Do You Hunt from a Wood Tree Stand Anymore?

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.


ian in wisconsin's Gravatar From a safty standpoint we are getting ride of all our wooden stands the matience of fixing them every year is just not worth it when we can now buy metal stands one time and dotn have to buy 2X4's everyyear this year we have budgeted for 3 and that should be all our stands except our big shooting boxes that will always be wood and custom built
# Posted By ian in wisconsin | 1/26/11 3:10 PM
Hil's Gravatar Killed my buck out of a wooden stand this year. Just some 2x4s nailed in the fork of a big tree, about 15 feet high, with a scrap of carpet on one side to block the wind and hide my movement. It's got screw-in tree steps up to it but Dad dragged one of his contractor's ladders in for me that week since the steps are too far apart for little short me. The tradition is alive and well in Pennsylvania!
# Posted By Hil | 1/26/11 3:12 PM
Kyle's Gravatar Awesome blog Mike! I haven't hunted in an old wooden stand since my first couple years of hunting. I first tagged along with my dad when I was 6. During that summer we built a wooden tree stand in a tree overlooking a pastured. Opening morning of gun season he shot a nice 8 pointer out of that stand and I've been hooked ever since! The stand is no longer usable as it has deteriorated over the years, but I often still walk buy it and think about that magical opening morning with my dad.
# Posted By Kyle | 1/26/11 3:24 PM
Silverback's Gravatar I have hunted out of wood stands in the past, but it is irresponsible to do now. When metal stands used to cost $200, I can understand the need. However, now you can but one for $45. if you wait for a sale. I find it irresponsible to your family not to invest (yeah, the whole $45) in a stand. Either way wood or metal you need a saftey restraint. I to stop and look and even take pictures of old wood stands. Bottom like is they are just not safe. Yeah you could build it safe to code, but the money it would cost for bolts, 2x6, 2x4, ect would cost way more than a metal stand
# Posted By Silverback | 1/26/11 3:26 PM
Scott from MI's Gravatar Its been about 8 to 10 years since i have but i used to do it some. I've always thought it was pretty cool as well to find these old stands
in the woods. Our property we hunt now has three old stands like this that i have found. Every one i found was in a spot i was looking at hanging a stand or hung one near by. One of them we put a ladder stand in that same tree. Didnt know it was there until we were putting it up. No old wood left hanging on it but some of the old nails are still in the tree about 15' up all rusted. We've killed a few deer from that spot. I found one of them this past Dec. when i was out muzzleload hunting on the last night. Made my way to the corner of our property to keep a eye on a picked corn field for deer. looked at a couple trees while i was standing there and sure enough there was the old woodrail on the tree...some of it hanging off. Two years earlier we put a stand about 60 yards from this one and killed a good buck out of it both years. I looked at this old stand i found while i was hunting wondering the same....who had built it and how long ago and how many deer they may have killed out of it. Its stuff like that, that makes me love to be out spending time in the field. Animal killed
or not its all about the experience.
# Posted By Scott from MI | 1/26/11 3:28 PM
GParker's Gravatar I haven't hunted out of a wood stand in about 6 or 7 years. I am one of the younger bloggers that have hunted out of them. I remember building my first wood stand with my older brothers. Killed my first deer with a bow out of a wood stand, many fond memories.
# Posted By GParker | 1/26/11 3:28 PM
JDAM's Gravatar Great post. I offten walk by old stands that I built many years ago and remember the hunts. I told my 8 yers old son that we were going to build a tree stand this spring and every day he asks me "is it spring yet". Can't wait.
# Posted By JDAM | 1/26/11 3:42 PM
Grant's Gravatar Mike, perfect article, as soon as I read this a million memories can flooding back in. I am only 27, but believe me I have hunted from my share of wooden platform stands. I remember being 8 or 9 and helping my dad carry materials in to watch him build a treestand, that I would hope he would shoot a monster buck from. As I got older we built more stands together, and my very first bowkill came from a wooden stand about 10 feet up between three trees. That stands has long since fallen apart and still dangles there in pieces. I hang a loc-on within 20 yards of it every year and still have great success, but oftentimes catch myself staring at it, reminising. And last year I picked up one of the old boards out of the dirt, took it home, and now that first little 4-pointer I arrowed form that stand, has his rack attached to that board, hanging in my man cave. Memories man, can't beat 'em.
# Posted By Grant | 1/26/11 4:01 PM
David in NC's Gravatar I still hunt out of a wood stand - from the ground. Built a new one last year. We were never big on "box stands". The traditional way to hunt in NC is to build a wooden condominium in a multi-trunked tree and then cut a lane to throw your corn out in. We always had lock-ons and groundblinds. Some of the lock-ons had plywood floors in them though- does that count?

In fact, when we would see someone's old wooden stand with those 2x4 steps, Dad would always remark, "There's a man that will end up in the hospital sooner rather than later". Those wooden steps are way more dangerous than the wooden stands, and many a hunter has fallen when the old nails pull out of the tree. Of course most guys were too cheap to buy treated wood too.
# Posted By David in NC | 1/26/11 4:05 PM
Rick's Gravatar Great post Mike. I love coming across an old, run-down, moss-covered wooden stand in the forests I hunt. You hit the nail right on the head, these spots almost always show you some evidence of what attracted some previous hunter, and so many of these stands just ooze character.
# Posted By Rick | 1/26/11 5:13 PM
Clint in MN's Gravatar I shot my first deer out of a wood stand that I helped my grandpa build when I was ten years old. Wooden stand will always hold a special place in my heart. I'm a young blogger (18) but I still do it. For some reason with a bow in my hands it feels weird to be in a wooden stand. But with a rifle or shotgun, it can't be beat really. There are several old broken down stands from the last generation of hunters on my lease. They're a great way to identify historically productive spots.
Awesome post!
# Posted By Clint in MN | 1/26/11 5:23 PM
Cary Dion's Gravatar Been there, done that. For some people like me that are not that fond of heights, a wooden stand can make a big difference. The platforms on a ladder, hang-on and climbers are very small. You can build a wooden stand with a much bigger platform in most cases. I also put a wooden border around the perimiter to make me feel safer about waist height. In some of these stands I could have a square dance if I wanted to but I felt safer and more comfortable. That translates into more time spent in the stand. Modifications could be made to help camouflage, make a very comfortable seat, block wind, have plenty of room for your other equipment, take a cooler, ect. Yes, they eventually rot away but whats funner than building some new stands every couple years with your buddies in the spring and a few cold beers. Or your son or daughter. Its just another reason to be in the woods, where I would rather be.
# Posted By Cary Dion | 1/26/11 8:40 PM
Jagermeister's Gravatar I still hunt from a wooden stand during rifle season (for almost 30 years), and so do most of the guys I hunt with. We have free standing or attached to a big tree, Box stands with ladders, doors, windows and tin roofs. In the areas we built these stands we tested them out with stands like you see in your blog. In Europe all the stands are wooden and there are hardly any steel stands.

Just like you Mike I have the same feelings and thoughts when I come up on one of these ancient stands in a tree while I'm hunting thru the woods.

Be Well Everyone...!!!
# Posted By Jagermeister | 1/26/11 8:46 PM
Curt's Gravatar Mike,
You just painted us a picture of our past. All of us have special memories of our early hunting days. You just put me back on the farms with my Dad & Grandfather in Pa. My Grandfather passed away 19 years ago and my Dad doesn't hunt anymore. But we are hunting together tonight. Thanks
# Posted By Curt | 1/27/11 12:41 AM
Jon - WI's Gravatar We have a multiple wooden stands on our property. Every year we get together for a weekend a couple weeks before season to "fix" stands, check out the property and maybe, just maybe have a couple beers around the card table. Its all part of the tradition! We have ladder stands and hang on ones as well that we move from place to place but the O'l wooden ones are the most comfortable and spacious!!
# Posted By Jon - WI | 1/27/11 10:21 AM
Flatlander's Gravatar hunted out of them when i was a kid and didn't know any better or how painful back surgery or life long injuries can be........
now it's hang on and ladders only, though i used to have some homemade wood ladders, replaced them every two years........that wasn't a great plan either.......

besides unsafe, it's just hard on the tree....... don't like screw in steps either.........good way to get thrown of hunting land around me......
if the farmer/ land owner ever hits an old nail with his chainsaw when cutting wood, you are history on that place...... just not worth it....... and they make more noise .......... only benefit is they are cheap....... spend the $30 on a hang on and save the planet :)
# Posted By Flatlander | 1/27/11 11:09 AM
Jerad's Gravatar Well, there is just one on the property now, its in decent shape too. Its in a great location and is basically the "guest room" of the hunting stands on the property. Last time I used it was 3 years ago, with a blind on the platform.
# Posted By Jerad | 1/27/11 8:23 PM
PA Archer's Gravatar Still hunt to this day out a wooden stand I built (and have RE-built many times in the last 15 years) Killed my first PA buck out of it and my latest PA buck out of it as well. (as well as a good many in between there).

IMHO it's a matter of maintance. My tree platform is safe for me because I maintain it. And I wear a harness .

When the tree falls over, I'll stop hunting out of it.
# Posted By PA Archer | 1/28/11 2:38 PM
Mack's Gravatar I am with you PA Archer. We have about 50/50 wood vs metal and we build them with treated wood and have a method that does not fatigue the nails. We use a harness and yep, we do use milk crates, Mike. We hunt private land and the owner uses them too. We name the stands and one is the "Old Reliable" for obvious reason. We check them before the season start- as GA deer season begins 2nd Sat. in September and goes to January 1 or beyond in certain areas. We've taken too many deer to quickly remember and often place a new hunter there to up the odds. We like ladder stands and have a few climbers, but the climbers are not as friendly to use with the lay of the land we hunt. I hunt as often as not on the ground and our wood stands are usually within eye sight of older ones too. I have often found spent cases under an old stand- now that makes ones mind wonder. Whatever works for you and is safe for us. I am getting too old to do much more. I can't wait for 2011 season. Thanks to you all for a great years posting.
# Posted By Mack | 1/28/11 3:14 PM
adam's Gravatar me and my buddy are going to build one this weekend i cant wait to go hunting from it
# Posted By adam | 1/19/12 10:21 PM