The fat 4-pointer glided in below my perch, young muscles rippling in the morning sun. I pulled the Bear and the aluminum arrow sliced the air. Thwack, the buck mule-kicked and bolted. When I heard him crash, I shinnied down the tree, stepped out of the boot straps and over the bottom of the metal platform and went and got my deer.
A fine November day in the early 1980s, back when life and hunting were slower and simpler. That fork-horn was the third deer I’d killed that season with my old wheel bow from the same climbing stand fixed to the same hickory tree.
A decade earlier a man called Baker had introduced the first climber to the market. It was a crude invention, a one-piece wooden platform bolted into a welded-metal V brace that fitted around the tree, which you hugged tightly as you shinnied up 20 feet. Rough, noisy and sketchy—the platform was notorious for slipping out from under your feet and leaving you bug-eyed and squeezing a tree for dear life—but bowhunters went wild for it.
Throughout the 1980s and 90s, tree stand manufacturers like API, Old Man and Summit improved their versions of the climbing stand and made them easier and much safer to use. Their popularity exploded even more. In my part of Virginia, at least 90% of the hunters used climbers religiously. A half-hour before sunrise on an October morning on public land, you’d hear a symphony of metal on bark as hunters all around worked their way up into the trees.
The other day I checked the tree stand section of a major hunting catalog. I counted some 60 versions of lock-on and tripod stands; a big selection of huge elevated box blinds; and several new saddle contraptions. I found 9 climbers for sale.
Curious, until I got to thinking. I have a dozen old climbers stashed in my basement, but I can’t recall using one in the last 25 years. Why? Not sure. Perhaps as Boomer hunters have aged, the popularity of the climbing stand, which takes added effort to use, has dwindled.
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