By Kevin Tate
Easier to climb and safer to use than other types of tree stands, ladder stands should still be approached with caution and hunted with care.
The onset of mandatory hunter education and the advent of hunter orange has done wonders in recent decades for reducing the number of firearm-related hunting accidents, but deer hunters continue to be a danger to themselves every time they climb a tree without using a full body safety harness, no matter what type of stand they’ll be sitting.
Braced to both tree and ground and more easily used than hang-on stands or climbers, ladder stands have been steadily gaining in popularity as deer numbers have increased in recent years. Typically made of reasonably lightweight materials, manufactured ladder stands may now be installed in nearly any tree that could host a stand of any other type. Once installed, virtually any hunter can comfortably use one.
Ideally, a team of three people is necessary to safely install a ladder stand. With the rig assembled and pointed at the desired tree, one person holds hid foot on bottom rung to keep the ladder from sliding while the other two walk the stand upward to the trunk of the tree. The ladder is then secured to the tree with a brace and straps at its midpoint. These both hold the ladder to the tree and minimize flexing of ladder when it’s being climbed. Then two people hold the ladder while the third climbs, attaches his safety harness to the tree, then attaches the platform to the tree with straps. One or two pull-up ropes should be tied to the platform rail and left hanging to the ground to be used for hauling gear up to and down from the stand.
The stand is now ready to hunt, but not yet ideally safe to climb, and this is where the key point of safety comes in. The hunter should wear a full body harness while hunting and, while attached to the tree at platform level, be perfectly safe. To be just as safe while climbing up and down the ladder requires an additional rope tied to top and bottom and equipped with a Prusik knot. When ascending or descending the ladder, the user should clip his safety harness to the loop in the Prusik knot, which will slide along smoothly with the climb but will, in case of a fall, grab the main rope and catch the harness wearer.