Ups and Downs of Tree Stands for Hunting Deer
Day 1: Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips’ Deer Hunting Experience with Tree Stands
Editor’s Note: One size of tree stands doesn’t fit all. To choose an effective tree stand, first study the conditions in the area you hunt. Then select a tree stand to match them.
Some years ago I was hunting deer at Callaway Gardens near Pine Mountain, Georgia, which is known more for its lovely gardens, championship golf course and fine water sports area than the quality deer hunting that’s available there, when I realized the importance of hunting from a tree stand. Callaway Gardens provided ladder-type tree stands in strategic spots where deer were traveling in the area where I was hunting. The stand overlooked a large clear-cut. For 90 percent of the people who would hunt Callaway Gardens, this site probably would have been a good stand. Yet, after I climbed into the stand and surveyed the area I was hunting, I saw that the clear-cut dropped into a small valley alongside a creek. There were some hardwood trees in this small valley, and the timber was higher than the clear-cut. This dip in the landscape formed a natural funnel for deer leaving the woods to move into the clear-cut, making this little draw obviously the type of area where most of the deer who used the clear-cut would funnel from the woods into the place where I was watching. It also was a corridor that the deer could use to pass through the clear-cut without ever being seen.
From the tree stand, I evaluated my hunting region and realized that I needed to be somewhere else in that valley. I climbed down from the ladder stand and walked about 1/4-mile to the valley. Sure enough there were deer trails and plenty of deer sign present. But the cover in the valley was thicker than I had thought, and I realized that to hunt it effectively I needed to be above the cover to watch both sides of the small stream. Because permanent tree stands were provided by Callaway Gardens for each hunter, I didn’t take my own tree stand into the woods with me. However, I thought to myself, “Climbing a tree should be no problem for the rugged outdoorsman I perceive myself to be.”
Tree Climbing for Deer at Callaway Gardens:
After 15 minutes of searching for the best tree to climb where I hunted Deer at Callaway Gardens, I finally settled on one that I thought had the most limbs and should provide the easiest access to a lofty perch for me. That there weren’t limbs for the first 12-feet off the ground didn’t appear to be much of a problem to me, since I was an old-time professional tree hugger. I had fallen in love with this particular tree as a possible stand site and went to the base of it to shinny up it like I had done in boyhood days, I found that this overweight, older rugged outdoorsman wasn’t near the tree shinier he once was when he was 26-years old, 40-pounds lighter, and working out and running at the YMCA every day. After I had fought myself 6-feet up the tree, my knuckles were turning white from the exertion, my eyes were watering, and my muscles were quivering like a coon dog that’s been standing on a bench to be judged for 2-1/2-hours. Right then the option of falling out of the tree didn’t seem to be nearly as bad as continuing to climb up the tree. However, there is a certain point in a sportsman’s life when pride supersedes brains and endurance. So on nothing but sheer inner spirit and rugged determination not to give up, I continued to shinny-up the tree, which proved to be mistake. Just as I grabbed hold of the first limb and pulled my leg over the branch, I once again hugged the tree in preparation for my easier climb to the next limb. Yet, when my palm encountered bark, there was a feeling like a red-hot spike had been driven through my hand. As I instantly retrieved my wounded palm, a vicious yellow jacket flew out of my hand – leaving its stinger square in the middle of my palm’s lifeline. Determined not to let adversity prohibit me from gaining the altitude that I knew surely would result in my harvesting a giant whitetail, I continued on my climb.
Once I reached my destination, I lodged my left foot between an arm-sized-branch protruding out from the trunk and wedged myself into the boughs of the tree. The other leg I hung over the side of another limb. For about 5 minutes, I was totally pleased with myself. I had made the arduous climb. Although I was scarred and battered from it, I felt much like a mountain climber who had reached the summit. But this feeling didn’t last for long as my left leg went numb, and the feeling in my right leg started to wane. For the next 20 minutes, I constantly had to change positions to keep the feeling in my legs.
As the sun began to disappear, my attention changed from hoping to see a deer to trying to keep from falling out of the tree. I decided that if I were to survive, I had better plan how to get out of this tree before dark. When I finally came down from the tree, I hadn’t anticipated the bottom limb breaking. When I looked up from the ground some minutes after I hit it with a hard thud, I decided right then and there that this fat, out-of-shape, less-than-prideful, rugged outdoorsman never again would shinny up a tree without a modern-day tree stand to take the punishment that was designed for tree stands and Indians, but that hunters no longer had to endure.
For more deer-hunting tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” and “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” Go to www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.
About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.