If you look at my other articles, it’s obvious I like to bowhunt from a tree stand. Does that mean it’s the best or correct way to hunt, though? Everything has its pros and cons, and bowhunting is no exception.
Bowhunting from tree stands offers advantages like improved visibility, stealth, accuracy, scent control, safety from other hunters, and comfort in wet conditions. However, drawbacks include limited mobility, potential noise, discomfort, safety risks from falls, weather limitations, and cost.
Deciding to use one requires balancing these factors.
In my experience, bowhunting from a tree stand is highly effective, but it has disadvantages as well. Depending on your preferences, stand hunting may be right for you, or not. That’s why I’ve drawn up all the pros and cons in one place so you can make an informed decision.
The Pros of Bowhunting From Tree Stands
With a tree stand, you basically have the “high ground” in your hunting situation. It gives you much better visibility for a couple of reasons. For one thing, since the Earth is round, a higher vantage point lets you see farther over the horizon.
However, for a hunter, the bigger reason is that you can see over obstacles in the woods like small trees, bushes, and tall grass. You can see whitetail deer or other game if they’re farther away, and it gives you a clean line of sight that might otherwise be obstructed.
Even though the usual bowhunting range is only 40 yards, seeing your quarry from farther away helps for a lot of reasons. You can quickly but quietly get into shooting position or break out the calls to try to get the deer to come in closer.
Stealth and Surprise
Deer don’t have the best vision, at least compared to humans. Their eyes are on the sides of their heads, so they don’t have good depth perception, and they’re red-green colorblind. As prey animals, their vision is mostly based on movement and patterns. Additionally, deer rarely look up because they don’t have many, if any, natural predators that attack from above.
This all means that a tree stand is an effective way to hide you from the deer’s eyes. Because they’re much less likely to see you, they’re more likely to come within shooting range, which is fairly short for bowhunting—around 40 yards. As long as you also keep yourself hidden from their nose and ears, which I’ll address in other sections.
Better Accuracy and Increased Range
Shooting a bow downwards greatly improves accuracy for several reasons:
- Gravity pulls arrows down, so if you’re shooting something at the same level, you have to account for the amount the arrow will drop toward the ground. In other words, you have to arc the arrow so that it goes up and then back down. You don’t have to account for as much drop, though, if you’re already shooting down. For example, if you were shooting straight down, you wouldn’t have to account for it at all.
- You’re shooting with gravity, giving your arrow more speed. This gives you more range and penetration.
- You have a better line of sight and can often see more of the killzone than you’d be able to if you were on the ground. This makes it easier to aim.
I already mentioned how a tree stand hides you from the deer’s eyes, but it actually hides you from their noses too. When you’re up high, usually around 20 feet, the scent particles disperse a lot more before they reach the deer’s level, making them harder to detect. Plus, if you’re lucky, you can find a wind current at that height that blows your scent in the opposite direction.
That said, deer can smell really well. You can’t count on the tree stand-alone to hide your scent. Make sure you use odor blockers and scent killers, too.
Improved Safety (In Some Ways)
This one might seem a bit odd since safety is usually considered the biggest con of tree stands, but tree stands improve your safety in one key way: they keep you safer from other hunters.
Accidental shootings are rare, but they do happen, and it’s much less likely a fellow hunter is going to mistake you for game if you’re up in a tree. After all, what deer is hanging out 20 feet high?
Comfort and Convenience (In Some Ways)
You might have also heard that tree stands are uncomfortable, and I can attest that in many ways they are, which I address below. However, they can actually improve your comfort, especially if the ground is wet or muddy. Basically, the tree stand gives you a high and dry place to sit.
The Cons of Bowhunting From Tree Stands
Limited Mobility and Action
Tree stands make you commit to a single spot. Some tree stands, like modern climbing stands, are mobile in the sense that you can use them on different trees throughout the season, but that doesn’t mean you can just climb up and down trees all day.
A tree stand requires you to put a lot of effort into choosing the correct spot, and if you don’t, well, you’re out of luck. To a certain extent, you just have to hope the deer come to you, and you can’t take action and go find the deer.
On top of the practicality of it, some hunters don’t like this passive form of hunting. They want action. I’m sometimes in this mood myself, in which case, I have to forgo the tree stand.
Tree stands have the advantage of hiding you from game’s eyes and noses, but it doesn’t work as well for ears. In fact, a tree stand can be a big noise risk since it’s made of bulky metal. You may make noise by catching it on brush as you’re hiking into your hunting spot, or you might bang around in it. Plus, the act of climbing into the tree stand usually causes some amount of noise.
Cramped Space and Discomfort
A tree stand can keep you off the cold, wet ground, but otherwise… it’s not the most comfortable place. At 6’3″, I can tell you that even the more spacious tree stands on the market can start to feel claustrophobic after a few hours. It’s hard to change your position and stretch out.
Arguably, the biggest con of tree stands is the fall risk. There are over 3,000 hunter accidents in tree stands each year, mostly from falls. However, the Mayo Clinic states that the majority of these are preventable and due to hunters ignoring best safety practices, hunting while under the influence or not wearing a safety line and harness.
More Weather Limitations
Due to the safety risks, tree stands limit the weather you can hunt in. Climbing into and sitting in a tree stand if it’s raining a lot could make you slip and fall. While high up, you’re also more susceptible to lightning strikes, and strong winds could make the tree unstable.
Frankly, you’re unlikely to see any deer in a thunderstorm anyway. All the same, you may feel slightly restricted by your tree stand.
Finally, tree stands cost money, at least a couple hundred dollars for a basic hang-on or climbing model. Other options, like ground blinds, tend to be a bit cheaper, not to mention still hunting with nothing at all.
Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?
When it comes to bowhunting success, the pros of tree stands by far outweigh the cons. In my experience, I take more deer bowhunting from a tree stand than any other method. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you have to hunt from a tree stand.
If you want more action in your hunt or are concerned about safety, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a decision.
Having personally experienced various hunting methods, it’s evident that bowhunting from tree stands brings with it a mix of advantages and challenges.
While the elevated perspective offers heightened visibility, stealth, and accuracy benefits, it equally demands a mindful approach to mobility, noise, comfort, and safety considerations. While my encounters have often favored tree stands for their effectiveness, every hunter’s preference will differ.
The key lies in understanding and weighing these facets to curate a hunting experience that aligns with one’s comfort and objectives.
Thanks for reading!
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.