September 23, 2016
It wasn't that long ago when most of us bowhunters were lugging around heavy, steel treestands that secured to the tree via a chain.
Those stands were not only a pain to carry around, but nearly impossible to set up quietly. Throughout my bowhunting formative years, I had only one of those stands, which meant I put it up and took it down dozens of times throughout the season.
I don't remember it ever being a super smooth process.
Today's options are a world away from the clunkers of our not-too-distant past. Aluminum has made a big difference in the overall weight of our stands, and the use of straps in lieu of chain has also helped cut weight, and quiet down the process.
Now, when I'm looking to sneak in and hang a stand to hunt out of immediately, I tend to look at weight first. Anything over twelve pounds goes into the 'no' pile.
I like stands that are about eight pounds, but will go a bit heavier if I have to. These ultra lightweight options are often pretty small platform-wise, which is something you have to get used to.
The basis of a good traveling stand setup is, of course, a lightweight stand itself, but there's more to it than that. For example, a lot of treestand companies have figured out ways to complicate the process by adding in an extra step when hanging their stands.
This comes from a good place, I think, but is unnecessary. Usually this extra step involves attaching the strap to the tree first, and then hauling the stand up and clipping it onto an attachment. On paper, this is great (or when you're dealing with a heavy stand) otherwise, no thanks.
One of the reasons I like lightweight stands is that they are easy to manhandle once I'm in the tree. Since they are easier to handle, the process tends to be quieter as well. Simple, lightweight, and easy to use stands are essential.
When I was hanging those chain-on stands, all I had was screw-in steps. Of the mishaps I've had with treestands that could have been serious, nearly all can be attributed to screw-in steps.
I'm getting to the point where I hate them, other than the fact that they are so easy to carry and use. That being stated, sometimes I throw 14 of them in a pack and that's how I get up to my desired height.
This goes for private land hunting almost exclusively, because when I chase whitetails on public land, screw-in steps are usually prohibited. In fact, screw-in anything is usually a no-no. This means it's time to find climbing sticks or ladder sections that strap to the tree. Again, lightweight is key.
I like carrying in three or four climbing stick sections that allow me to get around 16 to 18 feet high. If they weigh more than about 20 pounds total, that's too much. Aluminum is key, and they have to marry together tightly. Better than that, is if they aren't built with a bunch of extra buckles that might clink together when I'm trying to sound like a harmless squirrel.
Figure out a way to strap the steps to your stand, and keep the whole thing quiet while you're walking into your hotspot. Bungee straps work well for this and won't add a bunch of extra weight.
Keep From Falling
Every year I hear from hunters who still don't wear safety harnesses, or won't use a lineman's belt or a lifeline. In the interest of keeping this G-rated I'll just say that this is bananas.
I've got a harness that weighs two pounds, is designed to be used with a lineman's belt, and I can add a lifeline to the mix, all for about six extra pounds in total. This system allows you to be connected to the tree the entire time, while also allowing hands-free stand setup which is safer, easier and much quieter than the alternative.
At this point, you're entire traveling setup is going to tip the scales at around 30 to 35 pounds (not including the weight of your backpack). By western standards, that's a feathery load. By whitetail standards, it's getting somewhat heavy, but you're not done yet.
I carry a hand-saw and a small, extendable pole saw for many of my quick-strike hunts. Again, if I'm on public land, this might change because it's often against the law to trim anything on Uncle Sam's ground.
For other hunts, at least one saw is a necessity. Since you're planning to sneak in, set up, and then hunt, it's important to trim only what is necessary. I do a lot of hinge cutting which will move limbs out of my way, but keep them attached to the tree, and in a lot of cases, giving me some extra cover.
I also carry a multi-tool for tightening loose bolts, flagging tape and reflective tacks, and a few simple first-aid items. It's not uncommon to start bleeding while hanging a stand, at least in my experience it's not, so a few Band-Aids and some super glue are worth the extra ounces.
The ultimate traveling stand setup will vary depending on what you really need. Regardless, pay attention to weight and function of each item you choose to carry, and you'll be much happier throughout the process.
Better yet, you'll have more first-time sits in new areas, and we all know how good that initial sit can be.