Part of my heritage was climbing 2x4 steps to a wood platform my dad and/or my buddies and I had nailed in the fork of a large tree (or, better, where 2 or 3 oaks or hickories grew together) about 10 feet off the ground. We didn’t go high. Sometimes we’d nail a single 2x4 rail around the stand for safety and a gun rest, but not usually. Sometimes we built a little seat, but mostly we carried up a crate to sit on, which was not very safe.
We lugged the wood and built stands back in the VA woods, on ridges and in hollows and creek bottoms where bucks traveled, and had for decades, and still do.
I logged many long, cold, wet, miserable, bored, wonderful days in those stands. I saw squirrels, deer, turkeys, coons and other critters and learned about nature. I killed some deer and learned about life and death.
I can’t remember the last time I hunted from a wood stand. Twenty years ago? How about you? Many of you younger bloggers have never done it.
The tradition is dying. Everywhere I go to hunt, from the Milk River to Iowa, I find wooden stands abandoned and crumbling in the woods, turned black by the weather, the rotten steps hanging loose like decaying teeth on a big, long face.
When I find an old stand, I stop for 2 reasons. I look around and check out the woods. This is a good spot to hunt, or else the guy would never have gone to the trouble of building the stand there. I often hang a lock-on nearby, or hunt on the ground.
I also look up at the old stand and try to picture the man who built it. Who was he…what did he look like…? I see him sitting there, gun on lap…freezing…shivering…thinking about the good and bad in his life…happy…bored…heart jumping when he sees a doe or hears a squirrel in leaves…the explosive rush of emotions when he sees and kills a buck…
And then I move on, thinking: The tree stands may be different today, but the spirit of the hunter is the same.