Without a doubt, the portable treestand was one of the key drivers behind bowhunting’s amazing growth over the past several decades. I’ve often heard the question, “Where would bowhunters be without treestands?” As Bowhunter Magazine celebrates its 40th year in business, it’s clear that the magazine would not be the same without the increase in hunter numbers that seemed to coincide with the rise in deer populations and the introduction of new game-changing hunting products. While there is a long list of gear that contributed to bowhunting’s evolution, from aluminum and carbon arrows to camo, compound bows, and replaceable-blade broadheads, few if any advances contributed as much to increasing success rates as portable treestands, especially climbers. And few stand designers, if any, have contributed as much over the years to treestand development as Summit Treestand’s John Woller, Sr.
A couple of months ago, I had the good fortune to visit once more with “Big John” at Summit’s manufacturing facilities in Decatur, Alabama (outside of Huntsville). I’d joined Intermedia Outdoors’ National Sales Manager Jim McConville during his visit with the PRADCO team (Summit is now part of one of the leading conglomerates in the hunting industry — PRADCO also owns Moultrie, Code Blue, and Knight & Hale Game Calls, just to name a few). After a personal factory tour with Summit’s Jason Gordon and a little business with his fellow PRADCO brand manager Beth Lauderdale, the icing on the cake was sitting down once more with Big John.
Not surprisingly, John Woller, Sr. still makes the daily trip into the office, and more than a few of his product designs still make their way into CAD files. (Big John now has the chance to apply his skills across the broad spectrum of PRADCO brands, and K&H Game Calls’ popular Pack Rack is just one of his recent inspirations.) He is always looking for better ways to do things. Sons John Jr., who now runs PRADCO; Ron, who continues to pioneer stand design; and son-in-law David South, who is now General Manager of Summit, all have offices on the same hall, but I have to say that Big John’s office is still the best…
An outstanding shot with a firearm or bow (he’d competed with firearms for the Marine Corps and took several state archery championships), Big John became obsessed with pointblank whitetail hunting back in the early ’70s. “I just loved the challenge of getting close to whitetail deer,” he confided. That’s what ultimately led to his first climber design, and he hasn’t slowed down since. Big John knew he could do more for bowhunters’ success rates than anybody else back then, and I suspect the folks at Summit still feel the same way.
But it would take several years of backyard engineering before, in the early ’80s, Big John finally gave into pressure from his hunting friends to market his Summit stand designs. His goal back then was to produce the most silent, secure, concealed, and comfortable stand available. That stand — known as the TSQ — was the most expensive on the market at $150, but eventually its welded-steel construction and see-through platform began to win over more and more converts. Thirty years later, that’s still the case, as Summit’s premium climber, hang-on, pod, and ladder stands continue to win the hearts and minds of bowhunters.
“We’re a bowhunting company,” Big John told me. “We’re all bowhunters, and we’ve always considered ourselves to be in the bowhunting business.” Spend more than a few minutes in the Summit plant, and you’re going to hear some great bowhunting stories. I guess that’s part of the reason why the folks at
Bowhunter Magazine & TV have always had a close friendship with the Woller Family and the Summit team.
Over the years, Big John has led Summit to many, many firsts — some big, some small, some patented, some not. But all have been impactful developments making the time hunters spend on stand more safe and sound. The list includes such things as factory camo; lightweight, see-through platforms; knobs instead of wingnuts; padded seats and arm/rifle rests; individual foot straps/stirrups; quiet nylon bushings; narrow climbing ladders; carbon fiber composite platforms; single-pole climbers with enclosed steps; welded backbar bolts; a climbing stand system eliminating the need for pins, knobs, nuts, or bolts; aluminum SummitLokt construction, and much, much more. Improvements in 2011 include a new, darker powder-coat finish for improved concealment and revolutionary sound-deadening technology called Dead Metal.
Add this tradition of innovation to the fact that Summit tests their products like nobody else and backs them up with outstanding customer service and a Five Year Warranty, and the fact that the company has been a leader in stand safety (Seat-O-The-Pants harnesses and climbing accessories), and you can start to see how 30 years is possible. And you can clearly see that this is an American company that cares about bowhunters and preparing for the future. For that, we offer our sincere congratulations and a tip of the Bowhunter cap.
To learn more about Summit Treestands — and to check out their new, camo Viper climbing stand — go to summitstands.com.
❮❮❮ Contributed by Jeff Waring, Publisher