How Tree Stands Work

By: Rosalind Jackson
Hunter walking with tree stand and bow.
Hunter walking with tree stand and bow Tessier

Let's pretend in the fall you moved from the city to a house ­next to a large wooded lot. You enjoy taking occasional walks in the nearby woods to clear your head and observe nature, something you never had the chance to do in the city. Sometimes, though, you look up into trees and notice man-made structures attached to the trunk. By the time you eventually meet some of your neighbors, you have heard distant gun shots ring through the forest.

Since it is hunting season, your neighbors invite you to join them in their pursuit of various game. Their conversations are peppered with words and terms you've never heard before, including "tree stands." You pipe up and ask if a tree stand is that odd contraption you've seen in some of the trees.


You quickly learn that your neighbors prefer using tree stands when they're hunting in the wooded lot. At first glance, it seems like these platforms give hunters an unfair advantage over the animals. You ask them if stands take the sport out of hunting. They are quick to tell you that tree stand hunting actually requires a lot of skill, patience and knowledge.

We can help you understand what your neighbors are talking about, or, if you're a hunter, we can help you brush up on the various aspects of tree stands. This article will tell you about the types of tree stands and accessories, where to place them and how to transform them. You'll also learn how to hunt with them.

Getting the idea behind tree stands? Read on to learn how to distinguish between the different types of tree stands you might see out in the forest.


Types of Tree Stands

Maybe on your walks in the woods, you've seen many tree stands but you don't know how to distinguish one from one other. Some of the stands you see look like boxes, others resemble metal chairs and a few have ladders attached to them. Exp­erts typically group stands into four categories:

  • Ladder stands
  • Climbing stands
  • Non-climbing, fixed position stands
  • Freestanding, open platform stands

A ladder stand might be one of the easiest types of tree stands to use because it consists of steps connected to a small platform. This kind of stand can be used on many species of trees. Because it has a ladder, the hunter has easy and safe access to the stand platform.


A climbing stand requires the hunter to climb the tree to reach the platform, and therefore isn't meant for flimsier trees with flaky barks, or winter hunting when there may be ice or snow on the trunk and branches.

­Non-climbing, fixed position stands are simple platforms that have a seat and a footrest attached to a tree. These stands necessitate the use of climbing aids such as climbing steps and climbing sticks. However, you can't use them just anywhere -- climbing steps require permission on private property and screw-in steps are illegal on public property.

Freestanding, open platform stands are also called tower or tripod stands. These stands aren't truly tree stands, since they're used on open lands with few trees.

Whichever tree stand you settle on, you won't just slap it on the first tree you see. Keep reading to learn about the art and science of tree stand placement.


Tree Stand Placement

A tree stand is traditionally elevated 8 to 16 feet (2 to 5 meters) above the ground [source: Today's Bowhunter]. Proper tree stand placement requires the con­sideration of numerous factors, a few of those being the cover provided by trees and the habits of the game you're hunting.

Deer, for example, are well-attuned to the nature of their surroundings. You don't want to place your tree stand on an empty side of a tree where the deer will notice the mysterious growth. Make sure to place your stand in a part of the tree with lots of natural cover, like thick branches and limbs. You also will want to observe the travel routes and eating habits of your game. It's in the best interest of the hunter to place the tree stand in an area where the prey in question frequently walks and eats.


­Another factor you'll have to consider is what type of tree stand you're using. For example, a ladder tree stand typically requires more than two people to assemble properly. If you are going to be out hunting by yourself, you will want to avoid using a ladder stand if it's not already attached to a tree. A nice feature of easily transportable tree stands is that if you don't like the location you choose, you are free to move the stand to a better-suited location after a few rounds of hunting.

Read the next page to find out what accessories help make tree stands the best they can be. And you thought accessories were only for fashion purposes.


Tree Stand Accessories

Alth­ough hunting from a tree stand allows you to perch above the terrain and observe nature from another perspective, the trip from the ground up to the stand platform is often the most dangerous part of a hunting trip. For this reason, many tree stand accessories are safety devices aimed at ensuring that your hunting experience is injury-free. But tree stand accessories also focus on improving your chances of getting a buck in your sights.

­Safety first -- unless you are using a ladder stand, climbing sticks are helpful tools to have with you. Climbing sticks make it easier for hunters to go up and down trees to and from their stands by providing small steps on the trunk of the tree. In addition to climbing sticks, it's always a good idea to bring along a safety hoist, rope or line and a harness. In addition, you should never carry your weapon with you while climbing to and from your stand. Using a hoist and line will allow you to focus on getting up to the tree stand and, after you safely scurried onto the platform, retrieve your weapon.


Once you're up in the tree stand, the next challenge is keeping still, aware and remaining undetected by your prey for a long time. Shooting rails, cam holders and gun or bow holders will help you keep your aim steady. Skirts, roofs and additional camouflage will help you remain visually unobserved. To keep noise to a minimum, many hunters use cough silencers and bring along a small roll of carpet to suppress the shuffling of feet. Some even use urinal bags to avoid making noisy trips up and down the tree [source: Tree Stand Info].

Click to the next page to find out what it takes to hunt on one of these tree stands.


Hunting with Tree Stands

Although hunting from a tree stand can be one of the most effective hunting methods, it's not q­uite as easy as sitting around all day, waiting for a deer to walk in front of you. There are a handful of factors that you will need to consider to get a good line of fire on your target. Like all hunting techniques, you'll need to do a little scouting for some trails, food sources, tracks and droppings. Once you've found a few good signs, you can look for a good tree to hang your stand in.

Choosing the right tree is harder than it might sound. You want to remain within shooting distance from the area you've scouted, but you don't want to be too close. You'll need to take into account the wind direction, as deer and other big game animals have an adept sense of smell, and will be able to detect you if you are downwind.


­Don't overlook the important of ensuring that your stand is high enough off the ground to remain undetected by your prey. Depending on where your stand is located, you will want to adjust its height. On flat, open terrain, 12 to 15 feet (3.5 to 4.5 meters) should be suitable. In more wooded areas, the higher the stand, the more your scent and visibility will decrease. Although tree stand hunting is a game of patience, don't be too stubborn to move your location if you've spotted something better or aren't having any luck.

Once you've found a good location, the key is remaining still and quiet. Even though you may be dressed head to toe in camouflage and your stand may be hidden with branches and leaves, deer still notice when you move. To reduce noise, many hunters lubricate the joints of their stands. Another great way to reduce noise is simply to pack light. The more gear you bring, the more noise you'll likely make.

Read on to find out which tree stands are easily transportable.


Transporting Tree Stands

­If you're not hunting from a permanent tree stand, you'll need to lug you­r portable stand around every time you go hunting. Once you get it into the woods, you'll probably need to move it a few times before you find a suitable location. Smaller stands, like hang-on stands, climbing tree stands and climbing sticks are very lightweight and easy to move from place to place simply by carrying them over your back or in a bag [source: Wilson].

Heavier or bulkier tree stands like ladder stands aren't so easy to move around, although they may be easier and less time-consuming to put up. To transport your ladder stand you may need the help of a few hunting buddies to navigate your way through the trees, and to assemble and disassemble the stand.


No matter what kind of stand you're using, be careful and pay attention when putting it together and taking it apart. Incomplete assembly of a tree stand may lead to a serious fall from dozens of feet in the air.

Now when you take your nature walks, you will no longer be confused as to what those contraptions in the trees are. You might even have enough knowledge to join your neighbors in their tree stand hunting adventures.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

More Great Links

  • Adams, Chuck. "Shooting from elevated stands -- tips and techniques for hunters afield." December 1989. (12/6/08)
  • Blain, Rebecca. "The Evolution of Man -- The History of Hunting." April 1, 2005. (12/7/2008)
  • Blair, Mike. "Staying Alive in a Tree Stand." (12/7/2008)
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "Tree Stand Safety." 2008. (12/6/08)
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "The Allure of Tree Stand Hunting." (12/6/08)
  • My Outdoor Adventure Network. "Basic Treestand Hunting Techniques." (12/7/2008)
  • My Outdoor Adventure Network. "Where Do I Put My Treestand?" (12/6/08)
  • Today's Bowhunter. "Use of Elevated Stands and Other Techniques." (12/6/08)
  • Today's Hunter in South Carolina. "Types of Elevated Stands." (12/6/08)
  • Tree Stand Info. "Deer Stands." (12/6/08)
  • Tree Stand Info. "Tree Stand Accessories." (12/7/2008)
  • Wilson, Kevin. "Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Choosing and Using Blinds and Stands" (12/7/2008)