What style of hunting is best for you?
There are several ways to hunt these days. You have tree saddles, climbing stands, hang-on stands, ladder stands and blinds. I’m sure there are others, but these are the main ones on the market today.
For new hunters, the different options can be overwhelming. It all depends on how much you want to spend and how comfortable you want to be. From tree saddles to tree stands, to pop-up blinds, to ghost blinds, there are plenty of options. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a hardcore hunter, something is offered for everyone. Or, if you’re anything like me, you want to have a few different options for different hunting scenarios. As you read this, ask yourself what style or styles of hunting best suit you.
Let’s start with what is becoming my new favorite style of hunting: The tree saddle. It’s not a new style of hunting, but it is one that is gaining a lot of attention in the hunting world.
The tree saddle is, in my opinion, the safest way to hunt from a tree and also the most versatile. It’s a simple setup. You have a tree tether, a lineman’s rope and your saddle. Those are the major components.
When it comes to picking a saddle, I will always go with Trophyline. I am using the venatic saddle this year. Of all the saddles I have tried, it is by far the most comfortable. You also will need a climbing method and a platform of some sort. I have the Double-Step Mini Climbing Sticks and the Onyx Platform from Trophyline. I pack all my saddle gear in with a Sumpter Frame Pack from Trophyline as well. They built it for saddle hunters. I prefer this setup because it is comfortable, rock-solid, and I haven’t found a tree I wasn’t able to hunt from with it. I believe it provides the safest way to hunt from a tree because rope always connects you to a tree from the minute you ascend. It is great for the hunter who likes to move around and who can be an aggressive hunter, or the hunter who likes to be comfortable and hunt 360 degrees around a tree.
There are three main types of tree stands in the world of Whitetail hunting: The climber stand, the ladder stand and the hang-on stand. Each has its pros and cons.
Let’s start with the climber stand. These are composed of a seat and a foot platform. You connect both pieces to the tree, then sit in the seat and climb up, moving each piece on your way up the tree. When it comes to safety, you have to keep readjusting your tie-off until you get to your preferred height. These stands limit what trees you can hunt and the mobility for this style of hunting. Trees must be somewhat straight and free of branches in order to climb them.
The hang-on tree stand or lock-on, as some call it, is another type. These are popular with the run-and-gun hunters. Much like the saddle stand, you need a climbing method. There are several companies that make sticks and steps, and you can get double or single steps or even screw-in steps. Several companies make this style of stand. Some are: Hunting Beast Gear, Lone Wolf Custom Gear, Muddy Outdoors, Novix, XOP and Millennium.
To use this method, you climb the tree with your sticks to the desired height, then hang your stand. The stands are lightweight. Some companies like Lone Wolf and Hunting Beast Gear make stands that are adjustable. Adjustability allows you to hunt out of trees that branch out or are not straight. This method lets you hunt from more trees than the climber stand. This is also a safer option, as you can attach to the tree with a lineman’s belt and tie off once you reach your location. This is the most mobile type of tree stand.
Ladder stands are another type of stand used in deer hunting. This is the stand that most hunters use when learning to hunt. They look just like what the name says: a ladder with a built-in stand on top. They come in several heights and sizes. Unlike the other two types of stands, these are not mobile. They require a lot more effort to hang, so are usually placed and left in one spot all season. They are the easiest and safest way to climb.
If hung right, they are rock solid. They are perfect stands for rifle hunting, but I shy away from them for bow season. Unless you can funnel deer past your stand, they are not mobile. The last takeaway from this style of stand is that once hung, they are the easiest to get in and require minimal equipment to hunt from.
Blinds are the safest way to hunt of all of these styles, because you never leave the ground. Several companies manufacture ground blinds like Primos, BOG, Tidewe, Buck Bourbon and Muddy.
Blinds come in several shapes and sizes. There are elevated blinds, ghost blinds, hay bale blinds, pop-up blinds and even see-through blinds. The biggest disadvantage of blinds is that you are at ground level when hunting, unless you move the blind to an elevated platform. Doing that takes away the advantage of seeing farther distances and it puts you at eye level with deer.
The benefits can outweigh this, though. The biggest benefit of blinds is that, if used properly, you can almost vanish from the vision of your prey. These blinds are the most comfortable style of hunting, especially if you use good chairs like the Bog Deathgrip 360. They usually come with a bag to pack in which makes them portable, and most can be set up in a few minutes. When the weather turns bad, you can enclose and shield yourself from the elements. You can even take a small buddy heater in for the coldest days. Blinds allow you to get away with a lot more movement. This makes them the best way to introduce kids to hunting. There are a few considerations to think about when hunting from a blind, including investing in a good tripod, like the Bog Deathgrip Tripod. When using a blind, make sure you wear dark clothes to blend into the background, and remember that they conceal most movement, but not everything.
Another form of a ground blind is a panel blind. When I think of panel blinds, the first one that comes to mind is a Ghostblind. It is made of three panels that are in camouflage on one side and mirrored on the other. They reflect whatever is in front of them, making them perfect for several different hunting applications. These include setting up inside the first row of a corn field or disappearing into an overgrown grass field. The biggest downfall to these blinds is that they don’t completely conceal you or protect you from the elements. However, they are perfect for mobile run-and-gun style hunting.
If purchasing a blind isn’t an option, or you find yourself in the timber without a stand or blind, you can always construct a manmade blind. This is the cheapest of all the blind options and sometimes can be the most realistic.
There are two different ways to create a manmade blind. My favorite is to find a fallen tree and climb into its branches. I will then take my Hooyman machete and cut some of the closer branches off, stacking them around me to allow myself to disappear. I like this method because depending on how big of a tree, I can get somewhat elevated. The other way is to gather limbs and stack them up, creating a makeshift wall to hunt behind. You can use any natural habitat to brush this in to allow yourself to disappear into the woods.
The last type of blind I want to discuss is an elevated blind. Several companies manufacture them like Muddy, Millennium, Banks and Redneck. They combine the best of both worlds when it comes to blinds. They protect you from the elements and keep you elevated so you can see advanced distances.
These blinds come in several shapes, sizes and heights. They are made of fiberglass or molded plastic, allowing them to be completely sealed. They hold heat in better as well and so conceal your scent. They are not as mobile, unless you build them on a trailer. Even when that’s done, they are bulky enough that they limit the places you can use them.
As you can see, there are several options when it comes to hunting that beat sitting on the ground. Most outdoor trade shows and bigger stores have a lot of these blinds on display. This allows you to put your hands on them before purchasing, and it gives you the opportunity to get an idea of how secure and well-crafted a specific option is.
I leave my tree stands out all season, so I want quality products and I want a comfortable seat for those all-day sits. I also want something silent for the times when I must pivot to get the shot off without spooking deer.
Another thing to keep in mind is that no matter what method you choose, you should always consider your safety. Nothing ruins a hunt faster than falling out of a tree or a dead limb crushing your ground blind.
Always wear your safety harness when leaving the ground and check your surroundings when setting up a blind.
Lastly, no matter what option you go with, know it inside and out, shoot from it, practice climbing and be prepared. These are smart steps to take so that when you have a buck at 20 yards, you’re not worried about your stand or your blind.