Climbing Treestands: How to Use Hunting’s Portable Platforms
Climbing treestands are a mobile bowhunter’s best friend. They’re portable, comfortable, and easy to set up and take down. However, they require a little practice, strength and coordination. Let’s discuss how to use a climbing treestand and explore why they’re popular. When we’re through, you’ll know if they’re the right treestand for you.
How Do Climbing Stand Work?
Climbing treestands have two pieces: The top section is the seat and the bottom is the platform. Tony Overbaugh, vice president of product development for Sniper Treestands and X-Stand Treestands, said climber stands leverage the bowhunter’s body weight to secure the stand’s “teeth” or climbing blades to the tree.
How to Use a Climbing Stand
To start, the bowhunter attaches both sections to the tree at an upward angle to compensate for the tree’s gradual tapering with height. By angling the climbing sections at the base, the platforms level out as bowhunters climb to their preferred height. Before climbing, bowhunters must attach the tether to their full-body safety harness to the tree overhead. As they ascend, they move the tether and each section upward. Never try to adjust your treestand straps or cables once you leave the ground. If they require adjusting, descend to ground level.
This climbing stand safety video by Interactive Warning Systems Inc. demonstrates how to use these stands safely. Notice how the man moves the top portion of the stand up and transfers his weight onto it to secure the climbing blades to the tree. Then he uses his feet – which are secured by stirrups — to pull the bottom platform up, shifting his weight back onto the lower piece to secure it. For safety, the bowhunter moves his safety harness as he climbs, and keeps the seat and foot platforms connected with a strap. Also, climb without your bow and gear. Attach a tow rope to the stand and pull up your equipment once you’re secured into position.
Before using a new stand, read and understand the manufacturer’s instruction manual. Each stand has weight restrictions. In addition, adults should supervise users 16 and younger.
John Louk, executive director for the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association, said manufacturers’ instructions and educational videos are important, but practice is essential.
“It’s hard to learn how to use a climber without feeling it,” Louk said. He recommends hands-on practice at ground level with someone who knows how to use it. Go slowly and take short, methodical “steps” or movements.
Don’t Forget Treestand Safety
Safety is vital. A 1993 Deer & Deer Hunting treestand safety survey of its readers found that more than one in three hunters who use treestands or other elevated devices will someday hurt themselves in falls from their tree or stand.
Watch a free treestand safety course by TMA here. Please note this course does not replace practice, a bowhunter education program, or a hunter education course. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Michigan Bowhunter Education Course also offer good statistics and information on treestand safety.
Selecting the Right Tree
Climbing treestands require hunters to select a live, straight tree with no limbs on the bottom 15 to 20 feet. Low branches prevent climbing. Carry a handsaw to remove small branches. Dead trees or trees that lean or curve are dangerous.
A 2008 Deer & Deer Hunting article suggests avoiding slick, smooth-bark trees like aspens (poplar), hickories and young maple trees. They’re dangerous to climb, especially when wet, because the stand’s climbing teeth won’t grip the tree as securely. Trees with scaly bark, such as a cottonwoods, aren’t ideal either. Louk said to look for oak, pine or sweetgum trees, which have thick, heavy bark and provide security as the climbing blades penetrate the trunk.
Also study the tree trunk’s diameter. Manufacturers set a minimum/maximum tree diameter for climbing stands. Check the instructions for specifics. The best trees have 16- to 24-inch diameters. Reminder: Account for the tree’s taper as you install your climber.
By selecting the right tree, using your harness and taking your time ascending and descending the tree, you’ll safely use and enjoy climbing treestands. They’re lightweight and include backpack straps, which make them portable for on-the-go public-land bowhunters. They’re also quick and easy to set up, which makes them ideal for last-minute location decisions. That also means you won’t disturb your hunting spot by going in early to hang a stand and then returning. Plus, by hauling your stand with you, you never have to worry about someone using, stealing or sabotaging it.
Unlike a ladder or hang-on stand, which require one installation, you must often carry and install climbing treestands each trip into the woods. That can make walking to your hotspot challenging. These stands also requires some strength and coordination. Self-climbers also aren’t suitable for many children, or people with back injuries, heart problems or other health issues that could cause dizziness.
Climbing stands usually don’t require much maintenance, but always inspect your equipment before use. You might have to tighten bolts, lubricate hinges or touch up the paint to ensure the stand doesn’t squeak or shine. And if security pins, bolts or cables wear, rust, crack or break, buy replacement parts made by the manufacturer. Don’t substitute components.
Visit an archery retailer to buy a quality climbing stand and increase your mobility this season.