Life is full of choices. Paper or plastic. Ford or Chevy. Coke or Pepsi. Tree stand bowhunters at some point have to decide whether to hunt from a climbing stand or a fixed-position stand. And for purposes of this discussion, fixed-position includes hang-on and ladder stands. Basically we’re talking about stands that you hang ahead of time and leave in place. What’s the best choice? Which one is right for me in the situation I’m facing? The truth of the matter is, it’s not fair to say climbers are better than fixed-positions, or vice versa. Today, manufacturers make high-quality stands of both types. And, most bowhunters I know use both kinds of stands at different times. But there are factors we all should consider when figuring out where and when to use each.
A climbing stand allows hunters to be mobile, and to hunt anywhere they choose to go.
PUBLIC OR PRIVATE LAND?The type of land you hunt could dictate which type of stand you use. For starters, it might be illegal to hang and leave stands on some public lands. So unless you want to haul a hang-on stand and a set of climbing sticks, or a full ladder stand, in and out of the woods each time you hunt, a climber could be the only practical choice. But let’s say either type is legal. Now you have to think about stand security. On public land, you know there could be lots of people walking past your stand site. If you haul a climber in and out of the woods on your back, there’s nothing for anyone to steal. Leave a hang-on or ladder, however, and it might not be there when you return. You can lock your stand to the tree, and/or you can remove lower ladder sections to impede access. I believe if you make it difficult for someone to steal a stand, they’re not going to mess with it. But the truth is if someone is determined enough, no stand is 100-percent secure. Quite frankly, just because you’re on private property doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect people with sticky fingers to walk by. Trust me on this one. I once had a ladder stand stolen from a patrolled piece of private land where I have permission to hunt. I’ve heard it said that “POSTED” signs are like beacons to trespassers, because they know there won’t be many people around and the hunting is probably good.
Placing a stand in a good spot months before the season opens negates the need to have to carry a climber each time you hunt that spot.
The bottom line is, if you think a fixed-position stand might get stolen, then use a climber. But if you feel comfortable leaving a stand in the woods, then by all means plant a hang-on or ladder. It’s nice to lose the weight and bulk of a climber on your back each time you enter and leave the woods.
HOW FAR IN?The distance you have to “hoof it” to a stand site is something to consider when choosing between a climber and a fixed-position stand. Carrying a hang-on or ladder one time to a hunting spot far away from the truck and leaving it is a lot easier on the back than lugging a climber in and out on every hunt. On the other hand, if you don’t have to go too far, then a climber might be the right choice.
It’s a snap to slip quietly into a pre-hung, fixed-position stand.
ANYONE ELSE IN THE WOODS?Besides the potential for theft, knowing whether or not other hunters will be in your hunting area is a factor to consider. A hang-on can be a good or bad thing for you in a crowded section of woods. I know when I see a hanging stand, I keep moving in search of a place no one else hunts. So when you’re dealing with hunters like me, planting and leaving a stand is a good thing because it serves as a reservation, so to speak. It keeps hunters like me away from your spot. On the other hand, there are hunters who see a fixed-position stand and think, “Oooh, this must be a good spot. I’m gonna hunt here.” In that case, your stand serves as a sort if invitation to others. I’ve had other hunters squeeze in on me many times – especially after they discovered I shot a nice buck from a certain stand. In that case, using a climber helps keep your exact hunting locations secret.
The goal of every tree stand hunter is to get on top of unwary deer.
TREE TYPESI’m fortunate to live in a place where tulip poplars are in nearly every speck of woods. These tall, telephone-pole trees are ideal for climbing stands. I use mine liberally when I’m hunting those woods. But not every place in the country is littered with tall, straight trees. And even if you’re hunting a section of woods with nice climbing trees, there might not be any growing in the exact spot where you want to hunt. In such places, a hang-on might be required.
RUN AND GUNAs bowhunters, most of us have all been there. And if you haven’t yet, you will. You set up in a spot and quickly notice all the deer activity is some distance away that’s out of bow range. If you’ve got a climber, relocating is a snap. But if you’ve got a hang-on or ladder, moving is more complicated at best and maybe even impossible. So if you want to stay mobile when you’re on the hunt, a climber is probably best.
Climbing stands are ideal in places where you have tall, straight, limbless trees.
RUN SILENT, RUN FASTGetting into a stand quickly and quietly is important to any bowhunter who doesn’t want to spook deer that might be hanging out nearby. Well, in that case, you can’t beat having a stand already in place. Slip in to your spot, climb your pre-hung stick or ladder and you’re ready to hunt. With a climber, you’ve got to take it off your back, attach it to the tree and then climb. That takes far more time and creates much more noise.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?There are probably as many reasons for using a climbing tree stand or a fixed-position stand as there are bowhunters. Which do you use, and why? Let us know by commenting below.