Properly securing a treestand when bowhunting is a vital safety precaution that no hunter should consider unnecessary. Today, stands on the market are much safer than those of past decades, offering much more sturdiness, less weight, and more comfort. Using them correctly however, is something that should be well understood by those out in the wilderness.
Location is an important factor in finding a tree capable of holding your weight and that of your stand’s. For example, Northeastern states tend to have thicker, sturdier trunks that are able to support a great amount of weight, and also have fewer branches. These often come in enormous forests as well, stretching for millions of acres. The Southwest however, is typically the opposite. Forests are much more scarce, and the density of the trees that can be found tend to be on the thinner, more feeble side. But, that does not mean that the right tree does not exist. It may just take a little more searching for those that call southwestern states home.
Obviously, you’ll want to purchase a stand relative to your size. Hunters over six feet tall and 200 pounds should look for a top-of-the-line treestand made specifically for bigger-bodied individuals, while those on the smaller side need not worry too much about this. But, the bigger the stand, the more freedom of movement you have, which can make for optimal hunting conditions.
Take into consideration the gear you are bringing with you. This is added weight that the stand must support. Typically, a skilled hunter’s backpack and gear can weigh up to 50 pounds or so. Look into straps that can safely hang a bag or additional gear off the side of the treestand securely. This saves a great amount of room where you will be seated.
The height at which you choose to set up your treestand is optional, though higher is better. First, look for a tree with very few or no branches for the easiest climb, and always have a limb saw on hand to deal with pesky branches preventing you from reaching greater heights. However, going too high is always a risk. Trees become much thinner toward their towards their tops, and weak forks throughout make for even weaker branches.
Ensure that your stand is level once you’ve found your preferred height. Having it bent slightly upward away the tree is acceptable as well, as it will force you to lean back against the trunk. Pay close attention to how exactly your stand is built to hold onto the tree. Many stands today use metal teeth to securely grip the bark, while older models use rubber stoppers, which can be disastrous in inclement weather. Should you own a stand with rubber mounts, be extremely cautious when hunting in the rain, fog, or in generally damp conditions.
A safety harness is another essential part of a treestand, as you always want to have a failsafe. You are going to be hunting from a vantage point that could result in serious injury should you fall from it. Always wear a full-body safety harness. The cost of cutting corners when it comes to proper safety precautions can be life threatening.
While climbing higher obviously improves visibility, strategically planning where you climb in a forest can have an array of benefits. For example, setting up your stand in a tree that allows for space but is located directly next to another tree can hide your shadow from animals below. That being said, having some branches in your vicinity can be beneficial in terms of hiding so long as they do not hinder your sight or movement. An alert deer looking for signs of danger will almost always find the source.
Treestands allow for great stealth, visibility, and thus, a leg up on your target. You don’t have to climb 20+ feet to find the right vantage point. However, should you choose to reach these heights, always follow the standard safety precautions mentioned above.