Find the Right Tree

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Early in the season and excited at the prospect of hunting a newly gained tract, the hunter arrived extra early and began his trek down to the creek he knew existed on the property.

In the pre-dawn darkness, he wound his way downhill through pine, holly and elms and arrived at a likely looking area adjacent to the creek bottom.

Using his climbing stand, he did everything right - almost.

Setting the stand on the tree, tying a pull rope to an unloaded rifle and a pack, attaching a safety belt to the tree and putting his safety harness vest on - he ascended the tree, resetting the safety belt on the tree each time he moved upwards.

He reached 20 feet or so in the darkness and pulled his gear up to him and then sat down in the seat of the stand - which was a stand where you sit facing the tree.

When he sat, he felt a sickening sway rearward of the tree...

Undiscovered by our hunter, the tree had a damaged area down near the base - and the extra weight of the hunter caused the tree to fail.

To compound matters, there was another tree behind our hunter... and as he and the trunk of the tree fell rearward, the tree the stand was on went into a V shaped set of branches of the other tree and it snapped again, this time much further up the tree.

This caused our hunter to be catapaulted even faster toward the ground.

Several surgeries and six months of lost income later, our hunter learned his lesson.

Inspect every tree you climb very carefully.

Look upwards and make sure the tree either has live leaves on it and you can tell that it recently did.

Tap your hand on the truck of the tree... you can often "feel" a live tree versus a dead tree.

Look around the base and along the trunk of the tree for damaged areas, look at the roots of the tree (if you can see them) and make sure not are trying to pull up out of the ground... and also that water has not washed out the base of the tree that might cause it to lose hold from the earth.

Any of these issues (and many others) could cause the tree to fall while you are in it.

If you have any doubts, choose another tree!

(This happened to a work mate of mine... he lost the entire deer season that year, broke his shoulder, his collar bone, his upper arm and his wrist and also injured his back. He had to walk out of the woods and drive himself to a store to get help - there is no cell service there. This is a brutal reminder of tree stand safety).


arrowflipper's picture


That was a good lesson for all of us to learn.  It boiled down to being aware of our surroundings.  In the excitement of the moment, it's easy to do things that at any other time, we just wouldn't do.  Also contributing to the downfall (yes, a pun) was the fact that it was dark and our hunter had never been to those woods before. 

One advantage of using a hang-on tree stand is that I always hang it during daylight hours and I find a good tree in advance.  In fact, I like to get my stand hung at least a week in advance.  I go into the area, look for trails and find a tree that is best situated to take advantage of animal movement as well as the prevailing winds.  This past season, I went in a month in advance, set up my trail cam and tried to pattern the deer before I picked a tree.  Then I was careful to find a tree that not only was in the right wind direction but had other trees behind to help break up my outline.  I picked the perfect tree.  I didn't get a thing from that stand.  Picking the perfect tree doesn't always end in success.  But at least I didn't fall out or have the tree fall on me.

ManOfTheFall's picture

That was definitely a

That was definitely a horrible lesson to learn. I don't use climbers so I don't have to worry about finding a tree in the darkness. Every stand I hang or put up I do in daylight hours and I know the trees are good and solid. Thanks for sharing the tip.

steven_seamann's picture

There are 5 key factors to

There are 5 key factors to consider when looking for the perfect stand setup. The first factor is being close to the deer. Finding the bedding and feeding areas where you hunt is key. Deer always begin or end their day here. By doing a little bit of homework and spending a little time before the season starts, you can find the hotspots to intercept that buck during travel patterns. When looking for an evening stand, focus more on feeding areas.  For morning stands, focus on bedding areas.


Once you’ve chosen a food source or bedding area, then you can begin to look for pinch points or natural funnels in terrain or cover. Even though trails keep deer on course, natural funnels do it better. For example; wooded fence lines, small steep sided valleys or hollows, old logging roads, and other things of that nature. Pinch points can also help to keep buck in front of your stand, this is very helpful when rattling or grunting. Although when calling, buck always look for a downwind advantage, natural funnels will sometimes work to your advantage.


Another key factor is wind direction. Find out which way winds normally blow at your stand. Then place the stand on the side of the trail that will get you downwind of the normal travel patterns. If your not sure about wind direction or want to find out wind direction for hunting trips you can visit which is a site that tracks weather patterns. Winds do not always blow the same direction, but they should be to your advantage about 90% of the time. Also, when hunting mountains don’t forget about thermal winds. Thermal winds usually rise in the morning as it warmer and go down in the evening when it gets cool again.


One thing that some hunters do that can really turn a good stand bad is set their stand right on top of a trail. Theirs two reasons why this is a bad idea. First of all you’re shrinking the vital zone on the deer and in most cases giving yourself a one-lung opportunity. Its much better to be set up 15-20 yards off the trail to give yourself a good clean shot at the heart or both lungs.  And secondly, this will also keep your scent away from the trail and better your chances of not spooking the buck when it does come time for the shot.


What is a good height for a tree stand? It is good to be high enough in where leaves and branch will break up the outline of your body, but not too high as to where they limit your visibility and shooting. Also, take into consideration the terrain; you don’t want to be at eye level with a buck approaching your stand. When you’re in areas that are heavily hunted move higher in the tree to catch more winds and keep your scent blown out of the area. This will also keep you out of view of the average deer.


CVC's picture

I feel for your co-worker. 

I feel for your co-worker.  It had to be a terrifying and sickening few seconds when he realized the tree was falling followed by a long agonizing drive and road to recovery.  I wish him well and hope he is now fully recovered.

I hadnt thought about this until I read your tip.  The safety harness doesn't really do you any good when it is attached to a dead tree that falls, does it?

Safety needs to paramount for all of us and while I am religous about using a safety harness I will now inspect my trees too.