View Full Version : First tree stand hunt, need tips!

October 10, 2007, 08:59 AM
This year I will be going on my first deer hunt out of a tree stand. I have so far read a few articles that offer tips for scouting, tree stand placement, and the use of scents and/or scent eliminators.

I do not own a tree stand yet, I plan to purchase the cheapest one I can find.
-Are there any safty issues with the cheaper ones or is it all a matter of comfort?
-Do cheaper ones squeak/creak or make noise?

Which of the many scent products actually work? Do I really need to use a different toothpaste?

Do you guys suggest taking a pair of binoculars with me?

I read an article that suggested you wear rubber boots and rubber gloves when scouting to minimize the human scent. Is this a good rule to follow?

For a first timer, can any of you fellow hunters offer me suggestions or pointers to help make the first hunt a successful and enjoyable experience?


October 10, 2007, 10:46 AM
After growing up in Oregon, I also had a big learning curve to deal with when I moved to Indiana and used a treestand for the first time. I'll try to help you with my limited knowlege.

1. Location: Don't set up right on a deer trail, get 10-15 yards back from it. Look for heavily used trails along waterways, field edges, saddles, oak groves with good acorns, or other food-travel areas. Look for droppings, tracks, scrapes, rubs, all of the usual good stuff. I started using trail cams last year and they are wonderfull for figuring out when/when the deer are moving.

2. Equipment: I have a cheap ($99 new) climber that I have used and its just as good as my buddy's lone wolf that I've used-except it's HEAVY! I think comfort and safety are the same, it just weight 5 times as much.
For hang ons, the cheap ones will get noisy if you leave them out, and they usually won't be as comfortable as the more expensive ones. The things to avoid are small foot rests-believe me they are brutal-and small hard seats.

3. Equipment: Good binos are a huge plus. A rangefinder is nice. Also get a few cheap screw in hangers to put your pack, bow/gun, calls, and rangefinder within easy, uncluttered reach. Make sure you have a rope to pull up your equipment after you are settled-don't ever climb with a bow or gun. And most importantly, use the harness that comes with your stand! This is not something to mess around with, falling out of a tree kills more hunters every year than guns do. Plus the harness lets you lean out from the tree to get a more clear shot.
I use scent free soap, shampoo, deoderant, and detergant. Its important to spray down with a scent eliminator before you hunt also.

Have fun and be safe!

October 10, 2007, 04:08 PM
I do not own a tree stand yet, I plan to purchase the cheapest one I can find.
-Are there any safty issues with the cheaper ones or is it all a matter of comfort?
-Do cheaper ones squeak/creak or make noise?

No real safety issues. The more expensive stands will tend to be lighter and more quiet.

Which of the many scent products actually work? Do I really need to use a different toothpaste?

Watching the wind direction is more important IMO.

Do you guys suggest taking a pair of binoculars with me?

I've forgotten a lot of different items on the way to my stand, I will go back for my binos. Most important item right after gun/bow.

I read an article that suggested you wear rubber boots and rubber gloves when scouting to minimize the human scent. Is this a good rule to follow?

I wear rubber boots most of the time when I hunt deer. I can't hurt.

For a first timer, can any of you fellow hunters offer me suggestions or pointers to help make the first hunt a successful and enjoyable experience?

Sit still and be quiet. Lots of hunter think that if they're in a tree they can move around a bunch. Deer will spot you in a stand if you fidget.

Make sure your silhouette is hidden.

October 10, 2007, 04:18 PM
.......if you haven't read this already please do........


Safety harness my friend.

October 10, 2007, 04:42 PM
One thing I learned the hard way - and you don't say if you are looking at a self climber or hang on type.

When using a self-climber, strip down your clothing before hiking in to whatever you need to not to sweat. Then when you get to the "magic tree" - strip down some more. Put all your clothes in your pack and tie it to your pull rope.

If you can get up in the tree without being wet with sweat, you will be a lot more likely to sit still once you get dressed again. Tree stands are (my opinion) the absolutely coldest way to hunt in the universe.

I got to the point I was stripped down to a light-weight red union suit and then going up the tree. Pretty amusing, I admit, but it helped me stay warm longer.

NEVER climb up with a weapon in hand or slung - use a pull rope on an unloaded weapon. ALWAYS wear a safety harness.

Good luck. I never got used to tree-stand hunting, and was glad to move back to Oregon, so I wouldn't have to anymore...

October 10, 2007, 11:49 PM
Thanks for the tips guys, they shall lead me to Victory!

How do I tie off the harness if I haven't climbed the tree yet? A harness thats not tied off isnt going to do me much good.


October 11, 2007, 07:14 AM
I tie off once I get into position. If you fall while you are climbing you can stop yourself with the bottom platform.

I suggest finding a good tree and practice climbing before you get into the woods to hunt.

October 11, 2007, 07:32 AM
Look at Summits website. They use a "Prussic Knot" climbing system. It is very user friendly, and if you fall while climbing you won't have to rely on the lower platform.

October 11, 2007, 10:11 AM
Is there a minimum suggested height a deer stand should be?


October 11, 2007, 10:56 AM
Trouble with a prussic knot is you need a line tied off at the top, so if you are just going up the tree, there is no line.

I would just rig up my harness and put it around the tree above the top part of the climber. Yeah, it is a hassle, having to slide it up the tree ahead of you, but not as much hassle as breaking major bones when you fall.

The prussic knot is a great way to go if you are going to use the same tree. Once you get to the top, tie off a line that is long enough to tie off at the bottom as well. It works best if the line the prussic knot is on is pretty tight so you can slide the knot easier.

There is no minimum height. If you think about it, people hunt from ground blinds. If you are going to be 10' or less, I would suggest some camo around you on the stand - either one of the systems made for that, or just some branches poked through the bottom of the stand.

There is a whole school of thought that "higher = better" that I do not agree with. Going above 15' +/- never seemed worth the extra work. Problem I saw was when using a self-climber, you have to account for the reduction in diameter of the tree as you go up and there is a limit to how much you can do that at ground level. I would start out with the bottom angled severly up so I could set the cable tight and by the time I got to the hieght I wanted to hunt, the bottom platform would be pretty level.

October 11, 2007, 11:28 AM
Sounds good, I was thinkin' about covering the stand with camo as well either way, this will allow me to keep a blanket up there around my legs and feet. (It gets damn cold in december in iowa!)

If anyone has any suggestions as to stands that have worked well or ones that have not worked so well Id like to hear about it. I need to go scout before I decide on the style of stand Im going to go with. Hopefully I can get out there this weekend!


October 11, 2007, 01:07 PM
In Iowa we usually used blinds made from burlap stretched between two t-posts on a barbed wire fence. Last time I was out I used an outhouse blind and that helped cut down on the wind alot. Blankets can be used and won't compromise your position and actually can help break up your sillouette better than just camo. Just sit still (if you can) and glue the binocs to your face every 20 min or so. And get there EARLY!!! I have been late getting to a stand and kicked up deer that then switched their routine around because I showed up.

P.S. This may sound gross but have a bottle with to urinate in. Means you don't have to leave the blind and if you get real cold it coumes out at 98 degrees and can work as a hot water bottle

October 11, 2007, 03:26 PM
Good call about the bottle. Id better take a 2L.

How anal do I need to be about my sent when scouting and hunting? I read rubber gloves and boots. Why Rubber? Is leather okay? Cloth?

Can scent free shampoo, laundry detergent, and soap found at your local wal-mart?

October 11, 2007, 06:27 PM
Scent-free soap/shampoo/detergent should be available at your local Wal-Mart. There is a whole thread here somewhere (do a search) about taking care of clothing.

Rubber boots don't absorb scents that will then transfer to the ground/bushes while walking. I wear them sometimes when the weather is warm enough (too cheap to buy the super-insulated rubber boots).

Does it hurt to be careful with your smell? Absolutely not. Would the sellers of those fine scent-control products like you to believe you can't kill a deer without their product? You bet. I think the answer lies somewhere between ignoring scent control completely and going completely nuts about it. I also think it really depends on what the deer are used to in your area. Deep woods really remote, human scent might be a big shock. Just outside the limits of the suburbs, maybe not so much.

October 11, 2007, 06:29 PM
I used to go completely nuts over the scent control stuff, and even carried a pee bottle. Now I wash my clothes in Tide and pee out of my tree stand.

I kill as many deer now as I did then. :)

October 11, 2007, 06:31 PM
Of course I fall out of my tree stand too so don't listen to me:eek:

October 11, 2007, 06:49 PM

At least you can laugh (probably a little painfully) about it. Speedy recovery!

October 11, 2007, 06:52 PM
I try to find the humor in everything otherwise I'd be more insane than I already am. :)

October 11, 2007, 08:59 PM
I don't have the luxury of having fifty different stand locations where I can pick the one with the wind just right so I tend to be careful about scent. I shower with the unscented soap and wash my clothes in unscented detergent without UV brighteners. I use "fresh earth" dryer sheets and store my hunting clothes in plastic bags. I also use scent eliminator spray on my backpack, seat pad and other gear.

I agree that it's probably not all necessary but I don't get that many chances to hunt so I'm willing to pay attention to the details. I agree whole-heartedly about the safety harness/rope. I use a second-chance type belt that has a built-in attachment point for a carabiner on the buckle. I made a sling out of tubular webbing that I loop around the tree and clip to the belt with a locking carabiner. As I move up the tree, I can loosen and slide the loop up the tree as I climb.

With climbing stands, $$ spent often equates to comfort and ability to stick it out and stay still when other hunters are squirming around and/or heading for the truck. That said, I much prefer ladder stands that can be left up all season. It's not usually an option on public land though.

October 12, 2007, 12:49 AM
from what I understand it's more your scent of where you are than where you've been. If you stand in one place for a long period of time you will leave a trace scent. If you have a windbreak to protect your scent from blowing around (like me in my outhouse blind) then scent cover is not a really big issue. If you are on the ground it is more important than in the trees since your scent risesdue to body temperature. If you have the carbon layered clothes (like my parka) it helps keep the scent in.

October 12, 2007, 02:48 AM
Safety harness my friend.Spend some money for a GOOD safety harness. The simple loop that comes with most tree stands and goes around your chest is NOT good enough -- you can easily fall out of it. And even if you don't fall out of it, the stress on your body when it slips off your chest and up under your arms can cause serious damage.

Get a lineman-style harness that goes over your shoulders, around your waist and chest, and under the crotch.

I've read that 1/3 of hunters who use tree stands fall out of them. And more than a few have wound up in a wheelchair.

October 12, 2007, 05:23 AM
Read what the rest of the posts say, lots of good stuff. The one about walking to and climbing in light clothing and then putting on the heavy stuff when in the tree is a good one.

Something not mentioned, and forgive me if I missed this but it appears you have not bought a stand yet, is what to chose for a stand.

I'll not champion a spicific brand. I've owned a good number over the last 30 years and with the exception of my first one, a Baker, all of them have had plusses and minuses. That old Baker though.................well it tried to kill me a few times.

Here are some general things I would look for:

1. Folding stand. Makes it much easier to get to and from site. Takes a little longer to set up though. And I will admit that I have two Timbertall Baby Lites that do not fold but rather nestle that I really like but in general stands that fold flat are better for carrying.

2. Pick as light a stand as will do the job. The less the stand weighs the further you are likely to carry it. This makes you less likely to pick a spot because it looks "good enouogh" and is close.

3. Ask about how easy the stand is to attach to the tree. I like my climbers but have used strap on styles a lot. Strap ons can be a pain. But, and this is important, with a strap on you can almost ALWAYS find a tree very close to the spot you want to hunt. This is not always the case with a climber. Some of the areas we hunt are heavy on the Live Oaks and they just do not lend themselves to climbing, especially the older trees.

4. Make 100% sure you have a GOOD carry strap system. Pads on the shoulders and a strap around the waist just as you would with a backpack to transfer the weight to your hips. Same reason as for a light stand.........you will carry it further.

Last thing...............with a light, easy to set up and easy to carry stand you will be far more likely to change spots because it will be easy. I don't care how careful you are with scent and the like it is a good idea to move from spot to spot and if your stand is a pain to move you will not so it as often.

October 12, 2007, 09:35 AM
That is correct, I have not yet bought a stand. I want to go and look around to see what my options are for stand placement. I think I would prefer a climber but I dont know how many trees I am going to be able to find that are optimum for climbers (no low limbs). I should be able to get out this weekend.

October 12, 2007, 10:58 AM
excellent points by bswiv.

I replaced the carry straps that came on mine with carry straps from an Army rucksack so they would have some padding, etc., then I just tied the pack on the back of the stand. Really an unbalanced load, but manageable.

October 12, 2007, 06:42 PM
I am with RR on the scent thing. I just never got into the washing/spraying thing. I just do not worry about it and pay more attention to wind direction and seeing the deer before they see me. Are you going to put the stand on private or public land? A safety harness is a must though.

October 12, 2007, 10:43 PM
If you want to buy a portable climber and plan on hunting with a bow, cut a piece of cord exactly 20 feet long. When entering new areas with different elevations you can sometimes go too high and make very steep angles to shoot. If you have a rope of a known length you can then judge your platform height. I have hunted exclusively with treestands in Indiana for about 25 years and have found the summit stands the easiest to put onto a tree in the darkness or with minimal light, the API products are very good as well. Both brands will have all day comfort, but the summit is easier to install. If you choose a stand that has a rail on the top, or hand climber, you can then buy burlap and attach it top the top bar. Cut it long enough to cover the platform. When packing the stand simply roll the burlap around the rest bar. My two cents, but I do have 2 P&Y deer to my credit, so I would like to think I have learned a little along the way.

October 13, 2007, 01:24 PM
The stand will be going up on private land. For this hunt I will be taking my ruger gp 357. I never really got into the bow hunting thing but im gaining interest in it and sure to be at it next year.

What are the draw backs of a latter stand? Are they just not as mobile?

Thanks Roberts, I will take a good look at summit and API stands.

October 13, 2007, 02:42 PM
2 words for you-Safety Harness

October 17, 2007, 09:37 PM
Regarding the harness. Just buy the cheapest that you think you are worth. If you are only worth $10 that is the one to buy but you might want the BEST. Kinda like motorcycle helmets. If you are not worth anything dont use one-esp motorcycle helmets.

October 18, 2007, 04:53 AM
buy a comfortable stand - if you aren't comfortable, you won't sit still/long.

always use a safety strap.

consider the sun when deciding on a tree - your hunt will be misrible if you have the sun in your eyes and/or are in the sun the entire hunt.

hunt as high as you can - the higher you are, the less likely deer will see, hear and smell you. i have been known to hunt 45+ feet when rifle hunting.

if you are using a climbing tree stand, NEVER attempt to climb a leaning or crooked tree.

never climb a palm tree for 2 reasons. (1) you can't tell when they are rotten until you are up in them and on the way down and (2) coral snakes love to live in them.

always use a rope to pull your firearm up to you.

if you are hunting in the south, buy a Thermacell...they are worth their weight in gold. no matter how high you hunt, skeeters will find you.

try to put or place your tree stand in the tree prior to your hunt. this way you can find which way to face and how high you want to hunt. once i climb my tree i will tie a piece of flagging tape around the tree at the desired height i want to hunt (so when you are climbing your tree before daylight you will know when to stop). i always try to hunt high but sometime conditions don't allow. this also allows you to cut any limbs or small trees that will be in your line of sight.

October 18, 2007, 08:41 AM
dang! I wish there were palm trees in Iowa! :)

Thanks for the tips, I am planning to go out well in advance to do a little scouting. I have some farmers in the family and have a few different locations to choose from. I have quite a bit of time yet. Shotgun (first season (includes handgun) doesn't open until December 1st.

October 18, 2007, 11:03 AM
Since you said it was private land, when you scout tie some flag tapes on good trees. If you have enough room, try and have a best one that plays to the prevailing wind and then a few alternates, since the wind will automatically change the day you are going to hunt:p.

If it is pretty secure private land, I would pack it in prior to the season and stash it close to where you are going to use it. Saves a lot of work not having to carry it in and out every day. Also lets it get "scent neutral" for that area.

If not secure, you can always do the same thing and just lock it up with one of those long bike locks and then throw some brush over it.

October 18, 2007, 01:16 PM
Yeah, thats a good idea to get it set up early. I think my best route would be to get a hanger and use climbing sticks or tree steps. I cant imagine there are going to be many trees that are big, straight, and naked enough to use a climber. Time will tell though, we've been getting so much rain lately I haven't had an opportunity to get out there.

October 18, 2007, 01:30 PM
If you use a hang on and climbing sticks, I have seen guys that do that, throw a lock on the stand in the tree and then remove the bottom stick when they leave. Just makes it harder for someone to mess with your stuff. But, again, since you are on private land might not make a difference.

October 20, 2007, 02:25 AM
I am anal about the scent thing. More so during bow season and scouting. I can appreciate everyone's opinion on the subject. I think that every precaution taken is one less thing to worry about. Having said that, everyone that said wind direction is the most important thing is correct.

Choose yourself what to do about the scent control. Rubber boots are a must IMO while scouting. Everything you touch, you leave your stink. Look with your eyes not your hands. Momma always told me.

You should concider these things about stand location.

Line of sight to the game you wish to shoot.
how far can you see and can you shoot that far. Also how far away are you visible to the game.

If hunting a trail or opening in the woods, try to be one tree deep in the cover instead of out in the open. You see them and are not sticking out like a soar thumb.

How high is determined by how far you can see and how high you feel comfortable should a breeze start rocking your tree. It should be enjoyable not scary.

After wind direction, and more important than camo is can you sit still. Movement will give you away from a great distance. Comfortable tree stands mean you can sit still and have greater success hunting.

Play the wind, don't fidget around and be alert. You stand a 30-70 chance if you pay attention of seeing the deer before they are right under you.

Have fun! that is the big idea.

October 20, 2007, 09:16 AM
Now that I'm more alert and have recovered enough to speak sensibly on the subject (less narcotics these days :)) I'll tell you how I set up my portable stands.

I always look for a tree with a smaller tree right under it. Around here that usually means something like a pine with a cedar right beside it. That pine is probably 60-80 ft tall and is usually straight as a board with no limbs for 20 ft or so so literally the sky is the limit with a good climbing stand. (as long as it's not a loblolly pine (short needles, small cones), bark is to thin and too fragile to hold a climber's teeth in, longleaf pines are perfect IMHO). I climb to the point where I can see over the cedar but the cedar covers my legs. This helps cover any inadvertent movement and also gives you a bit of scent cover. Not that cedar is going to necessarily be stronger scented than you, but every bit helps as they say.

If I can't find a setup like that with a cedar nearby I look around for a pine with any other kind of small tree with limbs that will cross over the line of sight between the game trails I'm hunting and my stand. Look for available natural cover at your stand height and then blend in with it or add to it as necessary.