5 Public Land Friendly & Affordable Tree Stands


Many hunters aren’t able to access private land and are left with one option, public land hunting. The good news is that there are well over 750 million acres of public land in the United States. Odds are, there is public hunting land near you! One of the most important things to do before hunting on public land is to research the local harvest regulations and what equipment you can use, including tree stand restrictions.

Tree stand regulations on public lands are variable and dependent on the agency or organization that owns the land. On some public lands, you can’t use tree stands while on others you can leave them up all hunting season. There is one nearly universal rule, you can’t damage trees.

Although the regulations on using a tree stand on public land are variable, the rules tend to follow the same guidelines. Since you’re here to look at tree stands, let’s do that first! Later, I’ll talk about what makes a stand public land friendly, and what you should look for in a stand if you don’t like the ones I mention here.

How I Chose the Public Land Tree Stands on This List

I have nearly 20 years of experience hunting out of treestands and about 12 years of that is hunting from them on public lands. I picked these stands based on what I would want in a treestand. Some of these stands I actually own and love to hunt out of. Others I wish I owned. Additionally, I did a deep dive into the web to see what other people thought of these stands to make sure I didn’t have some sort of personal bias.

Best Climber Tree Stand for Bowhunters – Summit OpenShot SD

The Summit OpenShot SD is my top pick for a climber stand. It was specifically designed for bowhunters and comes in a nice lightweight package that is easy to pack in and out of your honey hole. It’s easy to climb with, although it takes some getting used to, and doesn’t take very long to set up.

The nice thing about climber stands is that you don’t need to carry climbing sticks. They are also typically easy to set up, although not as fast as just climbing into an already set hang-on stand. The only downside to this stand is that it’s a little on the small side and it might take a little bit longer to pack up than some other stands.

Key Features:

  • Platform Size: 20” W x 32” D
  • Seat Size: 19” W x 20” D
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
  • Weight: 15 lbs
  • Frame Material: Aluminum

Best Hang-on Stand for Bowhunters – Millennium M60U

This stand was made for public land hunters that prefer hang-on style treestands. It’s only 13 lbs, has a large platform, and even comes with backpack straps for hauling in and out of the woods. Additionally, if you like to stand for your shot or rotate between sitting and standing while hunting the seat will fold up and out of your way.

Once again the downside to this stand is its price, but it will last a while. Additionally, if you decide to go with a hang-on style stand, you will need to purchase public land legal climbing sticks. Those will add some extra weight to your setup. Climbing sticks typically add 9-12lbs to your treestand setup.

Key Features:

  • Platform Size: 24” W x 33” D
  • Seat Size: 20” W x 16” D
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
  • Weight: 13 lbs
  • Frame Material: Aluminum

Best Climber Tree Stand for Gun Hunters – Summit Viper SD

The Summit Viper SD is my personal favorite climbing treestand. Yes, it’s a little heavier than some of the other options, but it is comfortable. Sometimes this stand is a little too comfortable and I’ve been known to fall asleep in it. The deer will let you know when you start snoring…There’s also plenty of space for your feet! I’ve found this stand to be incredibly easy to climb with and easy to pack up. It’s also quiet enough to set up and climb with. I’ve had deer walk by before I even had a chance to sit down.

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One of the downsides to this stand is the fixed shooting rail. I personally don’t mind it too much, although if I had a choice I would’ve made it easily removable. It’s easy enough to stand up to shoot over but it does take away the opportunity to shoot with a bow sitting down. For a gun hunter, it’s fine, and summit sells an actual shooting rail that I am trying out this year.

Key Features:

  • Platform Size: 20” W x 36” D
  • Seat Size: 12” W x 18” D
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
  • Weight: 20 lbs
  • Frame Material: Aluminum

Best Hang-on Stand for Gun Hunters – Millennium M100U

If you’re a gun hunter but want to keep your treestand setup lightweight, then the Millennium M100U is the way to go. This stand is spacious yet only weighs in at a little over 14 lbs! The seat even folds up if you like to stand while hunting. Additionally, the stand has a durable mesh-style backrest and seat for superior comfort.

What’s unique about the Millennium M100U other than its’ weight, is that a shooting rail can be fixed to it for gun hunting. This stand also folds completely flat and comes with backpack-style straps for slipping quietly and easily in and out of your secret spot deep into public land.

Like all hang-on stands, you will need climbing sticks. This increases the total weight of the setup. If you buy these Millenium Climbing Sticks at Sportsmans Warehouse or Amazon you won’t have to add too much weight to your setup.

Key Features:

  • Platform Size: 20” W x 38” D
  • Seat Size: 20” W x 16” D
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
  • Weight: 13.5 lbs
  • Frame Material: Aluminum

Best Affordable Public Land Tree Stand – Rivers Edge Bigfoot Traveler Treestand

If you are looking for a quality hang-on treestand without breaking the bank, then this is the stand for you! It’s loaded with many of the same features as more expensive stands. These features include a flip-up padded seat, a spacious platform, and the Big Foot lever action system.

Although my favorite hang-on stand model was discontinued, this one is very similar and the Big Foot lever action system truly is quite nice. It makes it much easier to install the stand. It’s also lightweight and easy to fold up and move locations with. This stand paired with this set of climbing sticks will weigh around 25 lbs.

Key Features:

  • Platform Size: 18” W x 28” D
  • Seat Size: 12” W x 8.5” D
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
  • Weight: 15 lbs
  • Frame Material: Steel

What Is a Public Land Friendly Tree Stand?

Public lands in the United States typically have rules about hanging treestands on them. These rules often revolve around tree damage, how long the stand can be left up, how it needs to be marked, and who can hunt it. That last one may sound weird, but it’s not so hard after reading through it a time or two.

Keep in mind that these are just general rules you may see across the states. There are always exceptions, so you need to look up the regulations for the public land you are going to be hunting on.

This is typically quite easy to do. If it’s a National Forest or Bureau of Land Management, Google the specific forest, and state. Search for rules regarding tree stands. If that doesn’t work Google the local ranger’s contact information for the district you are hunting in and contact them.

If you are on state land or private land contracted by your state fish and game agency to allow public hunting, read your regulations pamphlet or contact your local fish and game agency.

These same actions can be taken for nearly any land open to public hunting including Tennessee Valley Authority, Army Corps of Engineers, or logging companies. There is always someone that can help you find your answer. You might just have to do a little digging.

Tree Stands and Tree Damage

Not many rules are universal, but this one is. Tree stands on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land cannot cause damage to the tree. This includes the steps used to get in and out of the stand. Those screw-in steps you use on your private property, are illegal on federal land and almost certainly illegal to use on any public lands you hunt on.

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If you need to get public land-friendly steps for your treestand consider the Rivers Edge Grip Sticks or the Millennium Aluminum Hang-On Climbing Sticks. Another option is to use a climber like this one from Summit.

How Long Can My Tree Stand Be Left Up?

The answer to this question is going to be very dependent on the specific property you are hunting. How long you can leave your stand up varies by the owner, plot, land designation (i.e. wildlife refuge, wilderness, non wilderness), and state.

The best thing you can do to find the answer to this question is by googling the public lands you want to hunt, tracking down the owner, and reaching out to them. This is often a U.S. Forest Service park ranger or state fish and game agency personnel.

How long you can leave up a stand will range from not being able to leave one unattended to using one the entire hunting season with a buffer on either end.

Do I Need to Leave My Information on My Treestand?

You don’t always have to leave your contact information on your treestand, but it’s not a bad idea even if you don’t have to. It lets people know who to contact if there is an issue with your stand and might even save it from being stolen.

Typically the information required is at least a name and phone number. Sometimes states require you to put your address and your hunting license number. Again, look up this information for the specific property you are hunting. There is just too much variation to try to state all the rules here.

What Happens if I Arrive at My Treestand and Someone Else Is in It?

This is almost universally true for state and federal lands. Where legal, if you leave a stand on public land overnight, it basically becomes public property in the sense that whoever gets to hunt it will be on a first come first serve basis. Even if the stand is yours and you just set it up the day before, if somebody else beats you to it, they can hunt it and you will have to find another spot to hunt that day. I’m not sure what kind of man hunts another man’s stand, but some people are so incredibly lazy that it happens.

There are easy ways to remedy this problem. If legal, you can put up multiple stands. You can also hang stands in hard-to-reach areas or places that are overlooked and off of well-traveled trails. The best way to avoid this issue is to use a climbing treestand that you will take down and with you every day. Although if I find someone in my stand they are going to get out of it, or I’m blowing out the whole area. Ain’t nobody seeing a deer today.

Can I Build a Permanent Stand?

If you are hunting on public land, the answer to this question is almost certainly going to be no. I’m sure there is an exception or two but there aren’t going to be many. Typically the only stands that are going to be allowed on public lands are portable stands. Now sometimes these can be homemade stands but they must be able to be moved off of the property easily.

What to Look For in a Public Land Treestand

You often need to consider different things when hanging or using a tree stand on public land than when hunting on private property. First and foremost we want a quality stand, but we also want it to be cost effective. You’ll have to pick what kind of stand you’ll want, and hopefully it will be light enough to lug around morning after morning.

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If you are going to be leaving a treestand up on public land, it’s a good idea to not leave your most expensive stand. Stands frequently get stolen from public land. I’ve personally even had one stolen on private land by a trespasser. That said, if you’re going to leave an expensive stand overnight, it’s a good idea to lock it to the tree with a treestand cable lock.

If you are using climbing sticks it’s a good idea to lock those to a tree too. Another option is to remove the bottom section of the climbing sticks so a thief can’t climb up and take your stand without their own sticks.

Just remember that on some public properties, you have to display your information on your treestand. If you typically have this on the bottom section of your sticks as I do, you will have to find another place to display it so that an officer or ranger can easily read it.

Climber Stand vs Hang-on vs Tree Saddle

Although I have used both, I prefer to use a climber on public land. They are easy to use, removable, lightweight, and you don’t have to worry about climbing sticks or anyone stealing them. They are pretty easy to use too, the downside is that they can get heavy, so toting them in and out might not be fun. Although you could get a lightweight stand like the Summit Open Shot, which I have used for a while now.

Hang-on stands have their merits too though. You don’t have to carry them in every time and it’s much quieter to sneak into your stand site and climb into an already hung stand rather than setting up and climbing the tree in a climber. They are also a bit cheaper, so the risk of it getting stolen isn’t as bad.

Tree saddles are also incredibly popular nowadays. Of course, you wear the saddle, so there is nothing to take up and down besides your climbing sticks. When you get used to the setup, you can get up a tree pretty quick with a saddle and be ready to sling an arrow.

I’ve got plenty of saddle hunting content too, if you want to see more about saddling hunting, check it out here.

Size and Weight

My personal preference is to use smaller stands on public land. There really isn’t a reason for this other than I am usually trying to get off the beaten path and away from other hunters. Smaller, lighter, and therefore more portable stands make this easier to do. If your spot is closer to the road then maybe the extra comfort is worth a little extra bulk.

Shooting Bar

For me this decision is easy. If I am bowhunting I prefer to not have a shooting bar that can get in the way. If you are hunting with a gun then a shooting bar just makes sense.If you don’t have an actual shooting bar on your climber, you can prop your elbow up on the front of the stand to make a fairly good shot, else you can free hand it. Sometimes the benefits of a climbing stand outweigh the cons.

Closing Thoughts

There are a plethora of treestand options on the market but hopefully you found value in my list. Remember to read the regulations about the specific forest or plot of public land you are hunting on because there are a lot of variations in treestand rules. If you can’t find a certain piece of information, the best way to find out is to call the person or agency in charge of the public land you are hunting. Good luck on your next hunt, and have fun with your new deer stand!

Thank you for reading my article! I hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any questions or feedback, please send me an email at [email protected]. If you want to learn more about me or Omega Outdoors, visit my About Page. Otherwise, I hope you have a great day, and check out some of my other articles while you’re here!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>