If you’re a serious hunter, you probably spend many collective hours in them; maybe even full weeks of each year. You’re perched in your tree stands every weekend from sunrise to sunset, from the last of the summer’s humidity and mosquitoes until the icy snowflakes cover the ground. That level of dedication takes some hard work. To accomplish this massive physical and mental feat, you need to absolutely know that your stand is safe to use. Why?
When you spend that much of your life in a tree, you’re exposed to some pretty severe risks. Over time, we get used to it and tend to forget just how great the threat is. We start to take things for granted and…boom. That’s when reality hits. In this case, reality is you falling from a poorly maintained tree stand and hitting the cold hard ground. Perhaps it’s you lying in the woods with several broken bones for hours until your family or friends come find you. Your new reality could be a life-altering event.
Now we don’t mean to depress or frighten you. But the truth is that tree stand accidents can be fatal if you’re not careful. In the blink of an eye, your decision to not check the straps or tighten the bolts could cost you and your family your life. No decision, especially one this trivial, is worth that price.
So in order to keep you out of that situation, here are some off-season tree stand maintenance actions you should do every year to ensure you come home again at the end of each hunt. They’re pretty simple and very much worth your time.
Types of Tree Stands
Gone are the days of nailing a couple 2×4 boards to some trees and perching in homemade deer hunting tree stands. While you still may find traces of these stands scattered throughout public lands, there are much better and safer ways to hunt these days. Take one quick look at a sporting goods store, and you’ll see several kinds of stands on the shelves that come in all different styles, sizes, and configurations. Generally, you’ll find a few dominant categories of hunting tree stands, including climbing tree stands, ladder stands, lock on stands, and tripods.
A climbing tree stand allows you to cover a lot of ground and get up in a tree fairly quickly. For that reason, they are probably one of the best deer hunting tree stands for public land. Ladder stands consist of a platform affixed to a section of ladders that you can prop against a tree and secure with straps or cables, and work best on private lands. Lock on stands work by securing a platform and seat up in a tree and then securing additional tree stand ladder sections to the tree itself. Tripod stands are self-standing units, usually with three legs and a base at the top for a hunter to sit on.
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While it’s impossible to list every problem, here are a few common issues with tree stands that you’ll likely face at some point. Most ladder stands and lock on stands use ratchet straps or similar material straps to hold them in place. These tree stand ratchet straps deteriorate over time, especially if left outside in the weather and conditions, and can break unexpectedly. Squirrels or porcupines might also chew on them, causing them to easily snap once a load is put on them. And before they get to that point, they generally also loosen their grip. Climbing up into a tree is the last time you want to figure this out.
Another common problem with deer hunting tree stands made out of steel is rust. Even with proper care, metal stands made of these materials will likely develop rust at some point simply from being exposed during hunting season. As the paint chips and peels away, the exposed metal corrodes. You don’t want to let rust gain too good a foothold, or it will be difficult to remove and will eventually affect the stability and safety of your stand. Tree stands made of lighter weight aluminum also corrode over time, but the resulting corrosion actually protects the surface from further damage and therefore it isn’t much of a concern.