By P.J. Reilly
Which type of treestand do the pros prefer?
Paper or plastic? Bow or gun? Ford or Chevy?
Variety is the spice of life, they say, but any time you have variety, you’re going to have differing opinions.
In the world of deer hunting, one tastes great/less filling argument you’re sure to hear in most camps revolves around treestands. Which is better, a climber or a hang-on?
Both have their fans. We decided to ask a few folks in the hunting industry which they prefer, and why. Maybe their insights will help you decide which is right for you.
Buckmasters founder and CEO
Before he began having a cameraman follow his every step in the woods, Jackie was a climbing-stand groupie.
“In my earlier days, I preferred a climber because I could hunt a couple of different properties, and it was just a matter of getting in and out,” Bushman said. “I could run-and-gun and follow the deer sign.”
Jackie was always scouting, even while hunting. And if he climbed a tree one day but saw deer in another area or found hot sign on his way out, he’d load his climber on his back and make a move. Heck, he’d even relocate in the middle of a hunt if he thought it would help.
“Using a climber is the quickest way to find the sign and hunt it immediately,” he said.
These days, however, things are a bit different for The Buckmaster. He has to consider how a cameraman can get the hunt on film.
“As we started Buckmasters, that climber business went out the window,” he said. “The cameraman has to be next to me at all times, and setting up two climbers is just too noisy. Plus, you can’t always fit two climbers in a tree the way we need to.”
Nowadays, Jackie prefers hang-ons. Specifically, he likes a solid climbing stick attached to a tree, providing access to two hang-on stands. Jackie occupies one stand, and his cameraman uses the other.
“We have about 200 double sets all over the country,” Jackie said.
Most of his setups are in historically productive areas, but even if he travels someplace new and plans to hunt from a tree, Jackie insists on a hang-on. A tall man, Jackie likes a stand with a large platform measuring at least 30 inches long.
“I like having lots of room, especially when it’s cold,” he said. “The more comfortable you are, the easier it is to sit for a long time.”
When possible, Buckmasters film setups are about 24 feet high. To reach a stand set at that height, Jackie said he likes a climbing stick about 28 feet long.
“You always want to step down onto the platform,” he said. “That’s a mistake I see frequently — setups where the climbing sticks stop at the platform. The steps have to go higher than the stand.”
Matt Morett grew up hunting the woods of Pennsylvania, where climbing stands rule. But the former Hunter’s Specialties pro staffer, who now works with Zink’s Calls and travels all over North America in pursuit of whitetails, said he has grown quite fond of hang-ons.
“I like the fact that I don’t have to look for a perfectly straight tree with no limbs,” Morrett said. “You have so many more options with a hang-on than you do using a climber.”
One of Morrett’s favorite places to hunt each season is Kansas, where gnarly cottonwoods and limb-covered oaks and Norway maples are the norm.
“I’ve hunted in Kansas with guys who brought climbers, and they ended up ditching them for hang-ons,” he said. “You could look all day for a good climbing tree, and you might never find one.”
Morrett doesn’t like to hunt particularly high. He’ll go up 12 to 20 feet but considers 15 to 17 feet optimal. Morrett is primarily searching for cover when selecting a stand. In fact, if there’s better cover at 12 feet than 15, he’ll hang his stand at the lower height to take advantage of the cover.
“I feel really comfortable when I have lots of limbs and branches around me to break up my outline,” he said. “I think it’s much easier to avoid a deer’s eyes that way, even though I’m not up real high.”
Morrett admits he’s on the small side, standing 5 feet, 7 inches tall. So he doesn’t need a real big stand to be comfortable. A stand with a platform 24 to 28 inches suits him fine.
“I like a midsize stand,” he said. “One that’s not too small, but not real big, either.”
For accessing his hang-ons, Morrett likes the climbing sticks that come in sections that are assembled on the tree to create a solid ladder. “They are the most comfortable for me to climb,” he said.
And even though they’re heavier, Morrett prefers steel sticks over aluminum.
“In real cold weather, I’ve found aluminum to be noisier than steel,” he said. “Aluminum creaks and pops when it gets real cold.”
Climbers dominate the conversation when hunters talk about mobility, but Morrett said he has no problem being mobile with his stick-and-stand combos.
“It only takes me about 30 minutes to hang a stand, so I’ll go in the day before I hunt and hang two or three in an area for different wind directions,” he said. “If it seems like things aren’t right when I hunt, I’ll move them. It’s no big deal.”
Marketing Director, Summit Treestands
Long before he went to work in the hunting industry, Gordon was lugging his climbing stand all over his club’s 2,400 acres in Mississippi.
“I’d take my climber in and set up, and if the deer were doing something different that day, I’d climb down and move,” he said.
Gordon recognizes, though, that the woods he was hunting were full of trees perfectly suited for climbers — planted pines and tulip poplars.
“It seems like the South and most of the eastern United States has plenty of good climbing trees, so that’s probably why a lot of guys there use climbers,” he said. “I know it can be much more difficult to find those trees in places like Oklahoma and Nebraska.”
What he likes about climbers includes the ability to get set up with ease and to relocate if necessary.
“A hang-on and a set of sticks are not the easiest things to lug around in the woods,” he said.
Also, Gordon finds climbers generally to be more comfortable when sitting for long periods of time.
“Most hang-ons have a flat, pan-style seat, and they get hard and uncomfortable over time,” he said. “Climbers mostly have sling-style seats. They’re much easier on your body.”
Climbers come in all sizes, but Gordon likes a midsize stand. And he said that seems to be the preference of most Summit customers since the Viper, Summit’s mid-sized stand, is the company’s biggest seller. It has a platform that’s 20 inches wide by 28 inches long, and the platform and seat combined weigh 20 pounds.
Public land hunters, or hunters who hunt private property accessed by others, will probably want to use climbers, Gordon said. That’s because hang-ons and climbing sticks are often stolen on high-pressured lands. And if you’re just going to put up and take down a hang-on and ladder each time you hunt, you might as well just use a climber.
“I can’t see myself ever going away from a climber,” Gordon said. “They’ve been working for me for so long, I just can’t quit them.”
Millennium Treestands PR
That’s what McCaleb calls a hunter sitting in a climbing stand halfway up a tree.
“You have to find a tree with no limbs, so you have no cover, and you stick out like a sore thumb,” he said. “A deer looks up and sees this growth on the side of a tree, like it’s tree cancer. They know it’s out of place.”
That’s one of the reasons McCaleb favors hang-ons.
“With hang-ons, you can get in a tree that has limbs all over, and you disappear,” he said. “I like disappearing.”
McCaleb is aware of the fear some hunters have about leaving stands in the woods, but he said Millennium has come up with a solution to that problem with its M100 receiver system.
Instead of hanging a whole stand, a hunter can hang just a bracket, and then carry in an M100 stand when he hunts. A few other companies employ this system as well.
“You can hang several brackets, but have just one stand,” McCaleb said. “That way, you can have multiple setups and can move around without leaving out multiple stands that might get stolen.”
Of course, you still have to get to that bracket. For that, McCaleb said he sometimes leaves sticks on trees, or he carries them in and out with him each time he hunts. Either way, he can leave his receivers in place.
“I just think the hang-ons get you into better cover, and you don’t have to be as picky with your trees,” he said.
Buckmasters Bowhunting Field Editor
So what do I like?
I’m a Pennsylvania boy. Born and raised and, as Matt Morrett said, climbers rule in the Keystone State.
There are a number of reasons for that. Most every woodlot has tulip poplars, which are the Holy Grail of climbing trees — tall, straight as an arrow, no low branches.
Also, I regret to say, we have a lot of hunters, and if you hang stands and leave them, you’ve had one or more stolen or know someone who has. It doesn’t matter if you chain the stand to a tree on exclusive private property. It can be stolen. I know from experience.
I’m also not a fan of leaving stands out to let others know where I’m hunting. I’ve had more than one guy take advantage of my scouting and set up camp right next to one of my hang-ons. So I use a climber to keep my hunting locations secret.
Climber or hang-on? The beauty of the debate is both sides are right. As long as you’re filling tags and hanging racks on the wall, you’re on the winning team. Read Recent Articles:
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• Smile for the Camera: The bucks might not be grinning, but you will if you follow this trail camera advice. This article was published in the September 2012 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.