand is also called a hang-on or lock-on tree stand because it is suspended on the trunk.
Most of them use straps for clamping and are suitable for experienced hunters (mainly due to lack of guard rails). Even so, it has two main advantages; it can be fitted on any tree trunk, and can be easily setup on the tree.
As expected, this stand is lightweight to allow the hunter to carry it on his/her back when climbing the tree before setting it up. After setting it up, this stationary deer stand can be left in place for use in the next hunting trip.
Even so, the size of their stand platform is limited.
2. Climbing Stand
This has separate stand and seat platforms that are connected together by straps so that neither platform falls to the ground if the other is already secured to the tree. It supports self-climbing, and for this reason it is also called a climber.
To achieve self-climbing, the hunter secures each platform on the tree trunk with special teeth (and sometimes blades) on rear frames of the platforms allowing for easy and secure attachment.
Then the hunter climbs to the stand platform and raises the seat platform to his/her waist level, and then seats on the seat and loosens the stand platform before raising it up-to the seat level and securing it in place.
Then the user stands on the stand platform and raises the seat platform. Thereafter, the stand platform is then raised, and this process is repeated till the hunter reaches the desired height and the deer stand is clamped securely to the trunk before hunting begins.
This mobile-style of deer stand is portable and allows the hunter to easily and quickly reposition his/her hunting position depending on where the prey is.
Moreover, to descend the tree, the hunter must repeat the process (s)he used to raise the stand, but now in reverse, that is, the seat platform is lowered and then the stand platform is lowered, and this is repeated till the stand is on the ground.
As expected, no separate climb equipment is needed, and this stand must be removed after hunting (which ensures that it is not stolen).
This stand is usually heavier than the hanging stand and it creates significant noise when the hunter is raising it up the tree which can alert and scare nearby deer and game.
Additionally, this stand can only be used on straight tree trunks with medium girth and gnarly rough barks. There should also be no low-hanging branches.
3. Ladder Stand
In this stand, the standing platform – with its attached seat – is fitted onto a multipiece ladder. This means that once the ladder leans against the tree trunk, or is securely attached into the trunk, the stand is already raised into place.
It is also called a ladder-style tree stand. As expected, it is heavier and bulkier (and also pricier) than either the climbing or hanging stand.
This stand is usually transported by a vehicle to the hunting site, and requires at least two people to set it up. Moreover, the conspicuous ladder can be seen or detected by the game.
This ladder offers the following benefits: stability during hunting, safety, comfort, and large stand platforms for bow hunting or for 2 people to hunt together. Moreover, their seats can be padded and be outfitted with a guard rail.
Like the stationary hanging stand, this ladder stand can be left on the tree till the next hunting trip.
4. Box Stand
It is also called a tower, and its stand platform rest on 3 (or more) legs, and the seat is placed on this platform.
Expectedly, this stand allows the hunter to have a 360º view of the field, and some feature roofed enclosure to protect the hunter from the elements, as well as allow for hunting when it is raining. Some only have blinds for camouflage.
Because it is freestanding and not secured onto any tree, it is technically not considered a tree stand, but it is still considered a deer stand.
If the stand has 3 legs, then it is called a tripod stand, and the term box stand is reserved for models that rest in 4 legs or more. Most box stands are built using lumbar with the floor surfaced with anti-skid material. It can have a wooden or metal roof.
Once it is set up, the hunter needs to leave it in place so that animals become accustomed to its presence. Usually, this stand must be set up at the edge of forests, or on flat rolling land with shrubs.
Like the ladder stand, the box stand is heavier, bulkier, pricier, and more difficult to set up as compared to either the climbing or hanging stand.
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Hunting Tips when Using Tree Stands
Each type of deer stand serves a unique function. Still, there are universal hunting tips that the hunter must consider when using any type of stand, and the 2 main tips are:
A deer has a heightened sense of smell and can scent human odor even if the hunter is half-a-mile away. Moreover, the deer can smell oddities in its environment which alerts it of a predator.
The tree stand helps the hunter because (s)he is perched high above the deer and blowing wind can only waft a faint odor to the nostrils of the deer, while the stand location above ground increases the distance between the deer and the hunter.
Furthermore, the hunter has a greater field of view and can see the deer prancing or running away. Still, it is recommended that one uses an odor-masking spray to mask human scent. It is for this reason that veteran hunters pour animal urine on their hunting clothes.
A deer can distinguish noises in their environment, and this allows it to make out noises that are not frequently heard in its grazing field.
This also enables the deer to hear human footsteps, human voices, radio sounds, and even snacking sounds. Therefore, hunters need to minimize talking if they are hunting in pairs, and if the radio must be kept on, then its volume must be kept very low.