John's Journal...

Ups and Downs of Tree Stands for Hunting Deer

Day 4: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Kinds of Tree Stands

Editor’s Note: One size of tree stands doesn’t fit all. To choose an effective tree stand, first study the conditions in the area you hunt. Then select a tree stand to match them.

Click for Larger ViewFortunately, climbing tree stands have improved greatly since those early ones (see Day 3) and are now safer and easier to use – besides coming equipped with better climbing instructions. Here’s a preview of some of the types of stands available on the market today.

Climbing Stand:

Advantages: With the portable climbing stand, you need no other mechanism for climbing.

Disadvantages: Climbing stands are usually heavy, cumbersome and make noise when you climb. But these stands give the hunter mobility and the option of moving his stand as the deer’s feeding, bedding and travel patterns change. Climbing stands seem to be most-effective in areas with light hunter pressure. Because of the noise generated while going up and down the tree, if you decide to use a climbing stand, plan to be at your stand site early enough to let the woods settle down after you climb, and before you expect to see deer. A productive hunter once told me, “When I use a climbing stand, I go to my tree at least 1-1/2-hours before daylight. Then I have plenty of time to attach my stand quietly and climb slowly and silently, so as not to spook the deer.”

If you hunt in an area where you can attach your stand to the tree the night or the evening before you hunt, then you can save a lot of trouble and confusion on the day you hunt by already having your stand in place before you climb. As for me, if I’m going to use a portable climbing stand, I prefer a seat climber, which I’ve found is easier to use than a hand-climbing tree stand.

Ladder Stand:

Click for Larger ViewAdvantages: This may be the safest, most-practical stand for deer hunting.

Disadvantages: Other hunters will see and use the ladder stand you’ve set up in a prime spot. Also, ladder stands are heavy, bulky and not very portable.

“I’ve taken a large number of deer from ladder stands,” Dr. Robert Sheppard, a deer-hunting instructor from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, says. “If I could hunt an area free from other hunters, a ladder stand is all I would use. However, other hunters like to hunt from my ladder stands in the sites I’ve worked to find and set-up, after I’ve spent hours cutting shooting lanes and spent my money to buy the stands. If they hunt from my ladder stands when the wind is wrong, then their scent will be blown to the direction from where the deer should be coming. When I go to hunt that stand a day or two later, every deer around has been re-routed due to the human scent left by hunters utilizing my stands when the wind’s wrong. To have a productive tree-stand site, your stand must be in an area where no one else will misuse it. If you can put a ladder stand in a region like that, then use it. If not, utilize another type of tree stand.”

Lock-On Stand:

Click for Larger ViewAdvantages: Light, easy to carry, easy to put-on and take-off a tree.

Disadvantages: To use this type stand, the sportsman must have additional equipment to go up and down a tree. These stands are for serious hunters who have developed quick, quiet ways to move up and down trees in areas where strap-on steps, screw-in steps or drilling holes in trees and using bolts is advocated, rather than portable climbing stands or permanent stands. This type stand is quite popular. By using some type of steps, a hunter may be able to leave a lock-on limb kind of stand in a tree, take his steps down and return to it the next day. Some hunters leave three or four lock-on type stands in the woods during the entire season, and only hunt from them when the wind is right. Removing the steps means that most other hunters won’t be able to hunt from these stands – unless they’re carrying steps in their pockets. “You can stop most hunters from using a lock-on or a chain-on type stand by removing the steps,” Dr. Sheppard mentions. “However, if they spot that stand in the tree, they’ll assume you’ve found a good area to hunt. They’ll often hunt that same place either from the ground or from their own stand, which once again, can ruin the site for you. Although I hunt from lock-on stands, when I leave the woods, the stand goes with me.”

Painter’s Seat Stand:

Advantages: Comfortable, safe, portable and allows the hunter to shoot all the way around a tree.

Disadvantages: Sometimes clumsy to attach.

Generally painter’s seat stands are comfortable, safe and lightweight. Even if a hunter falls asleep in this stand, he won’t fall out of the stand, unless he’s having a nightmare. The sportsman can move all the way around the tree and adjust his stand to make his shot. By using a climbing belt and steps or bolts – the hunter is at all times fastened to the tree, which provides more safety than if a hunter isn’t attached to the tree when he’s climbing or standing.

Guidelines for Choosing a Stand:

Click for Larger ViewExperience, age, physical condition, hunting pressure or the lack of it, terrain and the type of trees to be climbed are all factors that determine tree-stand preference. Here are some suggestions in making the right choice of tree stand for you. If you . . .
1) don’t feel comfortable using steps or bolts to go up and down a tree, utilize either a climbing tree stand or a ladder-type stand;
2) have to travel a long way to your stand site, the lock-on or painter’s seat kind of stand weighs less;
3) want to spend 10 to 20 hours in a stand and be safe even if you fall asleep, then a painter’s seat type stand with a safety harness may be your best bet;
4) are hunting areas with little or no hunting pressure, then the ladder stand may be your best option; or
5) hunt places with high-hunter pressure, you may prefer put-and-take stands like the climbing stand, the painter’s seat or the lock-on type, so you’ll leave no sign of where you’re hunting.

I’ve hunted from and even fallen out of most types of tree stands. Lately, I’ve found the ground to be much harder than it once was, and I take longer to climb trees than I once did. Therefore, I have one philosophy of tree stand hunting that I rarely break – I don’t climb any higher than I want to fall. Tree stands today are the safest they ever have been, and more are available on the market than ever before. Today, a hunter can tailor his stand to his own needs, the type of land to be hunted and the conditions under which he’s hunting. Although there is no perfect tree stand for everyone, there are various stands to meet most needs. So, first decide what you need in a tree stand, and then choose the stand that best fits that need.

For more deer-hunting tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” Go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Why Hunt the Worst Stands for Big Bucks with a Tree Stand

Check back each day this week for more about "Ups and Downs of Tree Stands for Hunting Deer "

Day 1: Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips’ Deer Hunting Experience with Tree Stands
Day 2: The Value of Tree Stands for Hunting Deer
Day 3: How Many Tree Stands Do You Need for Deer Hunting and Problems You’ll Face Hunting from Tree Stands
Day 4: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Kinds of Tree Stands
Day 5: Why Hunt the Worst Stands for Big Bucks with a Tree Stand

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Entry 739, Day 4