tree stand hunter compressedThis pre-season blog of tree-stand tips comes from our good friend Matt “Flatlander” Cheever, an expert hunter and land manager from Lexington, IL. A must-read!

Hi Mike: When managing several properties the duty of treestand technician falls upon my shoulders. Dealing with 85 stands that I maintain and prune every year–hang-on and ladder stands and combinations of both on some places–I’ve learned a few tricks to help you work more safely and efficiently, and to keep things moving at a rapid pace. I thought I’d pass these along to the BIG DEER followers who are busy getting ready for hunting season.

The average Midwestern whitetail hunter has 12 tree stands; that’s right, a dozen, contrary to what many spouses have been told! Some folks only have 2 or 3 stands, but many have 20 or better, so you can see how preparation time can add up.

Safety is first and foremost. Always follow the stand manufacturer’s recommendations. Now that I’ve said that get this: I don’t follow them most of the time, I exceed the recommendations all the time.

For example, if a manufacturer says to use a ratchet strap at the top of a hang-on stand and a cinch strap at the bottom, I use TWO ratchet straps at the top and one ratchet on the bottom. Throw the cinch straps in the garbage or maybe use them to keep coolers in place in the bed of your truck. In my opinion cinch straps have no place on a tree stand, they fail like no other. They are cheap and slip, it’s that simple.

The theory behind 3 ratchet straps is that if one or maybe even 2 have been chewed by a squirrel, you still have at least one ratchet holding you; a cinch strap won’t do that. If all 3 ratchet straps were to fail you still have your safety vest/harness and are tied off so you’re okay, right?

You do have a tree-stand harness don’t you? Don’t get me started on that. Buy a good one and wear it at all times. A harness doesn’t make you weak it makes you alive!

Every year I replace one of the 3 ratchet straps on every hang-on stand that I maintain in the woods. That way there is always at least one brand-new ratchet strap on every stand. Nylon straps dry rot and weaken over time, especially if they are not loosened in the off season. I don’t have time to loosen 255 straps each winter, so I replace a third of them each year.

In my youth I used chains/binders on tree stands. Remember those? Well, I’ve actually had chains and binders rust out faster than nylon dries out.

Use good quality ratchet straps. I prefer a 500-pound rating, and that times 3 gives you 1,500 pounds of bite on a tree. That way, believe me, a stand is not going anywhere unless it’s stolen (a topic for another day).

I utilize 3 straps for each ladder stand as well. May be overkill but it’s safe!

You want your treestand work to be efficient, and the key is to be organized. Assemble all stands beforehand in the garage or shop; don’t wait to put them together on the tailgate at the hunting property.

Paint older stands well in advance, and allow them to air out for a while. A camo pattern made with spray cans is preferred. You can buy quality spray paint that may be even better than the original paint that comes on a stand. A better paint job can make a stand last even longer out in the weather.

Have your tools dedicated and organized for the task at hand. I’ve tried organizing tools with backpacks, rubber containers and even cardboard boxes, but the best way to keep things handy is with a 5-gallon bucket with a tool caddy ($15 total investment).

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Here are things you need in your bucket: Vice grips, wire cutter, electrical or duct tape, spare bolts and clips, hammer, hatchet, box end wrenches/sockets, some extra bow rope and carabiners,bug spray, band-aides, and maybe a chain saw sharpener. Keep all this together all the time, along with about 10 extra ratchet straps bound neatly with electrical tape. This bucket tip alone will cut your prep time in half, guaranteed.

Make sure chainsaws, pole saws, hand saws that you need for treestand work are all sharp and ready. Lastly, have some help lined up—2 people can do 4 times the work of one person, I promise!  Saves time and energy.

The very best tool to have is a 40-foot piece of good rope and a pulley on a D ring ratchet strapped to a tree. Climb up your sticks or ladder and ratchet the D ring/pulley to the tree. Have your helper tie a stand on securely (or climb down and do it yourself) and then hoist it up. Have your buddy tie it off below on a nearby tree, which allows you to safely secure a stand without holding it by sheer strength. This takes a few more minutes to prep, but you can easily hang more stands in a day without being dog tired from manhandling those clunky stands.

I’ve been to a lot of places to hunt, and I’ve sat a lot of tree stands. I can say that 90% of those stands I consider unsafe, non-functional or hung in a manner that won’t allow a good shot. If a stand is not set so that you can shoot a buck easily and effectively with minimal movement, then what’s the point?

Hang your treestands safely and efficiently, and use the extra time you save with these tips for scouting and hunting.  Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. Don’t blow the opportunity due to lack of preparedness! Good luck and God bless.–Matt “Flatlander” Cheever

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Flatlander with a great bow buck arrowed from one of his safe and efficient tree stands!