Considerations Around Post Season Tree Stand Maintenance
Do I take my tree stands down or leave them up? This debate plagues hunters each year, and if you are like most then you have at least several stands around which to ponder this question. There is no right or wrong decision here depending on several factors. The only exception is on public land where certain state laws prohibit leaving a tree stand up after the season.
Tree stand maintenance is important to remember after the conclusion of a hunting season. Quality portable tree stands and permanent stands are a significant investment, so it is important to maintain them. Maintenance is an aspect that not only guarantees the lifespan of a tree stand but also makes for safe hunts. With many hunters focused on post season scouting this time of year, take the time to consider if you are going to leave your tree stands up or take them down and how those decisions relate to maintenance.
When to Leave Your Tree Stands Up
First of all, leaving your stands hanging in the woods is an option that favors those hunters who own their own land or exclusively lease hunting grounds. In these situations, leaving a tree stand in the woods until next year may make sense depending on a few factors.
For stands that are constructed as permanent hunting havens (think box stands, wooden ladder tree stands, etc.), their design is such that warrants them being positioned and left out year after year. They are built to be comfortable, spacious and robust enough to handle the elements, which is why you are hunting out of it and not a portable tree stand. These stands are best left in the woods so long as they are in prime hunting locations and that yearly, or more frequent if needed, tree stand maintenance is performed.
Another reason to leave a stand up is that it may not be in an area that is easily accessible. If you have put in the time scouting and found the perfect tree for hanging a tree stand, it is hard to pull it out after the season. Leaving it up, even if it is one of your many hang on tree stands, is an option so long as you remove any tree stand accessories, lock it down and schedule time before next season to inspect and complete any necessary tree stand maintenance.
There are some that argue that leaving a tree stand up after the season minimizes disturbance in an area. While it is true that not going into a spot one more time is one less time for you to spread scent around or bump a deer, right after the season it is virtually harmless. Pushing a deer in winter from an area will have little if any impact on next deer season. Likewise, the scent you may be distributing as you tear down tree stands will not stick around the nine months or so until opening day. So from this perspective, reducing disturbance in a prime location is rarely a valid reason to leave a stand up after the season.
When to Take Your Tree Stands Down
Leaving a tree stand up, in certain circumstances, can be an option for hunters. However, tree stands are not an inexpensive hunting item and they hinge on your safety. Quality tree stands are durable and made to withstand the elements yet still require care. The right tree stand maintenance can make a stand last a lifetime not to mention keep you safe while hunting.
In general, taking your stands down each year is beneficial. The best time is right after the season ends. The benefit to removing them now is, if you are concerned about disturbing the area, you allow plenty of time for things to calm down. Also, you can combine pulling stands with post season scouting, both of which will give you an advantage this upcoming deer season.
The obvious reason for taking down a tree stand is simply you may not want to hunt that particular spot next year. There is a lot of time between now and the start of next season. Your post season scouting and summer scouting trips may bring you back to this spot or lead you in another direction. Either way, there is no point in leaving any stands up year round that will be moved anyways. Also, if there is a requirement in your state that stands have to be removed by a certain time, you are obligated to get out there and pull them down.
Safety is by far the greatest reason to take your deer hunting stands down. Although it is often taken for granted, hunting from a tree stand is dangerous. Being suspended 20 feet in the air on a poorly maintained tree stand can be fatal. Also, wear and tear are not the only concerns you should have by leaving stands up. Squirrels and other animals can chew, rip and otherwise damage tree stand ratchet straps, seats and cables. All of which put you at risk if not handled during annual tree stand maintenance. Tree growth, in addition to animals, can cause damage to your stands. Even the smallest growth can be enough to pop a cable or break a strap if not checked yearly.
If you do decide to remove tree stands after the season, one thing to watch is the weather. Winter conditions can make for slippery climbing sticks and an icy tree stand ladder. Always think tree stand safety anytime you are using a tree stand.
Tips for Post Season Tree Stand Maintenance
You should now have a pretty good idea as to if you are going to take your tree stands down or not. Those that can be removed, should be but maintenance does not end there. On the contrary, each year you should inspect your stands at the end of the season and also before you go to hang them for next season. Depending on which type of stand you have, tree stand maintenance activities can vary.
Permanent Tree Stands
Traditional permanent stands are becoming less and less popular as better portable tree stands hit the market and further restrictions on how stands can be attached get implemented. The trouble with traditional permanent stands is that many are constructed from wood, which rots and becomes less stable over time. Metal replacement ladders for tree stands like these are a good option if you do go with a wooden platform since most of the maintenance here has to do with rotten ladders. The other permanent alternatives available to hunters are box stands and tower deer stands. Stands like these are much more durable and less vulnerable to having major safety issues compared to traditional permanent stands.
With any type of permanent stand, you want to check any screws, nails and bolts used to hold the stand together. Likewise in the case of tower and box stands, the mechanisms for how the stand is set up also needs to be inspected. Exposed hardware, even on deer box stands, weakens over time. Connectors can be loose or snap from the weight of ice and snow or become dislodged from high winds. Tripods or posts holding them up can also shift from now until you get back in them in the fall. Double check the positioning of these elements in the pre-season if they are to be left out for the year.
Portable Tree Stands
Tree stand maintenance does not end when you pull a stand from the woods. The best way to treat these stands is by never taking anything for granted. Although many are built with materials designed to last, they are still susceptible to normal wear especially if you use them frequently. Make it part of each post-season and each pre-season routine to visually inspect your portable stands. Go over all connection points for loose nuts and bolts as well as check all welds for any noticeable cracks. Most importantly, physically test cables and straps used to attached the stand to the tree and secure the platform. Offseason tree stand maintenance should include the follow fours areas:
- Safety concerns. Focus your maintenance activities first and foremost on safety aspects. These include cables and straps, which are usually the first to show signs of wear. Failure with these components can mean serious injury the next time you climb in if left unchecked.
- Heavy use areas. Places on the platform where you keep your feet can wear off factory paint, which will lead to rust over time. Look for areas where rust is forming and sand it down and add some touch-up paint to protect the metal.
- Seats. A good seat can be a lifesaver during all day sits in archery season. These wear out every few years or get ripped or chewed by animals. Invest in a new seat instead of repairing to make sure you have the comfort you need in the stand next season.
- Proper storage. Getting your tree stands indoors until next year is good but cleaning them up and storing them properly is great. Rinse off any dirt and dry them off before putting stands in for the year.
Take your tree stands down or leave them up? Well, it depends. If possible, the best solution is to pull down your tree stands after the season. Each stand should go through proper stand maintenance to ensure they are ready to deploy at the start of deer season this year. For those permanent stands that are left out in the woods, make sure you take the time to maintain them. Time spent on tree stand maintenance not only increases the life of your stands but also keeps you safe.