It would be a lie to say my first experiences with climbing stands left me bewildered, because in truth, they left me scared. Eighteen feet up a tree is no place to lose the platform on which you stand, but that’s exactly what happened to me.
I had tied the platform to the seat, but my rope was too long and only attached at one point — the center of the platform. This meant I had to bear hug the tree while trying to haul the tippy platform up to a suitable level, and then fumble with it to get it firmly gripped to the tree. Once I finally got things functional, I had to hunt out of the stand, and then rely on it to get me back down to the ground. Needless to say, my enjoyment during that sit was nonexistent, and after that experience I couldn’t run fast enough back to screw-in treesteps and hang-on stands.
It wasn’t until maybe six or seven years ago that I tested the climbing stand waters again. This time it became clear that many of the original problems had been remedied, and I’ve relied heavily on climbers to get the jump on unsuspecting game ever since.
Since regaining my confidence in climbing stands, I have pared down and fine-tuned my process to the point where I’m not only comfortable using a climbing stand, I enjoy it and feel safe. That said, there are certain considerations to be made when shopping for a new climber.
The first is style. Sit-and-climb stands have eclipsed hand-climbers in popularity because they are much easier to operate. For compound shooters, sit-and-climb models are the way to go. If you opt for traditional bows, which are much longer tip-to-tip, hand-climbers might be a better choice. This is a lesson I learned the first time I combined a climbing stand with my takedown recurve. There’s nothing more frustrating than reaching your desired height, and then realizing it’s nearly impossible to shoot out of your stand.
The next consideration is size. Climbing stands are often marketed for being roomy and comfortable, and many of them are. Personally, I want lightweight and portable. Carrying a climber through the woods or hiking a mile or two into a Western riverbottom always reminds me that I like feathery stands that don’t take up much space. However, if your typical hunting scenario involves a short walk through the woods, bigger might be better.
When deciding on just what model and size of stand is best for you, take a look at the connection between the seat and platform. The best style I’ve found is one easily adjustable strap on each side of the seat and platform. This dual connection ensures the platform will always be level, which is a major plus. Every climber I use either features this type of connection, or is quickly fitted with one. The same goes for backpack straps. Most models will have padded backpack straps, but if not, install them aftermarket. You won’t regret it.
No matter your climber choice, learn how to use it properly — and safely. And never, ever use one without wearing a full-body safety harness.
What follows is a rundown of new climbing stands from some of the top manufacturers in the industry, plus one piece of equipment that is always with me, any time I hunt from a climber.