Thanks to modern stand manufacturers, newer materials and better designs, hunting whitetails in comfort up in a tree is easier than ever.
By Patrick Meitin
It’s a safe assumption that most of you spend almost every spare autumn moment perched in trees.
Years ago, I’d sit or stand on branches or a 2-by-4 tacked between handily spaced trees — without a safety harness. It was part a long list of indiscretions I miraculously survived during youth.
Recent industry surveys reveal that as a group, hunters are aging, with a mean age somewhere in their early- to mid-50s. With age comes wisdom, so I’m probably not alone in admitting that comfort is now the top priority in a new tree stand. Don’t think of it as being old. You’re simply deadly serious about deer hunting and understand that big bucks are as likely to appear at lunchtime as during morning and evening. And even the most enthusiastic hunters approach 12 hours in a subcompact stand with some trepidation.
Comfort can mean many things. It often means bigger platforms and seats, which let you shift as various body parts become numb or cramped. Also, comfort involves additional cushioning in the seat, as posteriors take most of the abuse during prolonged sits. Comfort also comes via padded arm rests, foot rests and back padding. Such features add weight, of course, but extra effort at the front end creates untold hours of comfort at the back.
Which stands provide recliner-like coziness while you wait for long, cold hours to ambush a trophy whitetail? That’s what Deer & Deer Hunting set out to discover.
API founder Paul Meeks practically invented modern tree-stand comfort. His Baby Grand hang-ons were among the first to have roomier platforms and larger seats to accommodate all-day hunts.
With many improvements to the original, the newer models like the Alumi-Tech Baby Grand still are about comfort. The Baby Grand features a 19- to 24-inch height-adjustable seat. Also, it has a huge 24-by-30-inch Sure-Grip platform and a 2-inch, 12-by-18-inch padded seat. Quality welded aluminum construction assures silence, Sure-Grip platforms with ribbed traction treads ensure sure footing in wet or icy conditions. The stands attach to any tree using a 1.5-inch-wide ratchet strap and fold flat for easy packing. They weigh 27 pounds and have a 300-pound maximum load rating.
Little things can make a difference, like with the Alumi-Tech climbing treestand. It has a backrest and headrest that straps to the tree for additional padding. Quick-clip pins and super-tough form-fitting vinyl-covered gripping chains adjust to fit any tree 9 to 20 inches in diameter. The stand includes cinching, foot straps, a seat stabilizer, climbing brackets, an accessory bag and an adjustable backpack. It weighs 31 pounds and safely supports up to 300 pounds.
Ladder stands aren’t ignored. API’s Ultra-Steel Deluxe 15-foot ladder has a 17-by-18-inch platform and a 2-by-15-by-20-inch padded seat with a slight rearward incline for comfort. Heavily padded armrests and a 12-by-14-inch padded, removable backrest are nice, as is a fully adjustable shooting rail and a removable, folding footrest with quiet, rubber-coated bumpers. The 55-pound stand secures with a heavy 2-inch-wide ratchet strap and has two stabilizer straps and a U-shaped stabilizer bar. It has a 300-pound capacity.
Gorilla Tree Stands
Sit for hours and you’ll eventually be squirming in many seats that are ill-designed or uncomfortable. Gorilla’s lineup features XPE Dual Density Foam Seats with high-density, water-resistant XPE padding and an added 2-inch layer of high-comfort padding. That creates a durable, quiet and ultra-comfortable seat to keep you on stand longer.
That system is also on the Pro-Series King Kong HX and King Kong Lounger HX. In addition, these stands have 24-by-30-inch platforms and padded backs, armrests and footrests.
For permanent spots on private ground, you’d be hard pressed to find more comfortable hang-ons. The King Kong Expedition HX has an extra-wide, contoured comfort mesh seat and a lighter payload. The stands are comfortable enough to use at standby spots yet portable enough to tote into distant honey holes.
The Expedition HX’s seat is 20 inches wide — compared to 16 inches on other models — 16.5 inches deep and 22 inches high — compared to 20 inches on others. Further, it’s contoured to minimize the pressure-point discomfort produced by standard seat designs. The 24-by-30-inch platform gives you plenty of foot room. All-welded steel HX construction creates a 300-pound load rating with a reasonable 20.5-pound finished weight. It includes Gorilla’s Extreme Leveling System to accommodate funky trees. In addition, it features fully adjustable backpack straps, XT-6 Nylon silencing washers, a solid one-piece footrest and a secure yet fast Easy-Cinch dual claw strap.
For climbers, consider the Greyback Stealth HX Climber for ultimate comfort. The heart of this is a 12-by-18-inch XPE zero-G dual-density foam seat, promising all-day comfort with a sling design sans circulation-cutting crossbars. It also includes a contoured, padded backrest, designed much like the torso padding of a quality backpack.
Comfort doesn’t mean giving up smart design. The 20-inch High-N-Tight creates a slim profile that closely parallels the tree trunk for increased concealment. That’s accomplished by a fold-up platform that’s locked up while climbing aboard. Side steps let you flip the platform into place before stepping on. All-steel construction allows a 300-pound load rating, and a U-bracket system, three stabilizer bars and six ratchet straps provide rock-solid anchoring.
Lone Wolf Portable Tree Stands
Lone Wolf stands are favorites because they offer easy setup, absolute silence and great stability. Much of that praise stems from their one-piece molded-aluminum platforms and seats, which eliminate hollow echoes, creaking joints and expanded-metal pops without adding weight.
The Sit & Climb Combo climbing stand is the ultimate in Lone Wolf comfort, thanks greatly to its two-panel contour-foam seat pad and backrest, and an adjustable sling style with built-in armrests. There are no hard bars beneath the seat, and the wide support straps slide for recline adjustment.
A Wide Sit & Climb is available with a 3.5-inch wider seat. The Sit & Climb only weigh 20 pounds, and the Wide model is 21. It includes backpack straps, a 350-pound load rating, a bow holder molded into the stand platform, an adjustable Sit & Climb bar and a 19.5-by-30-inch cast aluminum platform. It fits trees 6-19 inches diameter, and longer traction belts are available. Support straps cinch tight to create a rock-solid platform.
Lone Wolf’s Alpha Hang On has long been one of my favorites. It’s dead silent and solid — even if I jump up and down on it — and I’ve killed several of my best bucks from it. The design has been taken to new dimensions with the new Elite Hang On, which is bigger. It’s 21 inches high, and has a 24-by-36-inch one-piece platform and 12-by-17-inch seat with a contoured foam pad. You pay for that extra room in weight — 22.5 pounds vs. 14 — but it’s worth every ounce, Lone Wolf’s Versa-Button dual-mounting system makes installation fast, easy and secure. The seat and platform include self-leveling systems to take advantage of less-than-perfect trees 4-22 inches in diameter. It includes backpack straps and has a 350-pound load rating.
Rivers Edge Tree Stands
River’s Edge established itself as the leader in ladder stands, so it’s a given the company’s most comfortable model is a ladder. Its 17-inch SpinShot is unlike anything you’ve seen. It earned Rivers Edge’s Extreme Comfort rating for various reasons while proving functional. Because we’re primarily interested in comfort, let’s address those features first.
The bench seat is 21 inches high and swivels 360 degrees. It includes a thickly padded seat and backrest, and is built around a frame large enough to accommodate someone pushing its 300-pound load rating. The extra-large wrap-around 40-by-46-inch platform provides plenty of elbow room. Also, it has a wrap-around camouflage curtain, blocking chilly winds on cold days.
From a practical standpoint, the silent swiveling seat and wrap-around platform let you to safely shoot behind the supporting tree. The wind-blocking camouflage skirt disguises movement and enhances concealment. It includes a zippered door for easy entry and exit. The camo curtain is supported by a padded shooting rail that’s perfect for a solid rifle rest. Still, most bow-hunters won’t have to stand to assure bow clearance. Welded tubular steel construction, a telescoping stabilizer bar, a triple-ratchet system and safety tie-off ropes make it safe and rock solid.
You’ll want the Big Foot XL Lounger in your favorite rut tree. It’s a rugged hang-on that’s all about coziness. The fully padded Lounger seat and backrest were designed for all-day hunting. The 20-inch-high stand has a sling design without cutting crossbars. It also includes wrap-around, camo-padded armrests that flip up and out of the way with the seat, allowing full platform use while shooting. Further, it has a built-in footrest. The extra-large platform is 24 by 30 inches. The 25-pound, tubular-steel stand has pack straps, a 300-pound load rating and a secure lever-action mounting system.
Summit Tree Stands
Summit made its name with revolutionary climbing models, so that’s where we’ll start because hunters always are interested in something different, new and better.
Summit’s engineers designed a collapsible version of its best-selling Viper climber. This allows easier storage and transport in a 20-by-36-inch design already known for roominess, quiet, light weight and top-drawer comfort. The Switchblade features a padded sling seat that’s height adjustable to create a custom fit. The sling design eliminates crossbars that can restrict circulation. The padded front bar assures effortless climbing and doubles as a gun rest. Other features include RapidClimb Stirrups, Quick Draw climbing/hanging cables and SummitLok welded-aluminum construction for reliability.
During a Nebraska bowhunt a couple of years ago I enjoyed 50-plus hours in Summit’s RSX Eagle hang-on, and its adjustable, saddle-style seat was luxurious. It includes 3 inches of padding in a suspended system built around a one-piece seat and backrest designed to relieve pressure points that cause cramped backsides and numb feet. The seat flips out of the way and adjusts for height. The stand uses Summit’s Talon Bracket System.
After moving my stand twice, I found it to be as fast, easy and as secure. It has a Single Cable Spreader to maximize space on the 21-by-36-inch platform by opening the V of standard support-cable designs. Also, it features simple but innovative platform leveling notches, allowing plumb sitting even in Nebraska’s crooked cottonwoods. Lightweight aluminum construction makes it easy to tote.
There’s a bit of masochism in every die-hard whitetail hunter; an attitude that says without pain and suffering — staying on stand until it hurts, sitting through the nastiest weather — success is not only impossible but undeserved.
We relish our suffering and scorn those unwilling to sacrifice. It’s about earning your luck and putting in your time, no matter what Mother Nature has in store. I understand this well. Still, suffering in comfort lets you be there — physically and mentally — when that season-making buck finally appears.
Remaining comfortable isn’t cheating. It just makes good sense.
— Patrick Meitin is a deer hunting guide from Idaho.
Stay Safe in Your Treestand!
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