For many bow-hunters, tree stand hunting is a way of life. Bow-hunting is steadily becoming more popular, as well; in the 2012 season, North Dakota’s State Game and Fish department issued 245 more bow licenses that the previous year, and saw a drop in deer gun licenses. Building your own stand can not only save you money but can also provide you with a valuable vantage point for years to come if you build it right.
Scouting a Spot
In an area with a high game population and dense cover, a tree stand is an incredibly effective tool, especially if its location is carefully scouted. When scouting an initial build spot, look for signs that indicate the area is prevalent with deer fare, like acorns, fruit, flowering weeds, clover and mushrooms. Look for places marked with droppings and scrapes, as they often indicate repeated deer passing.
Once you’ve chosen a spot, find a sturdy tree that is at least 20 feet tall as well as somewhere between 30 and 100 yards away from where the game will approach. Bucks often approach scrapes from downwind to catch the scent of predators and you don’t want to tip them off to your presence. If you are planning on building more than one stand before the season, you may want to think about buying or renting a scissor lift. On flatland, a scissorlift will help you get 25 to 30 feet up, which is an ideal height to mask your scent and be above a deer’s line of sight. Using a lift can save you a lot of time and make the build much easier, but remember not to use one during the actual season, as the sound will scare off your prey.
Building a Stand
Building a basic stand is easy and inexpensive. Ideally, you’ll want two trees that are close together for cover and stand stability.
First, attach treated 2x4s across the trunks of the two trees to serve as a ladder with the rungs just a little more than a foot apart. Once you’ve erected a ladder, secure the support boards you’ll use as bracing for the platform. If you can, use galvanized bolts instead of nails for this, as they are much stronger and more durable than nails. A deck of 2x4s, affixed with bolts, makes a perfect platform for standing.
Obviously, certain circumstances and goals require different stand designs (i.e. more than one hunter, certain climate conditions), but most tree stand how-to guides will closely model the steps outlined above.
Finally, no matter how great your tree stand turns out, prepare for a long, potentially uneventful day waiting for the deer to come about. Make sure your stand is comfortable enough for you to sit or stand for a long period, perhaps even large enough for you to lie down and nap so your time in the tree isn’t spent watching deer run the opposite way. If you follow these tips, you’re sure to bag a buck this season.