How to Build a Reliable and Safe Tree Stand
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Should you want to go hunting with a little less traipsing through the forest, there are few better methods than getting set-up in a tree stand. It keeps you out of the line of sight, does not disturb the natural trails, and really allows you to take in the scenic beauty all around. If you know an area that intersects a common animal trail, knowing how to easily build a safe tree stand without making too much disturbance is a skill worth knowing. In this article, we’ll show you how to do just that!
You should decide if you’re going to make a permanent stand or a temporary one. A temporary one will allow you to move around almost anywhere, and will not let the wildlife become wary of a particular area. A permanent stand will last a long time, and if not used too often, will afford you many years of safety and comfort.
The very first step is to decide on a location. Is there a particular trail that you like to hunt on? Are there enough natural resources in the area to ensure that animals keep coming back? Is the area safe enough from potential thieves? Make sure you have enough information on your chosen area by either talking to other hunters who’ve worked it or by going there yourself at several different times. Once you’re sure that the area is good enough, it’s time to start building.
Choosing the right materials is more than just a question of "will it last and will it be stable?" Once you've chosen the perfect are, you'll need to decide how to get not just the building materials to the site, but also the tools you need for putting it together.
If you plan on getting settled in and hunting on the same day as you build the stand, you will need to make sure you're not disturbing the area too much. All animals are conscious of their environment...You hammering away for half the day will ensure they come nowhere near that area for quite some time.
- The first step is to build a secure ladder. Make an estimate of how high you want the platform to be, and then cut two equal lengths of 2 x 4 with EXTRA length (it is always easier to cut back than add more). The width should be just under the width of your own shoulders to allow you to safely climb whilst carrying gear. Set out intersecting struts no more than a foot apart and secure in place with nails or screws (make sure to use stainless steel to prevent rust and rotting).
- Attach your ladder to the tree. Here you should choose the more environmentally friendly method that will keep your chosen tree as healthy as possible. Some people will nail the whole ladder in place, but that involves A LOT of screw holes that can cause damage over time (always try and limit the impact on the tree). By placing the base of the ladder about one and half feet from the base of the tree and then securing the top end with a chain (rope can get wet, and after a few seasons will likely start to slack or even worse: rot), you will be secure in the knowledge that your ladder won’t tilt or slide off. Also, the slight angle will make it easier to climb with your pack and gun. Some people like to rope tie their ladder in place before securing more firmly...This allows you to make sure you've got it right the first time.
- Building the base. Unless the tree has some thick, stable branches at your chosen level, you’ll want to build the tree stand AROUND the tree to minimize any excess weight one side (if you have chosen a very wide tree, this is not too important). Measure up the amount of space you’ll comfortable need to move around the trunk safely and to get a proper firing stance. You’ll need enough space to ensure that you can set your gun properly into your shoulder without obstruction, and enough space to spread your feet properly without risk of slipping over the edge. Around 48 inches for the width and 55 inches for the length should be safe for most hunters. You'll know better than anyone else if you need a wider stance; if so, add more space, or angle the platform.
- Support struts. This is THE most important part; if you get this wrong, it can be extremely dangerous. Your struts should be at least at 45-degree angle for maximum support. Attach the support struts (thick lengths of very good quality wood) coming out at angles on both the front and back of the tree. Use good quality, long nails to ensure the joint won’t move. By having two struts coming out of the front AND back, you will be better secured by the base not tilting. You can also add 2 x 4s from strut to strut (attaching directly to the angled struts on each side) to make a better frame.
- Add your platform. Use four planks (see above measurements) to create the standing base AROUND the trunk with space for your ladder. Nail them to the support struts and then secure them together to make one solid piece. A 1 inch raised rim around the outside edge of your base will really help you; while you’re sighting up an animal, your toes will be able to feel the edge of the platform.
- Test it. Holding tight to the actual tree (securing with a rope loop is best), gradually lower your weight onto the platform. Keep your back against the trunk and place one foot forward at all points to see if it feels stable. Don’t put your full weight ANYWHERE until you are positive. It is worth taking a couple of shots just be sure. If you don't have a full range of movement, it can make shooting harder and even be a danger to yourself and those around you.
Image Credit: geograph.org.uk
The last step is to get hunting! Whilst in a tree stand, it is worth remembering two things. The first is safety: use a strong clip to hook yourself in; you may find it uncomfortable, but it’s a lot less uncomfortable than a broken leg. And number two: don’t use the stand too often. If animals become wary of an area, they won’t come back…Don’t overuse it. If you're looking for some extra protection and cover when sitting in your tree stand, something like an overhead protector or a blind cover is ideal.
Check out this video to see another simple method of making a tree stand:
Buying A Tree Stand Instead
Because there can be so many different things to consider and test when making a tree stand, including the massive amount of time and effort that it requires, if you have the money then you probably just invest in one. This is a great option if you want a good, reliable tree stand and are not confident in building your own model. Because you're buying one instead, make sure to check out reviews of good ladder, hang-on or climbing tree stands depending on what your requirements are.