My tolerant and loving wife, Patti, thinks there's something seriously wrong with me.
She can't comprehend why a middle-aged man (me) would want to spend so much time in a tree. I even question it myself, especially when I'm on a TV mission and spend three consecutive weeks in a tree. Acorns start to look delicious.
The reality is that time rates as one of the deadliest bowhunting weapons. For anyone who spends enough time in the woods, something good usually happens. However, comfort and efficiency are essential for maximizing that time, especially in a treestand where you may have to sit still from dark to dark. You have to attend to every detail, or your stamina will suffer. A number of products can increase your efficiency, and since the list is long, let's get right to it.
SAWS AND PRUNERS
You probably cut most of your shooting lanes well before your hunt, but sometimes you have to slip in and do it on the fly. A good folding saw like Gerber's Gator Exchange-A-Blade or Gerber's 3.5-oz. Sliding Saw is hard to beat. Hunter's Specialities' Folding Saw, Ameristep's Pruning Saw, and the Primos Folding Saw are also good options. The Hooyman Tree Saw collapses down to 12'' to fit in your pack but extends to 5' to reach limbs just beyond arm's length. The saw can be removed from the extendable section for hand use. New this year is the Hooyman 10, a version that extends to 10' and collapses down to 28''. It weighs 3 lbs.
With a good hand pruner, you can silently clip branches at ground level, up in your stand, or around and inside a ground blind. The Leatherman Vista Pruner works great and has a small folding saw blade for larger branches. A ratchet pruner will give you more cutting power for larger limbs. Three good ones are Gerber's Metal Ratcheting Pruner, the new Ratchet Pruners from Hunter's Specialties, Primos' Ratcheting Cutters, and Summit's EZ Kut Pruners.
To hunt efficiently, you have to keep your bow at the ready. That's why my pack always contains a Realtree EZ Hanger, and I've come to prefer the three-section model because it enables me to position my bow out away from the tree in the ideal position. Two more good options are the Primos Bow Hanger, and the Swing Arm Bow Holder from Hunter's Specialities. A company called Bow Jaws makes several bow holders that screw into the tree or clamp to your treestand platform. A multi-use bow hanger called BowNear actually retracts upward when you pick up your bow, and it has a separate arm to hold your camcorder, as well as hooks for other gear.
Two "powered" options are Ameristep's The Bun Burner and The Toaster. The Bun Burner is a 2''-thick cushion that incorporates carbon-fiber heating elements powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Battery life is said to be up to five hours. The Toaster is a deluxe version with a backrest. Both will add warmth and comfort to your treestand vigils.
Believe it or not, a treestand lock will make you a more efficient bowhunter. If you can leave your stand up with peace of mind that someone isn't going to abscond with it, you can get in and out of your hunting location with the least amount of commotion. Tree-Lok's Lokit XTF is a hardened-steel chain covered with a Silent Sleeve to reduce noise.
Gorilla Treestands' Treestand Lock is made of high-strength, 8mm aircraft cable coated for noise reduction. Ameristep's Tree Stand Lock, measuring 6.5' long, has a corrosion-resistant lock. Master Lock's Outdoorsman lock is designed to quietly secure your treestand and other gear.
I used to think a footrest on a treestand platform would be in the way and not useful. I was wrong. If you're just going to sit for a couple hours, no problem; but if you plan to hunt most of a day, you'll find a footrest a huge asset. Putting your feet up just a few inches takes pressure off your hamstrings to improve circulation to your lower legs. You can add a footrest to most treestand platforms, so always explore that option.
If you hunt during early seasons or in the South -- in other words, in buggy situations -- you really need a ThermaCELL. This butane device heats up a pad soaked with insect repellent. It works. Bowhunters who previously stayed home during the early season are now hunting because the ThermaCELL solves the bug problem.
The Bark Silencer helps eliminate irritating noises on stand. The fleece-lined camouflage material is fitted with straps and buckles to go around the tree behind your back as you sit or stand, so you can lean against the tree without rustling the bark. I always have one in my pack -- and an extra for my cameraman.
If you have to search for your treestand in the morning darkness, or want to send someone else to the stand, consider a remote controlled beacon. You attach the receiver to your treestand and carry the remote with you. When you get close, you activate the beacon, and a light leads you right to the stand. Beacons available include Knight & Hale's Beacon Light II, Primos' Treestand Light, and Gorilla Gear's Gorilla Eye.
GamePlan Gear's new BowBat XL doubles as a pack to carry your bow and gear, and it transforms into a "hunt station" of sorts once you're in the tree. It wraps around the tree to serve as a backrest, and it has lots of pockets and compartments designed specifically to keep your calls, optics, extra clothes, and other gear handy.
I will assume you have enough sense to wear a safety harness whenever you're off the ground. However, I also suggest you add an additional safety element, a treestand "climbing system," which consists of a heavy rope, usually 30' long, with a loop in one end and a Prussic hitch or similar cinching device. You simply slip the rope around the tree above your stand, through the loop, drop it to the ground, and tie it off at the bottom.
To climb in complete safety, clip your safety harness lanyard to the Prussic hitch and slide it as you go up or down. Without question, the most dangerous moment in hunting is when you're climbing in and out of the stand, and with a climbing system, you are fully protected at all times. That level of safety -- and the confidence that comes with it -- is priceless. Summit Treestands, Ameristep, Hunter Safety System, and Muddy Outdoors all make good climbing systems.
Certainly, this is not an all-encompassing list of products that will make your treestand hunting experience more comfortable and efficient. However, if
you spend as much time in a tree as I do, you'll find these items can help you concentrate on your hunting instead of those delicious-looking acorns.
Manufacturers Contact List
- Ameristep, (810) 686-4035, www.ameristep.com
- Bow Jaws Industries, 1-877-645-9515, www.bowjaws.com
- BowNear, (262) 853-4015, www.bownear.com
- GamePlan Gear, 1-877-544-6611,www.gameplangear.com
- Gerber Gear, 1-800-443-4871,www.gerbergear.com
- Gorilla Treestands, 1-877-685-7817,www.gorillatreestands.com
- Hooyman Saws, (920) 728-0900,www.hooymansaws.com
- Hunt Comfort, 1-888-757-3232,www.huntcomfort.com
- Hunter Safety System, (256) 773-7732, www.huntersafetysystem.com
- Hunter's Specialties, (319) 395-0321, www.hunterspec.com
- Knight & Hale, (479) 782-8971,www.knightandhale.com
- Leatherman Tool Group, Inc.,1-800-847-8665, www.leatherman.com
- Master Lock Company, 1-800-464-2088, www.masterlock.com
- Muddy Outdoors, 1-877-366-8339,www.gomuddy.com
- NE Products (NEP), (978) 683-5434,www.thermaseat.com
- Primos Hunting Calls, 1-800-523-2395, www.primos.com
- Realtree, 1-800-474-8733, www.realtree.com
- Schwabel Corporation (ThermaCELL), 1-866-753-3837, www.thermacell.com
- Stealth Outdoors (Bark Silencer),(248) 459-8991, www.stealthoutdoors.com
- Summit Treestands, (256) 353-0634,www.summitstands.com
- Tree-Lok LLC, www.treelok.com