It's not often talked about. But as fun and effective as tree stand hunting is, certain irritations come with it. From set up to simply just hunting in it, prepare to be pissed off at least once this season.
By Shawn Lentz | PUBLISHED September 30th, 2022
Nine years after adding tree stands to my bow hunting tool kit, it wasn't until my early season archery elk hunt last week that I became fully aware of my newfound ambivalence. Tree stand hunting is annoying.
I assure you I'm 100% pro-stand hunting. I've found it to be the most beneficial way of hunting elk in one of my particular areas. But that doesn't mean I don't get torqued when I've busted my butt to get set up, then realize my climbing sticks are too far away, and I have to Cirque du Soleil into my stand.
Here are some reasons why tree stand hunting might get on your nerves.
It's Gear Intensive
Putting in stands is a lot of work. But the workload is doubled for those that don't have the luxury of driving their tree stand rigs right to the tree.
Hang-on tree stands, ladders, safety harnesses, ropes, and more–it's a lot of gear for public land hunters to pack in a couple of miles or more.
Depending on your resources, the presence of locked gates, and the layout of your area, you might have to make multiple trips to get your tree stand and camp gear in. Don't forget you also have to pack it all out afterward, possibly after bringing out an animal. When you're done, it will feel like you've been destroyed in an Iron Man comp. Have ice and ibuprofen on hand.
A climbing tree stand is an option and will cut down some on gear. But if your chosen tree has limbs, you'll have to saw them off very close to the trunk. If there are a ton of branches, you're gonna be cutting a while. That also means hiking a pole saw in with everything else.
Consider if a tree stand is the best hunting style for your area before hauling everything in. Mobile hunting or even saddle hunting may be a better way to go.
Tree Stand Placement and Prep Requires Effort
The mental and physical gymnastics that come with working out the placement of your stand, finding the best tree (concerning wind direction and shot orientation), putting it up, then clearing vegetation for shooting lanes can be taxing . . . and annoying.
It takes a certain amount of athleticism to climb trees with a lineman rope/belt and put a stand in it. For the aging deer or elk hunter with a deer camp bod, we are left wondering where the hell the strength-to-weight ratio of our 20s went.
First, there are the ladders to put up and cinch down so they're not moving under your feet when you climb. As you make your way up, don’t underestimate how sketchy these things are before you get them tightened up. Once the ladders or climbing sticks are solid, then you can put up your stand and safety rope. Tree stands that are all one piece can be a struggle when you're precariously hanging in a tree. You may as well rig up a 3:1 pulley system to pull that SOB up. Let's face it, you've got more time than stamina.
I've spent many an afternoon spewing more expletives than Gunnery Sergeant Hartman at those stands. I'll never go back to them.
These days I use Millennium tree stands, which are a little easier to deal with. The Millennium hang-on stands have two parts: the stand itself (the seat and platform) and the receiver, which anchors the tree stand to the tree. You simply connect the much lighter receiver to the tree first, then the stand slides in and locks into the receiver.
Everything is More Tense 20 Feet Off the Ground
I believe the increase in elevation is directly proportional to the increase in stress level. Everything is tenser when you're 20+ feet off the ground. Especially if you're not particularly comfortable in a tree stand anyway.
For me, I'm more comfortable in a deer stand than I used to be. But I'm still apprehensive and move around very cautiously when I'm in one. It's a strange irony for someone who spent several years navigating big mountain crevasses and climbing rock faces from Truckee to Smith Rock.
I mean, the platform flexing underneath me when I stand up isn't exactly comforting. Not to mention I have a penchant for creating Final Destination-like death scenes in my mind. This paranoia for sure compounds irritation levels.
The Very Nature of Tree Stand Hunting is Rife With Annoyance
There are times when it goes smoothly, and there are times when it's just one Three Stooges moment after another. One moment your bugle tube lanyard is getting caught up on your bow; the next, you're trying to dig binos out of your pack, and your jerky falls out, hitting the dirt.
Maybe your hunting gear isn't easily accessible because your cheap-ass camo doesn't have any pockets. So, everything ended up in your pack, which is now awkwardly strapped to the tree and difficult to get into.
Perhaps you forgot your release back at camp, or you realize your stand is thirty feet high (good) on one side of the tree but nearly eye level (bad) with your targeted big game on the other side. You can start to see the gravity of the situation.
This might sound like one man's bitch-fest, and I suppose it is. The annoyance factor is a function of the level of preparedness and being in the right mindset. Everything begins with preparation and follows out from that.
The best option is to start off on the right foot to keep from rushing around like a crazed lunatic. Set yourself up for success. Chances are you'll reduce the amount of aggravation on your next tree stand hunt.
Shawn Lentz is a full-time copywriter, outdoor writer, and former Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish hatchery specialist. He’s written for online and print publications such as Pelican Outdoor, Wide Open Spaces, Boone and Crockett Club’s Fair Chase Magazine, deerhuntingguide.net, and more. For more info, go to www.shawn-lentz.com