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Ode to Climbing Stands

Climbers are the Most Versatile Choice for Deer Hunters.


The most versatile (and possibly the most-often used) style of tree stand is the self-climbing, or climber stand. I have used climbers for more than two decades. Although my first experience in a climber was less than ideal, I quickly learned to love the advantages they provide.


On the last day of deer season, my first year hunting deer at age thirteen, Art decided that he wasn't going to hunt that morning. In a characteristic act of kindness, he offered me the use of his climber, which was already set up. I accepted, and arrived just after daylight.

I had seen the guys use their climbing stands, and I knew how to use it. It was a sit-down, stand-up climber. I had been cautioned to bungee the top and bottom sections together lest the bottom section slip off of my toes and fall to the ground, and this I did.

One problem, however, was that I hooked the bungee to the outside, or the side away from the tree. Therefore, when the bottom section fell, the bungee caught it, but there I was with the wrong side of the thing tied off, and the more I pulled to raise it up, the more it stayed where it was. I was putting a reverse-cantilever on it, and it just wouldn't budge.

I knew that an adult hunter was within earshot, but I've always been the kind to do it myself whenever possible, so I did what I must: I released the bottom section, with a flip to get it to catch the tree before it hit the ground. Then I had to lower myself through the top, drop down a foot or so to the bottom, and then bearhug the tree (a pine with lots of treestand spikeholes, very sappy) and climb up to the top section about two inches at a time. I made it, and that was one of the best lessons I ever learned about climbers: tie the sections together, close to the tree, on your side of the tree.

My First Climber

Upon my arrival back at camp, Art gave me his old climber, a homemade Baker stand. In order to climb, you put the top section above your head, grab it, and heave yourself and the bottom section up. I used this for a year or so, then remodeled it so I could sit to climb. I used that stand for eleven years and shot seven deer from it, and then on New Year's Eve 1993, some no-good BLEEP stole it.

The biggest advantage of the climber is its versatility. You can go as high as you like, and face whatever direction you like. Most are easily portable, and all you need is a reasonably straight tree big enough to support you and the stand.

In the woods I hunt, there is no ideal height for every location. In some areas, if you go too high you'll have branches in your way, and in others, you have to get up high to see over the underbrush. Once you're there, you can rotate around the tree to find the best direction to face.

Here in Florida, it gets plumb hot up there at times, and it's nice to be able to put the tree between you and the sun. On cold days, you'll want to rotate into the sun or out of the wind, and climbers give you that ability.

Portability is another factor to consider. No other type of stand is as portable as a climber, with the possible exception of strap-on types, which I have never used. I have never seen one that I would consider as stable or as safe as a good climber, and then there's the problem of getting up there.

There is no one type of stand that suits every occasion, just as there is no one type or caliber of rifle that meets every hunter's needs. I use ladder stands also, but alas, stand-stealing is not uncommon in these woods, so I hate to leave a good ladder stand where it may be vulnerable. I do use ladders in the woods, but I do my best to keep them deep, out of sight of the crowds.

I used to think that using a climber removed the threat of stand theft, but as I mentioned earlier, I found out otherwise. I was spotted while in my tree by a vast "hunter" of about 350 pounds, who appeared to have been inverted and dipped into a vat of blaze-orange paint to his waistline. As he walked away, he kept his eyes locked onto me, and I got an eerie feeling, but I didn't take the stand with me when I left. I was confident that it would be safe.

I locked the stand with a heavy cable, but locks serve only to keep honest men honest. Upon my return a few hours later, there was no trace of my stand, lock, or cable. It makes my blood boil to think of it even now, that faithful old stand that meant so much, so many memories, snatched away, just gone.

We hunters are a mainly honest, law-abiding bunch, and it irks me doubly to think of how our image is tarnished by this lowlife scum, especially in this day and age when public image is everything, and the fate of hunting is often decided by the voting public instead of by wildlife professionals.

Well, I seem to have wandered away from the subject, but venting is good for the soul. I'll use my climbers and ladders, and you all use what works for you. Good luck!

-Russ Chastain

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