Hunting for the Right Treestand

AJ Gall

What treestand is right for me? 

It’s a topic of constant debate and one that ultimately comes down to your style of hunting and the types of trees present on your hunting grounds.  Should I use a ladder stand?  A climber? Or a hang-on?  There’s no one right answer as to which type of treestand is the best, but each type certainly has its advantages and disadvantages.   Let’s dive into the strengths and weaknesses of each so you can decide which will be the right one for you.

Hang-On Stands

Hang-on stands are probably the most popular stand of choice for hunters and they come in many different sizes, designs, and price points.  Most notably, this is the stand of choice for most bow hunters due to its relatively large platform and rock solid feel, both key components for being successful with a bow and arrow.  These stands are the most stable and quiet of the three because they are strapped tightly and directly to the tree.  Most are equipped with a fold up seat which allows you as a hunter to tuck yourself close to the trunk for better concealment.  Another area in which these stands aid in concealment is their ability to be hung on large trees like oaks, as well as trees with lower branches – which is usually the exact type of tree I am looking for.

Although many prefer to hunt out of a hang-on, they do have some downfalls.  The biggest being you need a relatively straight tree or at least the portion you secure the stand to needs to be straight so the stand is safe and comfortable.  Every year, more and more tree stand manufacturers are coming up with ways to use these types of stands on less than ideal trees.  Many offer adjustable tilts and attachment angles if you’re willing to pay for it.  If you’re not familiar with hang-ons, they also require the use of a separate climbing system like climbing sticks or tree pegs to reach your preferred stand height.

Hang on treestandTip: Always use a lineman’s belt when hanging a hang-on treestand.  Not only is it the safest way to hang a stand, but it also allows for both hands to be free, which makes it 100x easier to strap it securely to the tree.

Pros: Quiet; concealed; versatile; bow hunter friendly; somewhat portable; don’t have to de-limb trees; you choose the height; ready to hunt after hanging stand

Cons: Difficult to hang; safety (open platform); climbing sticks/pegs needed; need a relatively straight tree

Ladder Stands

Ladder stands are probably the safest and easiest stand to use.  Again, you get what you pay for, but since they are attached to the tree and have a ladder for support below, many feel extremely safe and confident while using them and installing them.  The ladder makes for an easy climb, which may be ideal for older hunters, those afraid of heights, or hunters who simply hate the hassle of hugging and straddling a tree all the way up to their stand.  While commonly used by bow hunters, these are probably best suited for gun hunters or crossbow hunters as they typically come with a shooting rail (optional) and are made to be shot out of while sitting down.  The shooting rail also acts as a guard rail which can prevent an accidental fall.  One other bonus is the size variance of ladder stands on today’s market.  Most treestand companies make a double person stand, which is perfect for taking youth out or sitting with a companion.  Another mega advantage is that you can prop them up against just about any tree – curvy, tilted, straight or angled.  If a hang-on won’t work there, most likely a ladder stand will.

Setting up a ladder stand is fairly quick and easy if you have multiple people, but can be quite cumbersome by yourself.  Why?  Because of the weight.  The bulkiness and heaviness are two of the biggest knocks against ladder stands.  Most people prefer to leave these stands setup in the same tree year after year because of this fact.

Hunter sitting in a ladder stand

Pros: Safe; multiple persons; shooting rail; comfortable; work on most trees; easy set-up with 2+ people; ready to hunt after hanging stand

Cons: Heavy; bulky; noisy; need even ground; smaller standing platform; less concealed; shorter height (20’ max)

Climbing Stands

Probably the most intriguing of the three types is the climbing stand.  This is because you essentially only need to buy one and you’re set to hunt just about anywhere.  Hunters who have never used them usually have all sorts of questions.  Thus, I tell anyone who is thinking about buying one, to first try one out.  Obviously, mobility is the most attractive feature of climbing stands.  With one stand, you can hunt just about anywhere you want – jumping from tree to tree and putting yourself right in middle of the action without ever teaching that mature buck where you’re hiding.  While they sound and can be great, there are several things to take into consideration before pulling the trigger on a climber.

Yes, they’re portable, but they’ll only go as far as you’re willing to pack them in on your back.  Most modern day climbers weigh somewhere between 15-30 pounds . . . which really doesn’t sound too bad, until your dripping with sweat before you even start to ascend your perfectly straight and branchless tree.  Enter problems two and three – you must climb with them and the tree needs to be nearly perfectly straight with practically zero branches.  First of all, climbing is exhaustive, especially with all your hunting gear on.  Secondly, before you can climb, you need to properly secure it to the tree and compensate for the reduced trunk size as you ascend.  Both of which cause quite a ruckus in the woods – first its clanking metal (you get what you pay for), then its scraping bark to the top.  Darkness is also a factor to consider.  It’s hard enough to find a straight, zero branched tree in a good spot in the daylight, much less trying to do this in the morning darkness.  My suggestion, know your area!  If you hunt in areas where good climbing, straight trees are the norm, then this may be the only stand you’ll ever need.

Hunter sitting in a climbing stand

Pros: Portable; only need one; comfortable once situated; climb to desired height; great for public land hunting

Cons: Noisy; strenuous; need straight tree; must de-branch along the way; pack in/out; tree size is limiting; least safe; time consuming set-up and climb

This comparative treestand analysis is meant to provide you with points of consideration to make during your decision to buy a treestand, not to necessarily scare you from any one type or promote another.  Personally, I own all three types because they all have their strengths and weaknesses.  If you have any other questions with regards to choosing the right treestand for you, please leave your comments below. 

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About The Author
From Woods to Table

AJ Gall

AJ Gall's prior hunting and wildlife experiences began long ago and make him the perfect contributing deer hunting guru.  As a habitat consultant under Dr. Grant Woods, AJ has worked on properties in 13 different states, amassing over 25,000 acres of quality deer management. He now uses that knowledge to help clients find their dream hunting properties as a licensed real estate agent in Wisconsin.  


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