I’ve been using treestands throughout the bulk of my deer hunting career.
For the past decade or so I have gone almost exclusively to a buddy-style ladder stand. 15 footers get me far enough off the ground to be innocuous to the deer. They are a lot safer and easier to deal with than other styles. I originally got them, because of my sons, but I have kept using them as my kids got to big for both of us to fit, because they are so roomy and comfortable.
Here’s my favorite. I call it “Campground,” because it is close to the family campground on the back of the property.
Notice the camo cover that hangs off the shooting rail. That is the subject of this post. For years I have been experimenting with what to put around the rail. I’ve tried a lot of things. I can tell you what works and what doesn’t.
I first tried nothing. That worked surprisingly well. The first season I had a buddy stand, I went most of the time with just a bare shooting rail. When rifle season started, I put a camo poncho over the front of the rail. Again, the deer did not seem to notice.
The next year I tried the die-cut stuff. That worked, but I left it up too long and the critters ate it.
One year I found a real Cadillac solution. It was camo fabric with a plain grey liner. It was heavy duty. It was built like lined drapes, but the fabric faded too quickly. If memory serves me, this is the solution in the picture. Honestly, I liked this the best, but it was very expensive and it held water so the curtains were always wet.
Over the next few years, I tried burlap, camo Nylap, die-cut Nylap. What I found is that I could get maybe a season or two out of each. Sometimes I got a 12 foot packaged length. Sometimes I bought it by the yard from Wingsupply.com
Over the years, I settled on electrical ties to attach the stuff to the shooting rail, and I added foam pipe insulation around the rail. The insulation provided a bit of padding, it deadens the noise and it keeps your rifle from being scuffed. Sometimes the squirrels with chew up the foam, but overall this has been a sturdy solution. I probably have gotten 7 seasons out of the oldest pipe insulation.
This was all before hurricane Ike hit. Here in the Greater Ohio Valley, we’re not used to hurricanes. So when they said there was a big blow coming, I made the mistake of rushing to finish getting all my stands ready. Ouch. Ike shredded my die-cut Nylap . There were two more bad storms after Ike– actually did worse damage to the stands that year. My blinds were in shreds. I patched things as best I could with duct tape and made it through season.
The next year, I found a solid Nylap (synthetic felt) in 54 inch width by the yard on close-out. I bought enough for 4 stands. The place where the material seemed to always wear the most was right where the electrical ties join it to the rail, so I added a strip of Gorilla tape.
I noticed some things with this new set-up. For one thing, the solid material, unlike the die-cut was not good at hiding you when the sun had you lit from behind. In fact, it kind of accentuated the fact that there was someone behind the screen. Secondly, unlike the burlap or the die-cut, this stuff offered a solid wall to the wind. Last year and the year before were exceedingly windy. In fact, for the first time, I actually had to come down out of the stand because the tree was swaying so badly I was getting motion sickness.
To deal with the see-thru problem, I added landscape fabric as a liner. This stuff is black. It seems to be the same sort of material, and it was fairly cheap. I’m not going to say this is a must-have. However, I can see a bit of an improvement.
The other problem, the wind, came to my attention last year. Normally, I sit up there in my ladder stand and feel like I am invisible to the deer. I regularly have them grazing directly underneath me., or walking by with seemingly no care in the world. This past year, I ate tag soup, and I noticed in one particular instance that a doe, even though she was a good 200 yards away was extremely aware of my presence. She seemed to be deliberately avoiding my stand. I looked down and saw the solid fabric waving in the wind. Later, I was at Midway, at the far end of the same field and all I could see moving in the whole forest was the blind material flapping about. I resolved that I had to do something.
In the past, the die-cut stuff and the burlap did not seem to have trouble getting caught in the breeze. Their main defect was durability. This solid felt needed to be quieted down. I thought about sewing in weights on the bottom. That might work, but it would be labor-intensive. I actually tried that a few years ago with a similar solid product. I was using large iron nails woven into the fabric. However, having nails bumping around the metal floor and ladder was not a good idea. It was also not a good idea to have nails right where my face would pass as I was climbing into the stand.
The solution I am currently testing is kind of crude, but it seems to work. I bought some cheap plastic clothesline. I made a rough hem by using construction adhesive and created a sort of drawstring arrangement. One side of the clothesline is tied off to the back of the stand. The other comes around the back of the stand and then I have it clipped with a small carabiner to the ladder. When I’m climbing up the ladder on my way in, I unhook the carabiner. That gives me enough slack to get in. Once I’m settled, I reach down and pull the ‘biner and hook it on the seat. When it is cinched up, the bottom corners and edge are held close to the platform and cannot flap around. As I am leaving, I reverse the procedure and clip the ‘biner to the ladder. The construction adhesive that I used was stuff I had left over from another project. If I had my choice, I would use Liquid Nails. I did not have to be all that exact, neat or even making the hem. All I had to do was form about a 1 inch tube of fabric and keep the glue off the drawstring.
I will let you all know what happens. If this experiment works, I’ll glue a hem on the rest of the treestand skirts and see how it hold up through a full season.