Deer Stand Debate: Leave them up or take them down?
Written By: Rob Harrell
January 31, 2016
This debate has nothing to do with politics, religion, or science. It does not involve anyone named Clinton or Trump. And you certainly won’t find any coverage of this topic on CNN. No, this is a topic that hunters and land owners discuss at seasons end almost every year. Leave them up or take them down?
Of course, I’m talking about our treestands. Out of all the discussions I’ve had about this subject, it really just comes down to two main points. Some don’t want to disturb the deer in late season and with snow and ice on the trees, it’s hard to get motivated to take down your stands. Others, plan on taking down stands rain, snow, or shine and feel it’s just part of their hunting chores, just like setting up cameras and planting food plots. I’ll go over the views on both sides of the fence, but in the end there’s only one simple answer that can’t be debated.
Leaving up your treestands is easiest for the hunters who own or lease their property and don’t have to worry about trespassers hauling off with their equipment. Having sole rights to hunt a piece of land brings a level of comfort when it comes to permanent or fixed stands. With that said, even land owners are conflicted.
Most hunters are so cautious when it comes to making noise in the woods or disturbing the deer’s natural habitat, that they want to be as minimally intrusive as possible. This means hanging a stand and leaving it up basically until the tree falls down. However, it may not be solely due to the fear of bumping a trophy buck off their property. Let’s face it. Hanging and taking down stands is hard work. It takes time, energy, and often requires some sort of vehicle for transport that most of us just can’t afford. Not to mention, some hunters are just plain lazy and don’t feel like going out in the cold winter months unless they can hunt something. For these reasons, it makes sense to just leave the stands hung all year round. Right?
It depends who you ask. Some hunters will spend over 50 days a year out in the woods and treat their stands as a second home. To leave a piece of your home out in the wilderness and exposed to the elements doesn’t seem to make sense. How many times have you had the infamous “waffle-butt” because you climbed up into your stand and discovered your seat cushion has been destroyed by squirrels or has been converted into a mouse motel? It makes for a long hunt when it feels like you’re sitting on a cheese grater. Others take them down simply because they know when next season rolls around, there is often a different spot you want to try out. Since the plan is to move locations anyways, there is no point in leaving the stands up year round.
All fair points and you can see the benefits of both sides, but as I hinted at earlier, there is one factor that trumps any argument you might have. SAFETY! I am one of those hunters who spends 15-20% of the calendar year in the woods. There is absolutely no way I am willing to leave equipment that I trust to keep me suspended in a tree 20 ft. above the ground exposed to the harsh winter elements. I live in Michigan and we have some pretty tough winters. I’ve seen what Michigan winters can do to aluminum ladders, bolts, and cables. I know what squirrels and expanding trees can do to a ratchet strap. I know too many people who have fallen out of trees simply because they left their stands out year round and I promise you the first thing they say when they look back on it is “I’m never leaving a stand out ever again”.
It’s simply not worth risking your safety, not to mention you’re basically throwing your money away. Even if you do leave it up, you’re going to need new straps next year, new cushions, and most of the stands out there won’t last but a few winters before rusting out. I like to get my stands home in my barn and stored away for the winter. Before I go to hang them back in the woods next Fall, I do a full inspection of each stand and perform any required maintenance on the ground. The biggest buck in the world isn’t worth sacrificing the comfort and peace of mind that I have knowing that my stand is safe and secure. It allows me to focus on hunting and not tiptoeing around my rickety stands.
Put this great debate to an end. Get your stands down at the end of each year and lend a hand to your hunting buddies to do the same. It might be cold, snowy, and windy, but it’s well worth your effort. When we all took Hunters Education, the first thing we are taught is Safety is #1. This includes treestand safety.
Be Successful. Be Safe.