Deer Season Prep—a Few Housekeeping Items

With archery deer season now underway in Alabama and gun season imminent, most hunters have focused on completing food plot work and mowing access trails on their lands. However, of greater importance is taking some time to assess, repair, and make ready common hunting stand setups such as ladder stands, lock-on stands, and platforms like shooting houses and tripods. Due diligence in this area can mean the difference between an enjoyable hunting season and one marked by frustration, or worse, tragedy. 

After the season ends, our hunting stands remain exposed to the elements for months. Additionally, trees continue to grow and in doing so can stress attachment systems to the point of failure. Unfortunately, that failure may be discovered the hard way, resulting in injury or death. A simple check of hunting stands can be a life saver and usually takes no more than a day to complete.

Ladder stands and lock-ons should be attached to trees with a chain and a turnbuckle. When secured properly, stands should display no movement on the tree. However, after nearly a year of tree growth, these attachment systems should be checked to ensure components aren’t stressed. The best way to approach this is to loosen tension on the turnbuckle, make sure the attachment chain hasn’t grown into the tree, and re-tighten the turnbuckle. When possible, this is best accomplished using a climbing stand to ascend the tree and complete the job. It is never a good idea to have a buddy “hold” the stand while someone climbs the stand to reset the attachment. 

If using a climbing stand to aid in this process isn’t possible, there is another safe alternative. Cut two lengths of rope at least 6 feet longer than the height of the stand and fasten snap links to the rope. Climb the stand and attach snap links to the stand on each side of the tree. Drop the ropes down, then cross them over one another behind the tree—pulling tension on the front side of the tree. One person, preferably two, can hold tension on the attached ropes while another ascends the stand and completes re-setting the stand’s attachment system. When done, unhook the clips and drop them to the ground. Voila—done. It should be noted that chains, turnbuckles, snap rings, and rope should all have a working load limit considerably greater than the combined weight of the stand, hunter, and gear.  

Tripod stands should be inspected to make sure a leg hasn’t settled or is able to settle to the extent that it could tip over with a hunter in it or ascending it. Seats should also be inspected for secure attachment. As compulsive as this may sound, I can state with certainty that tripods can easily tip when their legs sink in soft ground following heavy rains. During my last year as a District Biologist with ADCNR one of my guys experienced this while ascending a tripod. He wound up on the ground with the tripod on top of him. His injuries required a life flight to Pensacola, serious surgery, and months of therapy to rehabilitate his injuries. 

Shooting houses or box stands, especially those that are built with wood, should be checked for rotten floors and steps. Open shooting houses are favorite spots for wasps to build nests. It is good policy to never climb up in a shooting house without a can of wasp spray. It is important to check the entirety of the structure as wasps often build under shooting rests and other hidden crevices. Alabama weather often includes some warm days during deer season; there are not many more unpleasant surprises than discovering an active and angry wasp nest with a field full of deer in view. Especially for a hunter that is allergic to wasps.

Land stewardship and hunting are a passion for many folks in Alabama. Admittedly, pre-season stand maintenance isn’t as pleasurable as planting, scouting, and hunting—but it is undoubtedly just as important. Hunt safe and shoot straight.