It’s no secret, to consistently find success in the whitetail woods you need to be elevated. That’s not to say that today’s ground blinds don’t have their place, but for the average bowhunter with limited time in the woods, the benefits of treestands far outweigh everything else.
I’m a 20′ guy, but if I can get away with 15′ or less, I will. Sure, the higher you go, the less likely a deer may smell or see you. But elevated bowhunters must also consider shot angles. Stands hung much higher than 20′ tend to cause problems like single-lung hits — especially if the deer is close.
Stand positioning is the next consideration. I like my stand positioned facing away from where I think a shot will occur. If I’m hunting a food source, the tree will be between me and the deer, and the same is true if I’m hunting a funnel. The concealment the tree’s trunk provides is better than any camo pattern you’re wearing, but keep in mind that the size of the tree also matters with this setup. Too big and it’s much harder to shoot around, which limits opportunity, so ideally I like trees slightly smaller than the size of my torso.
Lastly, consider your entrance/exit strategies. Nothing kills a potential stellar setup faster than when deer know they’re being hunted. If they can detect your presence, you and your well-placed ambush are hosed… not just that day, but possibly for weeks to come.
Obviously, having a quality treestand, steps, and safety harness matters. That doesn’t mean you need to fork over a car payment to buy a setup, but it does mean you will often get what you pay for.
Finding a middle-ground stand system is always best, and topping that list is Rhino Treestand’s RTH-200 Deluxe Hang-On ($149.99). Besides having an ultra-comfortable mesh flip-up seat with a backrest and padded armrests, it also sports a 24″ x 32.5″ platform with both having the ability to be leveled. The seat is 21″ high, which is a plus for tall bowhunters. At nearly 30 lbs., it fits rock-solid against the tree. Pair this with Rhino’s 31″ Climbing Steps ($112/4-pack), and you’ll have a solid whitetail combo.
Another comfortable hang-on is Millennium’s M150 Monster ($318.99). Not only does it feature Millennium’s legendary comfortMAX sling seat that can be adjusted from 16″-20″ in height, but it sits above a huge 24″ x 37″ platform. At 19 lbs., it’s still light enough to provide a level of mobility, and it can be configured to sit level on trees that lean as much as 15 degrees — bonus!
Built to be a solid performer for years is Muddy’s steel-constructed Boss XL ($149.99). It has a spacious 25″ x 34″ expanded-metal platform and comfortable flip-up Flex-tek seat. At 19 lbs., it offers a level of portability. Equipped with a 2″ silent strap and with no metal-on-metal contact, you’ll be ghostlike.
When you need to save a few greenbacks but still want a quality hang-on, the Falcon ($109.99) from X-Stand is a player. Coming in at 20 lbs., the steel-constructed Falcon is equipped with self-lubricating nylon washers that eliminate metal-to-metal contact. The quick-hitch receiver enables you to level the seat and platform together, or independently, depending on your preferred stand tree. Additional noise reduction is achieved with X-Stand’s powder-coated, no-slip finish. Its comfortable mesh seat flips up quietly, so you can stand to shoot if need be.
Another hang-on coming in at just over 10 lbs. is the Element ($459.99) from Elevate Stand Co. Constructed from lightweight 6061-T6 aluminum, it’s streamlined for easy and quiet packing when you need to slip in unnoticed. It features a generous 29″ x 18.75″ leveling platform, and with both ratchet and cam straps coupled with aggressive tree cleats, it securely attaches to trees with little worry of shifting.
Mobility can certainly be a plus for bowhunters, and while tree saddles have wowed the bowhunting crowd the past few years, a lightweight hang-and-hunt setup is hard to beat. At just under 19 lbs., the Helo Hunt Ready System ($568.99) from Novix is a strong contender. This all-in-one aluminum package comes with four 32″ climbing sticks that are neatly attached to the 9.2-lb. hang-on. The stand is equipped with a leveling platform and Novix’s Offset Bracket, so you can level it left to right.
If you’re wanting something even lighter, the 5.7-lb. D’Acquisto Series .5 Public Land Hang-On ($524.99) from Lone Wolf Custom Gear is easily the lightest treestand out today. A scaled-down version of their popular 1.0, which comes in at 8.1 lbs., the .5 version is constructed from 6061 American Made Metal and carries their all-new Hammered Titanium hard coat for added concealment. It, too, has leveling capabilities, and when paired with their Double Step Sticks ($99.99), the whole system neatly stacks together at a combined weight of roughly 10 lbs.
Another hang-on built for the bowhunter on the move is Hawk’s Rival Micro ($279.99), and at just over 10 lbs., “micro” is definitely a fitting description. Its all-aluminum construction features a 300-lb. weight rating, a level-adjusting 20.5″ x 17.5″ platform, and a flip-up mesh seat. When coupled with Hawk’s Helium 3 Pack Climbing Sticks ($159.99), the entire system is well south of 20 lbs.
Still looking to cut some weight without sacrificing platform size, then check out the redesigned Air Raid Evolution ($249.99) from XOP. At 11 lbs., this cast-aluminum gem features a generous 30″ x 19.5″ platform that’s equipped with XOP’s slim I-Beam, making it 2 lbs. lighter than its predecessor. Like all top-end stands, it features a fully adjustable seat/platform and an ultra-thick seat. When equipped with a 4-pack of their Ultra Series Steps ($149.99), the system tops out around 19 lbs.
Maker of the original tree saddle, Trophyline has raised the bar once again with the new Venatic Saddle ($299.99). It combines the quality and comfort you’ve come to expect from Trophyline in their lightest saddle yet. Made from an ultralight ripstop fabric, Trophyline removed the bulky straps from previous saddles and replaced them with strategically placed narrower ones for an overall weight of just 20 oz. Besides being just as strong as previous models, the new design also offers a level of comfort that surpasses the competition.
Tethrd is another fan favorite of saddle-hunters. and their new Phantom Elite Kit ($399.99) will certainly wow the Tethrd faithful. The Elite comes with special edition SYS Haulers and an MVP back support. At just 24 oz., it’s a fast-mover’s dream. Other notables include Comfort Channels that incorporate high, medium, and low support settings on the bridge loop, as well as a strong UtiliBridge system that offers 30″ of one-hand adjustment.
For those who prefer climbers, Summit arguably makes some of the best. Their new Viper Level PRO SD ($529.99) makes using a climber safer and easier with the Easy Level dials — simply turn them to get the best possible angle while attached to the tree. Not only does it add a level of stability while ascending/descending, but it also allows users to dial-it in once elevated. The Viper Level PRO SD comes equipped for comfort and security via the Quick Draw PRO cable system, foam-suspension seat w/wraparound armpad, and a generous 25″ x 36″ platform.
In the ladder treestand category is Big Game’s Hunter HD 1.5 ($259.99). Designed with their wide Flex-Tex Flip-up seat and backrest, it’s an ultra-comfortable perch at nearly 19′ high, and with its generous 23.5″ x 29″ platform, it provides plenty of room when you need to stretch out. With a 350-lb. weight rating and all-steel construction, it’s a rock-solid option.
At nearly 20′, the Lockdown Wide ($399.99) from Rivers Edge is another top-quality option. Equipped with a patent-pending Ground-Level Ratcheting system, it can be secured while your feet are on the ground, and with its extra-wide TearTuff comfort seat, you might find yourself dozing off if the action is slow. The unique Ultimate Shooting Rail can be completely tucked away for bowhunters, or adjusted both vertically and horizontally if you decide to break out the smokepole to fill your freezer.
Taking treestand safety to the next level, Primal Treestands launches the new Descender Device ($75.99). Use it with your current full-body harness, or get it as a package from Primal ($129.85). The Descender is a friction-based system that automatically kicks into gear to provide a controlled rate of descent if you happen to fall.
A fan favorite, Hunter Safety System’s Pro Series ($159) harness combines the latest technology in treestand safety with the classic features we expect from HSS. With new fabrics, it’s 40% lighter than its predecessor, and with ElimiShield Hunt Scent Control Technology, it kills human odor before it forms. It incorporates a built-in USB port to ensure you can stay charged and connected, and also features bino straps and eight pockets to keep essentials close at hand.