Grandstanding for Bucks

Tree-stand luxury is but a nail away.

Field & Stream Online Editors

The rain wasn't going to run down this deer hunter's neck!

I simply turned up my collar and took pleasure in having a roof over my homemade stand. I knew my lease partners would be hunched over in rain suits on their hang-on and ladder stands. If the rain persisted, most would head back to camp. But not me! I hunkered down for the duration of the storm. When it subsided, the deer would likely move, and I'd be ready if a good buck slipped down the ridge.

I call this grandstanding. Build a big, roomy stand. Furnish it with whatever conveniences you like. Then hunt for as long as it takes to bag the deer of your choice. Waiting is a lot easier when you're warm, dry, and comfortable.

Whatever happened to big, homemade wooden stands? Quite simply, they were lost in a new trend. A few decades back, climbers, hang-ons, and ladder stands hit the market. These stands could be put up virtually anywhere. They were affordable. They didn't rot. They didn't harm trees. Indeed, they were good ideas whose time had come, and hunters happily embraced them. In the process, homemade wooden stands faded away.

But they never lost their utility. Besides being roomy and comfortable, homemade stands can lead to success. Cozy hunters tend to stay on stand longer, which increases their odds of having deer walk by. This is why hunters might rethink their portable-stand strategies and give grandstanding a try. Following are considerations for doing so:

  • **Stand location. **Since grandstands are fixed in one spot, they must be located where deer routinely travel. Typical locations are a creek crossing, a saddle between two ridges, a tree line between two woods, and an oak glade or apple orchard where deer feed. Scout thoroughly before building a new stand! (After a new stand is built, deer will become accustomed to it.)

  • Driving nails into trees. Don't drive nails into trees that have commercial value unless you have the landowner's permission to do so. Instead, build your grandstand in trees that aren't likely to be harvested. (Most public areas prohibit nailing permanent stands in trees. Check local regulations.)

  • Stand safety. Build your grandstand from new pressure-treated lumber. Frame the floor in doubled 2x4s for extra strength. Fasten the frame securely into the tree with long, heavy spikes or lag bolts. Construct the floor from 2x4 studs cut to fit and nailed edge-to-edge. Leave 1/4-inch spaces between these boards for drainage and ventilation. Build a reinforced rail to prevent falls and provide a stable shooting rest.

Plywood sides add extra security. The best steps are a metal ladder or commercial "climbing sticks" that can be strapped onto the tree. The platform, straps, and anything else that might fail must be thoroughly checked before each season.

If your stand is more than three years old and constructed of non-pressure-treated wood, tear it down and rebuild with pressure-treated lumber. Also, always wear a safety harness whenever you're in a deer stand.

  • Camouflage. Screen your grandstand with camo netting or brush nailed to the shooting rail and floor. A well-camouflaged stand will allow a hunter more freedom of movement, which greatly increases his comfort factor.

  • ** Conveniences.** A hunter is limited only by his imagination in this category. Start with a padded seat with a strong back support. A roof is wonderful in foul weather. Add hooks to the shooting rail or tree to hang a backpack, binoculars, urinal, and other gear. Add a few luxuries each year, but stop before the tax assessor classifies your stand as a second home

  • ** Soundproofing**. Soundproof everything! If it squeaks, oil it. If it clanks or scrapes, cover it. Nail strips of all-weather carpet to the floor and shooting rail. The goal is to be soundless when sitting in yourr grandstand. Then, if the wind is favorable, the deer won't know you're there.

Overall, building a grandstand requires fair amounts of effort and expense, but the rewards justify the costs. A grandstand makes deer hunting easy, fun, and perfect for kids. Slip in, climb up, and get ready for an enjoyable, hassle-free day in the woods.