Hunting, Deer Hunting, Ladder Stands, Bill Heavey

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I have seen my probable future and it is full of ladder stands. This is a fairly big change for me.

Having never owned hunting land, I’ve always had to be mobile. That has meant climbers. By comparison, ladder stands are heavy and—I know I’ll be corrected if I’m mistaken about this—it looks like you need at least two people to put one up. I have few friends up here in my new home north of Baltimore, fewer who hunt, fewer still with whom I can coordinate a time when we can get together to put up a ladder stand. Also, because ladders are not particularly mobile, you’d better put one up in a good spot the first time. This, has never been my strong suit.

Recently, my circumstances have changed. I’ve secured permission to hunt on about 70 acres belonging to an extremely nice (and extremely busy) guy named Scott. What this means for me is, I need to hunt from ladder stands. For one thing, there are few trees straight enough for a climber on his land, which is mostly overgrown fields and fingers of crooked, vine-choked trees. For another, my part of Maryland is in the midst of its week-long, first muzzleloader season. I recently acquired one of these firearms—a CVA Accura V2, which is a hell of a lot more accurate than I am. Thing is, I need a nice, wide rail to rest mine on. This is something rarely found on climbers. And I’ve yet to see a shooting stick that would work well in a climbing stand.

The other attractive thing about ladder stands is the time factor. (After you get the damned thing up.) You can climb up a ladder a whole lot faster than you can climb up a tree. If deer stands were restaurants, climbers would be a four-course meal with table service, while ladders would be the drive-through window.

I actually found a ladder stand on Scott’s property that he didn’t know was there, and I hunted it on the opening day of muzzleloader. It was placed further back into the woods than I’d have liked and only had a few openings through which to shoot into the field. Maybe it was old and had been placed when the trees were smaller and the shooting lanes bigger. But it felt sturdy enough, so I used it.

I got there just as legal light dawned last Saturday. Almost immediately, I glassed a fawn zigzagging all over the place 200 yards away. It was strange. It looked like high spirits more than anything else. Nothing was chasing it. Maybe it had gotten into some Deer Cain or something. Then I saw its mother appear and watch it for a while. She ambled after it and then a basket-racked buck came out of the woods and ambled after her. He looked like a 2 ½-year-old. The brown rack was fairly tall and had more mass than what you’d normally see on a yearling. Two hundred yards was farther than I cared to shoot, and I didn’t have a clear lane anyway, but it was cool to watch. About half an hour later, I spotted a lone yearling buck, sporting what looked like his first four-point rack, sneaking down the field edge towards me to the woods. It crossed a stream 95 yards out and disappeared into the woods. I didn’t want to shoot it, and couldn’t have anyway. Once again, no window.

By the time I left two hours later, I was a convert to wide-railed ladder stand. And I was racking my brain trying to think who I could tap to help me relocate this one to a better spot. Moving it doesn’t look like it would be all that complicated. But it was clearly heavier than I could manage on my own, and I also had a sneaking suspicion there was more to it than I knew. There usually is.