“Now, you get to do the strap up on top of it,” I said with a laugh as on my tip toes I cranked hard on the ratchet which secured the stabilizing pole of my buddy’s new deer stand to his chosen tree, putting a pair of red lines into my palm, which suggested the brace was secure.
It was his first experience with the process of dragging the awkward combination of seat and ladder into the brushy bottom, and probably my twentieth in the last decade, as from season-to-season, a case of grass-is-greener syndrome and greater awareness of deer movements on the properties I’ve hunted has resulted in my shifting of hunting perches around on an almost annual basis. More importantly, it was his first time scaling such a contraption to stand nearly 20 feet in the air. Having the both of us together for the morning effort made the most recent process more tolerable than my usual struggles of breaking my stands down and dragging them through the brush, grass and fields single-handedly. The most recent being back at the start of July on an off day that just happened to coincide with sweltering morning temperatures and thick humidity, with a dash of airborne smoke to make things interesting. Moving the stand from one draw to another, where I had just seen so many more deer last autumn, was a process, but one I knew I had to get done before mid-summer. A far cry from that sweat-drenched effort, this weekend’s northwest winds brought hints of fall on the cool Canadian air funneling down through the river valley and made the process almost pleasant by comparison.
We assembled the last two segments of ladder in the field and flipped the stand over about four feet from the base of the mid-sized cottonwood which overlooked the junction of four distinct deer trails, two of which already showed early morning use in the sandy soils dotted with the split-hoof tracks of a does and fawns. Together we wedged the base of the stand into the ground before angling it up into the air rung-by-rung, until it teetered unsteadily straight above us and came crashing forward into the trunk of the tree, resting soundly against the dead branches along its midsection. From there we went to work, locking it in place.
My buddy nervously scaled the ladder as I held it and instructed him on how to attach the hook of the strap along the angled metal with pointed teeth designed to dig into the bark before tossing it around the trunk and catching it so it could be fed into the ratchet on the other side. In a workmanlike manner he processed the project and locked it down, then turned and sat in the fabric sling of the seat before tying on the tow rope and attaching the safety strap above his head for his harness to clip on to when the season starts. Having never seen such a view before – only getting serious about the hunt after a very successful autumn last year – he asked me: “how do you get used to being 18 feet in the air and then doing everything you need to do to take the shot, especially with an increased heart rate.”
I laughed and informed him of my fear of heights and told him none of my stands are over 13 feet.
“But what a view you have from up there,” I said with a chuckle, standing near the point where the four trails came together in the meadow.
Cautiously he descended from the perch and we packed up the wrench and drill, excess camo fabric and the shooting bar we opted to remove from the stand to make his draw a little bit easier and to eliminate an unnecessary noise-maker, which served little purpose unless somewhere in the future, the stand would be moved to a gun hunting site. With what remained of our efforts in tow, we plotted a stealthy entrance and exit path that didn’t cross the main travel corridors and recorded it on his GPS for opening day of archery season, now less than two weeks away. With the following day’s rain forecasted to wash our morning’s worth of scent away and everything in place for the opener, it was a good feeling to know he was set for autumn and continued good deer hunting…in our outdoors.
Featured Photo: What a View! The author helped assemble his hunting buddy’s first stand in a riverbottom meadow. DEO Photo by Ryan Clauson.