KEVIN TATE: Deer hunting education was a step by step process

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

We’d leased some land and planted a food plot. All that was left to do was hang a stand so we could start hauling in our deer. The steps getting to that process, however, proved to be the toughest of all.
The inaugural fall of the Crosswinds Hunting Club was under way. The desire to have a place to hunt we could call our own had united a select few of my friends and associates, namely those of us with nowhere else to go.
We’d pooled what resources we could muster and signed the lease to a patch of ground that, apparently, had just been excused from a top-secret government experiment bent on recreating the Sahara Desert in Mississippi. The timber company that owned it had done us the favor of removing every straight tree larger than a pipe cleaner. Those they cut that turned out to be rotten, crooked or, apparently, too heavy to move were thoughtfully left angled here and there across the roads as habitat improvement. Working through the summer, we’d overcome these obstacles, hauled in tractors and implements and planted three food plots.
As luck would have it, the timber people had missed one massive, straight pine that stood next to the least bad-looking of our three plot attempts, so my friend Justin and I decided to hang the single platform stand we had acquired in it. Figuring sturdier steps make for better footing, we selected two dozen of the largest-caliber screw-in model we could find and headed to the woods.
The big bore screw-in steps, it turns out, are meant to be put into holes that have been pre-cut with a cordless drill, a pointer the salesman neglected to mention. Possibly Justin had beaten him down too far on the price and he opted to cut his losses by omitting the instructions.
The first step we installed, one we put in while standing on the ground, should have been eye-opening enough and, truthfully, maybe it was, but we’d come a long way out to hang the stand and we weren’t going to be easily deterred.
“Maybe this one’s hitting a knot,” I said less than hopefully.
“Maybe the whole tree is a knot,” Justin said later as he struggled to set the third step while swinging in his climbing harness. “You’re doing the next one.”
It took an eye-popping strain to push and twist the threads of the screw into the bark so it could worry a hole through the loose material, then it took the same degree of effort to twist once the threads caught hold, because the sap set about doing its best to seize the whole operation.
If either of us had been there alone, we’d have hung the stand three steps up due to the difficulty. It wouldn’t have been necessary to wear a harness to hunt from it and you could have just stepped out on the ground when you were through.
Neither of us willing to be the first to cry uncle, we wound up hanging the stand 20 feet high, a job that only took all day. No one who sat in it ever saw a deer, but at least their climb was a breeze.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.