Although climbing tree stands might be the first thing you think of when you think of a treestand, there’s always room for other kinds of treestands in your hunting arsenal. Climbing stands like the Summit Viper or the API Magnum Bowhunter are perfect when you need to hunt an insecure spot or on public hunting lands, but if your sites are located on private hunting grounds though, a hang-on stand might be as good an option as a climbing tree stand.
By using climbing sticks and tree steps, hang-on stands have the benefit of being easy to get into and out of and they’re easier to conceal.
However, if you can’t leave your stand behind when you go hunting, choosing to use a climbing tree stand instead offers portability and hunting flexibility.
There are two types of climbing options with climbing tree stands. The sit/stand climber puts much less pressure on a hunters arms when climbing because the hunter is able to remain sitting while raising the lower half of the treestand up the tree. This type of climbing stand has a bar that runs across the front of the climber part of the stand (a climber usually comes in two parts and this is the top part). Using the bar to sit on, the hunter lifts the top part up the tree, wedges it into place, and then uses his legs to lift the bottom half of the climbing stand up the tree. To get out of the tree, the hunter basically does everything in reverse.
For this type of climbing tree stand, some stands have bars that are permanently positioned (fine for gun hunting but not so good as an archery treestand) and some stands have bars that pivot out of the way once the hunter is settled into a spot on the tree. The bars that move out of the way tend to be much better for bowhunting than stands with a fixed climbing bar. Many treestand manufacturers call these bars gun rests and footrests.
The other type of climbing option is the open front stand where the hunter must rely heavily on upper body strength when lifting the bottom half (the platform) of the climbing tree stand. You have to lean forward and rest your weight entirely on your forearms as you use your lower body to lift the platform up the tree, wedge it in place, and release the pressure on your arms so you can then lift the top of the stand further up the tree and start the process all over again, repeating until you’ve reached the spot from which you want to do your hunting. This process is very tiring, and because of that, these climbing stands aren’t always as safe to use as the sit-and-stand versions.
Things to keep in mind with climbing tree stands include how much weight you can carry with you and how far you’ll have to carry it. Climbing tree stands will need to be carried in the field and depending how far you have to travel and over what kind of terrain, you might have to choose portability over high levels of comfort. Some of the newer climbing stands, like the Summit Viper SS, do very well to combine lightweight and comfort but in most cases you have to sacrifice something, even if it’s accessories, to have an especially portable treestand.
Another important consideration is what kind of hunting you’ll be doing. Do you prefer gun hunting over bow hunter, vice versa, or do you just as often hunt both ways? Some stands are better suited to bow hunting. Climbing stands can be particularly awkward for bowhunting because of the climbing bar some stands have. Earlier I mentioned how a sit-and-stand climber works. Compare the Openshot Deluxe by Summit Tree Stands to the Magnum Bowhunter by API Treestands. Both are well-suited for bowhunting, but the Openshot Deluxe is quite deliberately a truly open front climbing stand. There is no bar to move out of the way. The Magnum Bowhunter is flexible in that the bar can be moved for bowhunting, but some best climbing tree stand is not as flexible.
However, giving up a little convenience for the sake of multi-functional climbing tree stands that are suited just as well for bow and gun hunting can be a worthwhile purchase if you often do both types of hunting and you need the flexibility and portability a climbing stand affords.
Hang-ons and ladder stands have their place in treestand hunting, but climbing tree stands are better for many hunting situations, and when you need a climbing stand, a hang-on or ladder stand just won’t do.