Want to hate it less, too? Here are seven tricks. They won’t make it easy–just a lot easier.
 LEAN INTO IT
Few trees are perfectly straight. So before you do anything else, take a good look at that trunk and plan to climb up the side that best keeps your body weight leaning into (rather than away from) the tree. This gives you better leverage for screwing in steps and hanging your stand–and it feels a lot less precarious to boot.
 DRILL FOR STEPS
Use a cordless drill to make pilot holes for your screw-in tree steps, and install them with a step wrench, such as Ameristep’s Tree Step Installer and Remover ($19; 810-686-4035; ameristep.com). Just make sure they go in snugly, with plenty of bite to hold your weight safely. Wear a drill holster (available at hardware stores) to stow the unwieldy tool on your hip while you climb.
 DON’T STRETCH IT
Go put on your late-season bibs and boots and grab a tape measure. Lift one knee up as high as it’ll comfortably go, and measure from the bottom of your raised boot to the ground. This should be the maximum distance between your tree steps. Go beyond it, and everything becomes more difficult and less safe.
 USE A CLIMBING BELT
These come standard with many of the better harnesses on the market. When you have no choice but to lean away from the tree, a climbing belt wraps around the trunk and attaches near your waist to give you support and leverage. I also use it to occasionally free up both hands (to pull up my stand, for example).
 STAND UP STRAIGHT
Hanging a stand is a lot simpler from a level, sturdy, two-footed stance. So I screw in a pair of steps side by side about a foot apart and a few feet below where my platform will be.
 TIE IT OFF
While I stand on that pair of steps, I often screw in another one above my head and toward the opposite side of where my stand will hang. Why? Because holding a platform in place with one hand and securing it to the tree with the other is a scary juggling act. Instead, I pull the stand up with an untied doubled-over rope, and I knot it to this step (which doubles later as a hook for a day-pack or rattling horns).
 OR STRAP IT ON
Here’s another great option that works well with most stands. Once you get to the desired height, secure a strap-on step to the trunk right where you want the seat of your stand. Use a rope to pull the unit up, and hang it on this step. Now secure the stand, then remove the strap-on step.