The Good Stuff: Deer Me Rope-On Steps

This is the first installment of a series Dave and I will run from time to time on deer gear we love. Similar to our "Good and Cheap" serial, an item featured in "The Good Stuff" needn't be inexpensive, it just has to meet a simple criteria; it works so well that it's gone from merely functional to holding a soft spot in our hearts.

Here's my opener; a tree step that--to the best of my knowledge--isn't even made any more. I started using Deer Me rope-on steps in the 1980's, when there wasn't a screw-in step made that could penetrate a tree without encouragement from a hammer and an act of God. My cousins put me on to Deer Me's, and we fell in love with them because they were very sturdy, totally quiet, relatively cheap (about $20 for four, I think), and easy to install. Better yet, they were safe; the step was not only wide enough for a bulky boot, it had a little upturn so your foot wouldn't slip off the end.

Like most great products, Deer Me's were simply but smartly made; nothing more than a piece of steel bent to the proper shape, dipped in heavy-duty rubber, and fitted with a rope.

The rope was the only weak link. After years of use and exposure to weather, the poly started to fray and got more difficult to slide and maneuver. But new steps were cheap, and we even learned to replace ropes when necessary.

With a half-dozen Deer Me's and a portable stand I could get up any tree worth hunting from, and do so quickly and without spooking game. These days, a good screw-in step is much easier to find. Climbing sticks are better, safer and a great alternative where screw-ins aren't legal or acceptable. I use both climbing methods, and I suppose---given a trade-off here and there---they're just as good as a Deer Me.

But it tickles me that it took hunting companies 20-some years to come up with an alternative to a simply-designed step I used as a much younger man. Local legend has it they were made by a Minnesota family in a home-based shop, and I've never seen a rope-on step that could match them. While I occasionally see an ad for a used set online, the regular stores I bought them from no longer stock them, so I keep a close eye on the remaining 8 steps in my collection. Have any of you used a Deer Me?