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December 17, 2007

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Bill Heavey: A Sticky Question

Unless you own your hunting grounds, you are probably using a portable stand, either a climber or a hang-on. I’m a climber guy. While I certainly haven’t tried them all, I have tried a bunch. Mine’s a Lone Wolf hand climber. (My intent here, incidentally, is not to start a whose-treestand-is-the-best debate. We  bowhunters seem particularly prone to silly equipment arguments. How else to explain that in virtually every archery chat room the majority of posters deem it necessary to list the make and model of their bows, arrows, and broadheads? If your identity as a hunter depends on whose name is on your stuff, you’ve got problems hunting can’t fix.)

I like a climber because you can go as high as you want (or as high as the tree will let you), and it’s a fairly simple arrangement. I confess, however, that even after years of using one, it usually takes me a fair amount of time to get both parts on and adjusted to the taper of the tree, to get my harness attached, and to inch-worm my way up to hunting height. Is there a better way?

I’ve heard from a number of guys that they prefer climbing sticks, those two- or three-runged “ladders” that are strapped onto the tree. Some claim they can set up faster and – far more important – more quietly with sticks.

I don’t dispute this; I just find it surprising. The few times I’ve tried this method, I’ve found it difficult. Unless you’re climbing a tree with a lot of branches that can double as steps, you’ve got to carry a fair number of sticks to get to a decent height. Then there’s the fact that the stand itself is the last thing you attach to the tree. Do you make multiple trips or haul it all (however many sticks plus your stand) up at the same time? And, since it’s safer to step down to your stand rather than up, do most of you hang your last stick higher than the stand or what?

Forgive my ignorance, but this is keeping me up at night.


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I know you said the bit about the name of the gear. But anyway...

I would offer the summit open shot climber.

For bow-hunters or those that walk a ways before they set-up it is a no brainer.
14 lbs. Thats right - 14 lbs.
No arm rails to get in the way when at full-draw.
No string or cable to try again and again to slip your feet into.
There are two plastic rungs that you easily can lift with.
The stand is so quiet going up the tree, even pines, you will never want another stand.

I hunt alot on gameland; sometimes deep, and wanted something very light, but sturdy, that I could bow-hunt, as well as gun hunt with. The stand is compact and even comes with the camo tape and padding to make it even more quiet. It ain't cheap, but I would not want to have that peice of gear cheap or inexpensive.

Oh and the cables that go around the tree are covered in rubber and the system has no clips or bolts to adjust the cables; just a slip and lock setup.

Way too cool. I have climbed down in this stand before with deer around and not been detected.

Trae B.

Mr. Heavey thank you for saying the most important thing about hunting.I know people who say that they have a matthews switch back super magnum missle guided bow.And that they have the best stuff so their better hunters I tell you what most of them aint got a chance of ever seeing a deer in the woods but I grew up going out their in the woods with regular clothes and a gun,nothin else and really hunt.yes where I live we do have hunter "wanna be's".
P.S. I just ordered yer book so it may be awhile before I sent it to you to sign.


I own and use the Tree Louge with the bowhunter stand attachment. You can go as high as you wish, and you will not fall out of this stand if you are sitting down. Almost impossible. If you wish to stand up, the bowhunter attachment can be added. I use this stand year round and would suggest it to anyone. I'm sure if you have not heard of it, you could just google, tree louge.


I am with you and I sell those climbing sticks at a very popular retail store.....I steer away when I can but if someone is specific about it then it is not worth the effort to try and pry a change from their thinking. My thinking is that steps is always quite and easy. Easier yet if you have a punch to start the hole with......"Why doesn't my retail store sell a punch??" I have a punch I picked up from an old antique store, while gaining much needed future points from my better-half to be in next years woods, from the tools of the yester-year box that every flea-market or antique store has.

Can't find your book, just started looking.....can't wait to read it!!

John Cook

Climbers are nice, if you have a straight tree with no limbs. Unfortunately, here in central and west Texas, that is often not the option. I like the Rapid Rails made by Ameristep, fast and easy to attach.


I prefer a "ladder". Yes - it's more gear to lug and install and I take multiple trips up and down for setup.

If a "climber" rig malfunctions or gets jammed, how do I get down? Were I to jump from 16 feet, my legs would make a snapping sound and spook the critters.


I've hunted lock ons & ladder stands for many years , I just bought my first climber this year and love it,summit ultimate viper it's @ 27 lbs but i stay in it all day and i love it . It's good exercise to walk in and out with it . On lazy mornings or running late I like to have a ladder or lock on to run to ! The truth to it all is you can never have enough hunting equipment .

Dave Hurteau

I am not and gear guy. I honestly don't know the exact model name of my bow or my arrows. But here one thing I do know: The Lone Wolf hand climber is easily, EASILY, the best compact, portable climber out there. I've used them all; nothing else comes close. The Summit Open Shot is the next best--and quite good--but still not in the same league.

John K

For the guy that thinks a climber will jam or malfuntion. (it ain't gona happen). I have used a summit climber for years and it works everytime. I can understand being from Texaas with no trees big enough to climb why maybe you would think this way. But, rest assured you shouldn't have any problems if you follow the manufactures instructions that come with your climber.


I just ordered my first bow from Bass Pro Shops and it should get her tomoro, so i have a question... Is there a climber treestand that a 15 year old can afford, i have a limited budget as i just bought my bow and still have to buy the arrows and broadheads....
P.S. Mr. Heavey i love your book. is there any chance you could sign it?


Here's one from an old, fat, cripple!

I started going hunting at age 4 (yeah, FOUR), though not actually hunting. We hunted tree stands that were 3X3 platforms attached to the trunk of the tree with 60d nails driven into the tree for steps! Not very "green" friendly, but that was the 1950's. I still like tree stands, I can barely get up a ladder to check my roof, much less on a day to day basis for hunting. I bought a ladder stand two years ago. I hunted it some, but am very uncomfortable in it. Ergo: Pop-up blinds. It's hard to find one that will accomodate a bow hunter. My choice is the Ameristep G-20 Grizzly. It's still a little cramped for an archer, but will accomplish the task at hand. Will also back pack at about 10 lbs. Sets up in minutes!



I also want to hear from guys who hang their climbing-stick rigs and stands faster and quieter than I get situated with a climber. I've been hanging portables a long time, and have yet to find a truly fast, silent process. I have to haul stuff, cut stuff, climb up, climb down, climb up, climb down, winch stuff up the tree, climb back down, climb back up and winch some more stuff up the tree. I get sweaty and pissed off just thinking about doing that on a morning hunt. Fill us in guys. There's gotta be a good way.


Alex you got all winter and summer to get what you need , keep working hard at school , and pick up little jobs here and there and before you know it you'll have the$ you need for climber .Look on e-bay , practice every day shooting that new bow , just a dozen a day and I look forward to seeing your picture on this blog with your first deer . Good luck Alex

Chad Dunscombe

Strap on steps. I use low cost lock ons and usually leave them in the tree with a quality combo cable lock. Then, I throw the strap on steps around the tree when I get there. Light and you can carry them in hanging off your pack. They work well as a mobile set up too. Though if you want true mobility it would be a blind or light weight climber.


I've used the treestep method and that is nice. If you leave your stand in the tree. Doing both sucks worse than using sticks.

Scott Bestul

I have lost count of how many hang-on stands I've put up over the years, but its a bunch because climbers (for the most part) work poorly in my area.

I cannot top a climber for speed, but I'm tough to beat on silence. And I don't sweat or swear too much...

Here's what I do. Put 10-12 steps (rope or screw in) in a little fanny pack, with a rope. Attach another rope to the bottom of the portable stand (these stay on the stand permanently, wrapped around the base).

When I get to the tree, I tie my bow and backpack onto the fanny pack rope and tie it to my belt. Then I unwind the stand rope and tie it to the other side of the belt. Then I swing the fanny pack (with steps) around to my belly so they're easy to find.

I climb to the height I want, hang the stand and crawl in. Then I just pull up the bow and pack, hang them, and I'm ready to hunt.

I can set up within hearing range of a bedded deer and not get busted, and have lost count of how many deer have showed up while I'm in the middle of hanging the set.

Works for me!


buck hooked to the swing also looks like it is hooked to a rope around its neck. it needs to be drugged by fish&game, antlers cut off, and released.

bill heavey

ah, grasshopper!

the guy who can answer my question turns out to be scott bestul, who is generally considered to be the most knowledgeable deer guy on f&s staff. i probably should have just asked him in the first place.

from these posts, it sounds like ladder stands are the runaway first choice when possible. naturally - they offer almost instant set up once in place. after that, almost all of us who require mobility are climber guys.

i believe bestul is telling the truth when he says he can set up more quietly - if not as quick - with strap-on steps.

this might be the skill to aim for if you're trying to take your game to the next level. i know i'm not there yet. last time i tried strap-on steps and hang-on stand together, it sounded pretty much like a solid waste recycling plant operating at full capacity. bh


Hey Heavey, Bestul!

The climber, ladder question is really neat!
There was a time in the Keechi Creek bottom, I didn't carry steps or climber. I just found a convenient tree, climbed up, found a comfy limb and waited.
But now, I'm an old, fat cripple.
I have a very difficult time walking any great distance much less hauling in any kind of load!
About a hundred yards any my hip starts kicking, carry any more than about 10-15 lbs and I have to cut the distance to 50 yards or so. The suggestions you make above are great for the young and healthy!
C'mon, help us old cripples have a good day afield too. Isn't that what this is all about, helping each other solve problems so we call all enjoy a day afield?


Larry Ross

Climbers work for me. I have used them for years. I made my own back in the 1960's and now I am using two bought climbers. One faces the tree and is used for gun hunting. The other is convertible and works for gun or bow. They are very comfortable and can be set up with minimal noise.
We have permanent ladder stands in some locations, but after a while, the deer know where they are and avoid them in daylight hours.
With the "sit and stand" method of climbing, I would think that anyone who could walk and carry the stand should be able to climb with one.
My vote goes overwhelmingly to climbing stands.
L. Woodrow Ross


I use both ladders and climbers, but I definetly prefer my climber for bow and rifle. My climber has arm rests that encompass the front, but shooting my bow has never been a problem. When I climb the tree I just make sure that I place the top section so that when I stand, I have clearance for my bow. There has been several time when I was hunting, saw deer and just didn't have a shot. So I climbed just a little higher and got a clean shot.


First let me magnify the genius of Mr. Heavey in his comment "If your identity as a hunter depends on whose name is on your stuff, you’ve got problems hunting can’t fix." I got my first chance to use a climber this year after having used only hang on with ladder sticks. I have to admit the climber was much more comfortable and secure feeling, especially with a rifle that kicks like mine. The only way I will use my sticks and seat again is for archery in a place I can leave it once it's set. The best way I found to put up the sticks, of which I have six sections, is two or three at a time, then hoist the remaining up, then the seat/platform. One thing that is greatly helpful doing this is a climbers belt. Not the fall arrestor but an actual belt like lineman use. It lets you stand hands free on the ladder to do what you need to do. It's a lot to pack, but the extra sticks do come in handy. As for the climbers, I'm sold. The one I used was fast to set up and quiet to use. Just my $0.02. Best to try before you buy if at all possible. Luckily I had a friend that let me try his.


i have all ways used my climber stand ,its a old baker tree stand ,they dont make any more,but its handy for climbing and its light,,i think seven pounds,only down fall is having to hug the tree to climb up, but when ya got a spot where you can leave sevaral stands all season i like the strap on stands,, once there ,its nice to not have to carry a stand ,bbuyt id never be with out my baker i can climb trees down to four inches in diameter if i want and where i uassly hunted at thats all ya got is small trees in cat tail river bottoms ,unless your in the big woods,i like cat tail edges ,and small diamond will strips


I usually hunt on foot but three years ago I bought a ladder stand.. this is the first year I used it..love love the ease to put up I feel safe in it.. I would like one more section though..

bill t

Bill I bought three ladder stands from dicks for 50 a piece. i hunt permit required areas in ct. i set them up in sept. take them down dec. 31st never had one touched. yes a couple of times i have had to move them, but for the convience of just being able to walk in climb and hunt well worth it especially if i cut out early from work( a trick i learned from you) i can dash out and hunt without having to carry anything in. and yes i bought your book

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