Despite being one of mankind’s oldest activities, there seems to be a new hunting invention or innovation every year. Tree stands are no exception, and with so many different types and setups on the market, I always feel a bit overwhelmed when deciding which to use.
Through this experience, I’ve discovered five tree stands that you really shouldn’t use for bowhunting. But don’t worry, I’ve also found what does work and will give you that info as well.
The tree stands not recommended due to safety and practicality concerns are 1) old wooden platforms, which can deteriorate and break; 2) stands with missing or broken parts; 3) non-certified brands lacking safety testing; 4) ones with weak or thin straps; and 5) stands without full-body harnesses.
Tree Stand Considerations for Bowhunters
If you’re bowhunting, there’s a lot you have to take into account when choosing a tree stand that might not matter if you’re hunting with a rifle.
On the one hand, I’m an avid bowhunter and want the tree stand that’s best for bowhunting. On the other hand, I like to experiment with new things, both to see what works and just to have fun. As a result, I’ve tried a lot of stands and seen what it’s like to bowhunt from them.
Whereas a rifle hunter may want a shooting rail or retention bar to steady their weapon, this could get in the way for a hunter with a vertical bow. You need to be able to shoot from different angles without anything getting in the way.
Bowhunters need more room in the tree stand. The bow itself takes up more room, not to mention drawing it, especially if you have long, gangly arms like me.
Noise and Range
You have to be even quieter to successfully bowhunt because you need your quarry to get closer than if you were rifle hunting. Even with a compound bow, 40 yards is pushing the limit while a rifle can easily take down game at 10 times that distance.
Drawing and shooting a bow takes way more movement than just pulling the trigger of a rifle. You should be able to do all this with good form, and your feet spread shoulder-width apart.
Moreover, as you draw and fire, you shouldn’t be thrown off balance. This requires a stable stand that doesn’t shake, wobble or bounce beneath you.
Versatility and Movement
In most states, the bowhunting season is much, much longer than the firearm season. If you plan to take advantage of this and hunt frequently, you don’t want to hunt the same location over and over. Therefore, you want a tree stand you can easily move from tree to tree and even area to area.
Falls from tree stands are a major source of hunter injury, and since bowhunters have to move around a lot in the stand, it’s an even bigger deal for us. Really, any type of stand can be safe if you follow best safety practices and use a safety line and harness. However, I like to go the extra mile by getting a stand that’s roomy and stable.
5 Tree Stands You Shouldn’t Use for Bowhunting
1. Closed-Front Tree Stands
Whether a climber or a hang-on tree stand, a closed-front tree stand consists of two parts: the lower footrest and the upper seat. However, the seat has a bar that wraps around the front, closing you in.
This bar limits space, can make it difficult to take a standing shot, and prevents certain shooting angles. Plus, you can easily bump it and make noise.
These tree stands can work for crossbows because the bar serves as a shooting rail, but for vertical bows, avoid them.
2. Ladder Tree Stands
Ladder tree stands have the benefit of being stable and easy to get into, but they’re not great for bowhunting for two main reasons:
- Ladder tree stands are hard to move and install in new trees, making it difficult to take advantage of the long bowhunting season.
- The ladder is visible from eye level, and since you need the deer to come within 40 yards when bowhunting, it could spook them.
3. Tripod and Tower Stands
Okay, so these aren’t technically tree stands since you can set them up freely without needing a tree. However, a tower stand is a big no-no for bowhunting mainly because it simply isn’t stable enough. Very few tower stands allow you to stand up, and even then, the act of drawing and shooting a bow could easily throw you off balance.
Additionally, a tower stand is much more conspicuous and obviously man-made to even the most naive of whitetails. It’s likely that a deer will get spooked by the stand before getting within 40 yards.
4. Compact Tree Stands
Whether it’s a climber, hang-on tree stand, or ladder stand, you need space. Make sure the platform is big enough that you can comfortably execute the proper archery stance with your feet shoulder-width apart. For me, that means around 25 inches. That eliminates a lot of climbing tree stands.
Tree Saddles… Sort Of
Tree saddles are all the rage right now, and I don’t want to completely discount them for bowhunting. They do have some benefits. The biggest is that they’re lightweight, portable, and quiet. They also allow for nearly any shooting angle you can imagine.
That said, tree saddles give you no stability whatsoever. You’re just hanging from the tree like Tarzan, and while it’s definitely possible to shoot your bow bouncing around the trees, it’s going to take some practice. Since you’re reading this article, I assume you’re probably new to tree stands, so I recommend avoiding tree saddles for now.
Use a Large, Open-Front Hang-On Tree Stand Instead
My go-to for bowhunting is a hang-on tree stand with a big platform of at least 30 inches so I can spread out and take an accurate shot. For this reason, I prefer hang-on stands because the market has more extra-large options, but you can find climbing tree stands that are big enough. Plus, getting into a hang-on stand is a bit quieter, even though the climbing sticks take up some extra room in your gear.
Whether a hang-on or climbing tree stand, make sure it has an open front with no shooting rail, guard rail, or retainment bar. Otherwise, it will be difficult to adjust your shooting angle.
I like this setup because it makes shooting easier and safer. However, you should make safety a priority regardless of the type of stand. Use a safety line and harness, don’t hunt under the influence, and follow my safety tips.
As hunters, we have a responsibility not only to the game we pursue but also to ourselves to ensure safety and sustainability. Tree stands, while invaluable tools in hunting, must be chosen with discernment.
It’s essential to recognize that not all tree stands are created equal. I hope I have helped you make an informed choice, avoiding potentially hazardous options, with personal safety prioritized.
Remember, a successful hunt is not just about the catch, but also about the experience – and that experience is best when we are secure, comfortable, and confident in our gear. Always stay updated, continuously learn, and never compromise on safety. Good hunting!
For more, check out How to Bowhunt From a Tree Stand | All You Need to Know.
Christian grew up in the Ozarks where he spent much of his childhood on his grandparents’ homestead learning about guns, hunting, and the great outdoors.
An avid traditional bowhunter, much of his writing covers this and other similar topics, but he also covers just about everything from history and economics to motorcycles.
See more of his work at ChristianMonson.com.