When buying a tree stand, the first consideration is the type of environment you are going to hunt in. If your hunting involves several types of environment, you may need more than one type of tree stand.
The second consideration is your personal comfort needs:
- How long are you going to be seated?
- What is your body shape, particularly the bit going on the seat
- How comfortable do you want to be when sitting?
- How much protection from the elements do you want?
The third consideration is your capabilities with respect to heights and fitness:
- How high are you comfortable climbing?
- How high are you capable of climbing?
- How fit are you to safely accomplish the climb?
- If the area you are going to hunt is in woods that have trees that are relatively straight with few limbs up to the height you are comfortable climbing, a lock on or hang on stand is as suitable as a climbing stand. You can also choose a ladder stand for this type of environment. Your decision about which stand is better will depend on your climbing capabilities and hunting strategy.
- If you want to be mobile and carry your tree stand with you and be able to hang it in several locations in one day, then a climbing stand is preferable
- If you have done some pre-season scouting and have identified your tree, you will probably want to put your climbing steps in prior to the hunt and have a hang on stand. There are climbing systems available that attach to your boots to prevent putting in climbing steps, so you can adapt this strategy so that you can be mobile and also carry a hang on stand
- If you have carried out pre-season scouting and have identified your tree, want a stand that is stable, and you don’t want to have to climb up the tree itself, a ladder stand is your choice. It can be carried in on the day of the hunt, but is more successful if it is in place prior to the hunt
- If you have carried out your pre-season scouting and have identified the area you want to place the stand, and there are no suitable trees, or you want stability and protection, possibly for more than 1 person, a tower stand is your option. It does mean you will probably need an ATV or 4×4 to transport it in, and it will probably remain in the same location for at least the season because of portability and so the deer can get used to it. For this reason, you need to choose you site very carefully
- If the area you are going to hunt in has trees with lots of limbs or low hanging branches, a climbing tree stand is unsuitable.
- You can use a hang on tree stand in this environment if you are comfortable climbing
- You can also use a ladder stand if you can find a tree that has no limbs up to the height of the ladder stand, on the side of the tree you wish to place the stand. If the branches are small that are in the way, these can be pruned away prior to placing the ladder stand
- A tower stand can also be used in this environment
- If the area has no trees or no suitable trees [such as in brush country], then you will need to use a tower stand
Once you have decided on the type of tree stand you need, the next consideration is the level of comfort you need.
- Hang on tree stand. As these stands are essentially only a seat and a footrest, they offer limited comfort. The most important part is the seat – the level of padding it has. The cheaper models have minimum padding, so the price may be initially attractive, but that will soon wear off after a few hours sitting on them. It is better to pay a bit extra money and have a thick padded, comfortable sized seat that you can sit on comfortably for hours. Some of the cheaper models also have a small footrest area – which can also mean a cramped sitting position. Remember you will be spending many hours sitting on it, so you don’t want to be focusing on how uncomfortable you feel – your attention should be looking out for the deer. The seat should be able to fold up or down, so you can alternate between the sitting and standing position
- Climbing tree stand. These stands comprise two parts – a chair and a footrest, to enable you to put your weight on one part, while you lift the other part up, enabling you to ‘inch’ you way up the tree. These types of stands offer a high level of comfort, from a basic chair to a soft, comfortable lounge type of seat. You can choose from many levels of comfort, which is usually reflected in the price. When using these types of stand, you will either face the tree, or be facing away from the tree for hunting. Some stands allow you to choose the direction you hunt from. Also check the size of the seat so ensure it will accommodate the size of your body. The different models made by different manufacturers come with a variety of features such as shooting rails, foot rests, camo padding, detachable gear bags, scent-proof seats, multiple seating positions and heights, safety harness included, back pack straps, sit down/stand up climbing, quick attach/removable seating, climbing seat opens and swings out of the way for better bow shooting, extra wide seats etc. These features allow you to choose your level of comfort and style of hunting
- Ladder tree stand. The ladder stand is basically a seat attached to a ladder. The level of comfort is determined by the seat size and padding on the base and armrests. They can come as 1 or 2 person stands.
To further increase the comfort with all of the above stands, there are some accessories that can make your time in a stand more comfortable. These accessories are mainly for protection from the weather. There are 2 main types – protection above you, and protection around you. The protection above you is like an awning or umbrella.
It can either attach to your stand, or to the tree to keep most of the rain, snow and sleet off your body. The protection around you is like a skirt encircling the stand. It may also provide protection from the wind below blowing up through the stand. They obviously also provide concealment.
It is vital that the tree stand you purchase is:
Your best assurance of safety is to buy a tree stand that has the approval of the Tree stand Manufacturer’s Association [TMA]. Tree stands that are certified by the TMA are commercially designed using the highest quality materials, and tested to meet high standards.
Once you have found a tree stand that meets your requirements, you also want to check that the safe weight limit of the tree stand will support your weight.