Bowhunters use tree stands all the time, especially yours truly. That’s a simple answer, though, and whether you should use a tree stand depends on many factors, such as your level of experience, the type of bow you’re shooting, and the type of tree stand.
Having tried various combinations over the years, I want to elaborate on some of the pros and cons of bowhunting from tree stands as well as specific setups. This way, you can decide if it’s a safe and effective choice for you.
Why Do Bowhunters Use Tree Stands?
Bowhunters use tree stands for the same reasons as other hunters. These include:
- Better visibility: The higher you are, the farther you can see and the more game you can spot.
- Concealment: Sitting in a tree stand 20 feet high keeps you hidden from animals like deer that don’t expect an attack from above.
- Safety: Being up in a tree stand provides you with a certain amount of safety from other hunters and the animals you’re hunting.
On top of that, tree stands can be extra beneficial for bowhunters because they make aiming easier. When you’re shooting over flat terrain, you have to angle your shot based on gravity so that it doesn’t fall too much by the time it hits your target. That takes a lot of practice.
In a tree stand, though, gravity is on your side. I’m always much more accurate when shooting downwards, even with low-power recurve bows.
Bowhunting From a Tree Stand: Pros and Cons
Whether or not you should use a tree stand for bowhunting depends a lot on your goals and risk profile. Just because I use one doesn’t mean you should. You have to weigh the pros and cons.
Bowhunting from a tree stand has a few benefits that many hunters don’t consider, such as:
- Safety: You might not think of being 20 feet off the ground as “safe,” but it does protect you from the angry bucks you’re shooting at, not to mention other wild animals.
- Organization: Many tree stands provide places to hold your bow and other accessories, so you don’t have to strew them across the ground.
- Comfort: Being elevated can make your seating position much more comfortable than just sitting on the ground, especially if the seat is ergonomic and padded.
However, by far the biggest pro of bowhunting from a tree stand is the higher success rate. Shooting your bow from an elevated position gives you better accuracy over a much larger range. It increases your margin for error and the chances you have to take a shot. Nearly all of my successful hunts have been from a tree stand.
Bowhunting from a tree stand improves your chances of success. It’s just a fact. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some downsides that you have to consider:
- Cost: Whether you build your own or buy a climbing or hang-on model, you have to pay for your tree stand.
- Limited mobility: Even if you have a mobile tree stand like a climbing tree stand, you still generally hunt all day from the same place. This means you rely on the game coming to you, unlike in “still hunting,” where you go out and try to find the deer.
- Installation: You have to get your tree stand up into the tree somehow. Whether that means building one up there yourself or carrying up a hang-on or climbing stand, it takes a bit of work and technique.
- Cramped space: Tree stands, especially nonpermanent ones like climbing and hang-on tree stands, can get really cramped. This is especially true if you have a large traditional longbow, which may simply be too big for some of the smallest tree stands.
Of course, the biggest disadvantage of a tree stand is the fall risk. Tree stands can be dangerous if you don’t take the proper precautions. Each year, there are thousands of hunting accidents related to tree stands, usually falling out of them. This is often an even bigger issue for bowhunters because we stand up to take our shot, which can then throw us off balance.
Staying Safe in the Tree Stand
Luckily, although the fall risk is the biggest con of bowhunting from a tree stand, it’s also the easiest one to mitigate. Just follow these guidelines.
Always Use a Safety Line and Harness
The easiest way to stay safe is to use a line that connects you to the tree via a safety harness. That way, the tree catches you if the stand collapses or you fall out of it.
These days, most tree stands you can buy come with some harness and safety line. If they don’t, a standard linesman rope and harness works great.
Double Check Your Equipment
Continuously look over the tree stand and your safety harness to make sure there aren’t any problems. When I use my climbing tree stand, I actually go try it out on a tree in my backyard first, only going up a few feet. While I climb, I check to ensure all the mechanisms in the stand are working and that it’s securely gripping the tree.
Get Enough Space
Rifle hunters often get the tiniest tree stands they can find since they’re easier to carry around and get up into the tree. As a bowhunter, you’ll probably want to stand up to shoot, and you need enough room to do so while maintaining your balance. I recommend a mid- to large-size platform.
This is especially true for traditional bows like recurves and longbows that aren’t as consistent or as compact as compound bows. In this case, you definitely need a lot of space.
If you’re new to bowhunting from a tree stand, try it out first. Recreate the stand-hunting situation in a safe environment. For example, you can install your climbing tree stand just a few feet off the ground in your backyard.
Then, have someone watch you as you take some practice shots. You can get a feel for shooting from a tree stand, and they can correct any obvious errors or dangers they see. Similarly, you’ll get better at installing the tree stand and employing safety measures.
Use Common Sense
Unfortunately, I can’t advise you for every situation, but you should take the risks of stand hunting seriously and use your best judgment. For instance, don’t climb up into a tree that’s clearly old, weak and incapable of holding your weight at the top, even if it’s technically within the diameter recommended by the manufacturer.
So, Should You Try It?
My emphatic recommendation is yes, you should try bowhunting from a tree stand. As long as you follow the safety guidelines and use common sense, it will greatly increase your chances of a successful hunt. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.
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.