I liken treestand repair to gun cleaning: No normal person looks forward to it, but it’s vitally important. Indeed, making sure your treestands are in tip-top shape is likely the most important task you’ll perform all year. Other than saving your neck, last-minute tweaks can also be critical to your success, as one squeak from a loose screw can send a big buck sprinting away faster than you can mumble “greased lightning.”
Of course, hunters are best served by bringing all their treestands in after the season and stacking them in a rat-free shed or garage. But it’s often impractical to pack up all those metal ladder stands. So hunters should venture into the field a month before the season starts to check them, too.
First, inspect all your stands for signs of wear or damage. Every part of a treestand is important, so check all cables, bolts, straps, the platform, and the seat. Tighten all the screws and grease all the moving parts. Consider camo duct tape for any foam arm cushions that are coming off, or replace them. Spray paint worn metal that gleams in the sunlight. Most importantly, thoroughly inspect the stand’s hang strap for wear. If there is any question at all about this nylon strap—if it shows fraying or is extremely faded or brittle—replace that thing now! In fact, go to Tractor Supply and buy at least one quality ratchet strap for each of your treestands. It is possibly the best and cheapest investment in your health that you’ll make all year.
Double Up on Straps
As you climb into each stand, make sure all screws and bolts on the ladder are tight. If you use strap-on tree steps, make darn sure each of them looks and feels solid. Once in the stand, attach your safety harness and then place a new ratchet strap around the stand. Mark the straps with the Sharpie by writing the dates that both were hung with a piece of duct tape wrapped around the tag end of the strap. The idea here is to always have two straps on each treestand, so if one fails, the other will save you. Next year, remove the old strap and replace it with a new one. Do this every year for all of your stands.
Stop Squeaks and Cut Shooting Lanes
Next, sit down and stand up as if you were shooting. Move around and shift your weight to identify any squeaks and fix them by lubing or tightening. Look out over your field of fire and mentally note branches that need to be cut for your shooting lanes. If you’ve brought a friend, now’s the time to use the laser pointer to point out limbs that need clearing so that he/she can lop them off from the ground with the pruning pole.
Strongly consider cutting strips of grip tape and placing them on all parts that will be stepped on, such as your ladder rungs and platform. Some hunters love to line the standing platform with carpet, but it gets old and ratty fast. So if you do choose carpet, plan on replacing it often.
Make Notes, Prep for Opening Day, Return if Necessary
In your notebook or smartphone, label each stand as you check it and note any tools, materials, or fixes it may still need so you can return soon and bring everything necessary for the final touches. (This is especially important if you have homemade wooden treestands.) Finally, hang a pull-up rope, screw in a few gear hangers, and attach your lifeline if you plan to use one.
I realize this is a lot of work that many of us neglect each year, but you absolutely need to check and, if necessary, repair your stands annually. Your hunting future depends on it.