By Nick Simonson
I’ve never been fond of heights. Despite being marketed (and statistically confirmed) as the safest way to travel, airplanes have always made me uneasy. Even the top of the Ferris wheel in the Fargo Scheels makes my stomach drop a little bit when my son and I reach the apex on the slow-moving trip to the second story. With lightning striking and rendering a trusted deer stand inoperable, what with its melted bolts and connection points, charred footpad from the point of impact and twisted legs that transferred the discharge into the ground, I began the process of shopping around and balancing my need for concealment in the treetops this coming season against my well-established acrophobia.
Of course, as with all good things, the lightweight telescopic aluminum model I had secured some time ago was no longer available for purchase, even in the deepest reaches of internet, as the business which built it had been acquired by another, which in turn discontinued the model. Perhaps the nicest thing about the electrified set of scrap resting alongside my garage was its adjustability from eight feet on up to 15 feet. It could be easily raised or lowered to match branches on a tree and came mostly assembled straight out of the box. But with all the interlocking holes showing the stress of 1.21 gigawatts, it was beyond saving. Thus, I was left to procure a standard ladder stand to replace it, and the options were endless and towering.
Everything on the store shelves seemed to be more or less the same – 15 feet this, 18.5 feet that – all of which were near the top of my comfort level for being suspended in space, even if tethered to the tree by a nylon strap and my safety harness, which I wear religiously under my early autumn camo and November blaze. Finding one with a folding seat and a removable shooting rail which would be unnecessary for the parcel I bow hunt, I spent a hot hour in the sun assembling the stand on my tailgate and slid the rungs into place to get an idea of how high it would be. It didn’t look too bad.
Following a sweaty drag from the truck into the wooded north edge of the field where I had watched countless deer filter in and out over the past two seasons, I reassembled the ladder legs and placed the base of the stand against the lone boxelder tree that had managed to grow straight up along the slight dip which led to the nearby creek. Slowly, I lifted the stand into place and heard the seat crunch against the small branches above. I balked at the idea of climbing up and doing some saw work on them and noted that they would likely provide a good back drop to break up my silhouette if I only lowered the stand. Again bracing the metal rungs and slowly walking the elevated perch back to the ground, I removed the lowest portion and raised it back into place. Falling perfectly in line with the first set of branches and leaves, I sighed a bit of relief as I knocked the climb down to 13 feet. With a quick insertion of the brace and the addition of a ratchet strap for stability, I climbed up and locked the teeth of the seat tight into the tree, secured the base and trimmed off two small branches for comfort and ease of draw.
In the end it was a fortuitous coming together of factors: a tree with perfect placement just off the edge of the main field providing a 20-yard shot to the travel corridor, a perfect backdrop to break up my form while on stand, and a vantage point that didn’t make my nose bleed or my stomach flip on the climb up or down. With a solid canopy of branches providing a great screen with two good shooting lanes for deer coming into and leaving the field, I found even greater comfort in both the stand modification and its placement. While I know that height plays a big role in lifting scent away from the sensitive noses of deer and likely helps reduce the chances of them seeing an unintentional shift of a foot or the drawing back of a bow, comfort and safety on stand is perhaps the most important consideration of any hunt. With those items combined and the season start just a few weeks away, I loaded up the truck and headed home, finding myself in good standing once again…in our outdoors.