Over the past several years it seems that the mobile "run and gun" style of bowhunting has become increasingly popular. You're hearing more and more about it, and what benefits it offers, but not always about the proper tools to get the job done. Since I adopted this style of hunting about 3 years ago I've gone through some serious trial and error trying to figure out what works, and more importantly what doesn't. Last year in a 10 day span of time my hunting partner/cameraman Mike Willand and I hung, hunted from, and pulled down 12 different treestand sets. Already this fall we've hung and hunted from 7 sets in just 3 1/2 days of hunting.
The first, and most important, component to staying mobile is your treestand and climbing system. After all, you can't be too mobile without something to sit on. You basically have two options here, a climbing stand or a lightweight stand and set of climbing sticks. Ladder stands and screw-in steps are out of the question. Ladders are too heavy and noisey to set up, and screw-in steps take too long.
Personally, I opt for the hang-on treestand and climbing sticks over the climbing stand. This allows me to get into virtually any tree in any location that I want to hunt - straight, crooked, a lot of branches, or no branches. Remember, mobile bowhunting is all about versatility and being able to get in quickly and quietly. My stands of choice are the Lone Wolf Alpha Hang-On and Lone Wolf Assault, combined with the Lone Wolf climbing sticks. This particular combo was developed specifically to be lightweight, quiet, and easy to set up. Perfect for the mobile hunter. Just be sure to either use the included backpack straps or pick up a set of padded straps, as they will make your mobile bowhunting a lot easier!
One great feature of the Lone Wolf climbing sticks is that they were designed to be stackable, and pack right onto their hang-on treestands. This creates a single package that is very quiet and includes everything you need to get up a tree and hunt quickly.
Once you've picked out your tree and you're ready to start climbing, safety is the next important factor. Having a full-body safety harness is a must. My harness of choice is the Muddy Outdoors Safeguard Harness. It is extremely lightweight, virtually tangle-free, and works extremely well. The 2009 model comes with a lineman's belt, which is great for hanging stands. I also use a Treehopper 3-in-1 lineman's belt as well, for those days when I'm only hanging stands and not hunting right after. Remember, safety is always of the utmost importance. No deer is worth risking injury or death, so please stay safe at all times!
Now that your stand is hung, you'll need to trim lanes. This is probably my least favorite part of the entire process. Its the noisiest, takes the longest, often times gets you all sweated up, and leaves your scent all over the place. However, if you're careful and take your time you can do it fairly quietly and with as minimal impact as possible. I carry 3 tools with me when hanging a new set that make my job much easier. The Treehopper Lanemaker ratcheting pruners, the Gerber Sportsman's Wood Saw, and the Hooyman Extendible Tree Saw.
The Lanemaker pruners are awesome for cutting through thicker branches with ease, and since they are made entirely of metal they won't break on you. After using lesser-quality pruners for many years I finally upgraded to these Lanemakers last fall, and never looked back. Get a pair of these, and you can thank me later.
My good friend Mike Willand turned me onto the Gerber Sportsman's Wood Saw last year as well. This small hand saw is light weight, fits in your pack or your pocket, and the blade is super tough and super sharp. I've been using mine for the past two seasons and it still cuts through trees and branches with ease. Plus if you happen to lose it or break it for some reason, they're only $12 and can be replaced without breaking the bank.
The Gerber Sportsman's Wood Saw - lightweight, compact, and great for hunters on the go.
The Hooyman Saw is another extremely useful tool that has really helped with my mobile bowhunting. The days of taping or tying a hand saw to a branch to be used as a makeshift pole saw are definitey over. This handy little saw comes in a 5' version that packs down to just under 14", and a new 10' version that packs down to around 24". The smaller saw fits great in your pack but does have its limits at only 5' long. The new 10 footer is great for reaching out further, and using the included shoulder strap makes carrying it in and out a breeze. This is a definite must-have for mobile hunters.
The Hooyman Extendible Tree Saw answered the prayers of many mobile bowhunters. No longer do you have to carry a full-size pole saw into the woods with you when hanging a new set during the season.
Another item that seems to slip a lot of people's minds is some type of bow sling. When you're humping all this gear into the woods on your back, and carrying just as much in your hands, being able to sling your bow over your shoulder is a wonderful thing. I use the Pole Mountain Outdoors Bowshield with gear pockets when I need some extra storage, and the GamePlan Gear Bow Strap when I don't. Both items are very easy to use and come in handy when you need a free hand.
Last but not least you can't forget the little items that always seem to come in handy. I keep my pack stocked up with extra straps for my stands and sticks, plenty of small gear hooks, a Realtree EZ Hanger, and of course a couple of bow ropes. One new product for this fall that's helped me keep my bow ropes organized is the Pine Rige Hook & Hoist System. I attached a few of these to the seat tubes of my Lone Wolf stands and now I can be sure that I'll always have a rope with me when I need it.
My pack of choice is a Cabela's fanny pack that I picked up several years ago, which is very similar to the popular Badlands Monster Fanny Pack. I need a big pack to fit all of my stuff in addition to my saws and whatnot. That would include my camera, binoculars, rangefinder, hat, facemask, calls, scent wipes, licenses, knife, flashlight(s), and usually some Pop-Tarts and a Gatorade. In addition, I use a fanny pack because it allows me to still carry a treestand and set of climbing sticks on my back with relative ease unlike a large backpack would.
Yours truly, on my way to hang a brand new set this past Sunday evening. After hanging the stand, trimming lanes, and getting set up in a new spot I had the opportunity to shoot two does that I elected to pass. Proving yet again that mobile bowhunting can be very productive if you have the right gear.
All in all, mobile bowhunting definitely has both advantages and disadvantages. It does require a lot more work, it does require you to carry a lot more gear with you, and can be quite noisey at times. But it also allows you to move in on hot spots and capitalize on the element of surprise when chasing whitetails. Having the right gear to get the job done quickly and quietly can quite often mean the difference between success and failure.