By Aaron Luneke
Photography by Travis Mather
Mobile hunting has gained popularity over the past couple decades, especially among those who hunt public land. I first began dabbling with mobile hunting seven or eight years ago when I use a borrowed climber that belonged to a buddy’s dad. It was heavy, loud to climb with, and completely metal – even the brackets that went around the tree: But it gave me a taste of the benefits mobile hunting could provide.
The following year I bought an Ol’ Man climber that came with a net seat that made you feel like you were sitting on air. This was a major upgrade from the iron relic I had before. It was constructed of a lighter metal and weighed just over twenty-pounds; and I really can’t say enough about that seat. The Ol’ Man more easily got me into places I normally would have issues getting to with a hang on and sticks. If I saw deer were changing their movements I could adjust and get in closer with minimal impact on the area. If I had a different wind or found a new piece to hunt, I could go in blind and find a tree. Prior to this, the only way I could adjust is if I had multiple stands pre-hung; and even then, I may have to move them anyways.
As with anything, with positives come negatives. The biggest negative I found with my climbers was the difficulty in finding a tree. I’d locate a great scrape line, a bed, or a trail, and it seemed like I was always in a less than optimal position within the area due to having to find a tree with no branches or limbs.
Fast-forward a few years, and we arrive at my current set-up: A Muddy Bloodsport treestand, with four Muddy Rope-Cam sticks. The Bloodsport debuted around 2010 and came with Muddy’s patented rope-cam system, which is truly a breeze to use. The stand comes with two ropes that are tied into the seat post, which then wrap around the tree and through a cam system that holds the rope. Tie a single half-hitch safety knot and you’re good to go. The rope-cam sticks have the same rope-cam system as the treestand and is also equipped with folding, double-sided foot pegs for increased footing and easier storage. The stand and sticks are stackable onto one another, but do require a strap to hold the system together. The sticks weigh around 2.5 pounds per stick, and the stand weighs all of 11-12 pounds.
An additional feature I added to the treestand is Muddy’s Super Mount, which is still sold by Muddy (https://shop.gomuddy.com/super-mount/). It’s a steel bracket affixed to a two-inch strap, tightened down by a ratchet strap. The bracket is the female end, where the male end is slipped onto the seat post and put in place of the top rope-cam system. This allows me to use virtually one hand to attach the stand to the tree, eliminating the fumbling mess of holding a stand to the tree while trying to strap it down.
One last modification I made to the set-up was adding a webbing extension to one of the sticks. The webbing extension is essentially two additional steps, made of one-inch webbing. This gives me the option to gain an additional four feet in treestand height, without adding the weight of an entire stick. Directions on how to make this extension can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5buumTY_oc. I would recommend watching both videos he mentions and then decide which set up is best for your situation.
Packing in a stand can be a pain, but it doesn’t have to be. I used to use the backpack straps that came with the stand, but they didn’t fit well, were very uncomfortable, and put all of the weight onto my shoulders. When it came time to buy a new pack, I wanted one that would not only be used out west for elk, muleys, and short backpacking trips, but also as a stand hauler for the majority of its role. After loads of research and a well-timed sale on BlackOvis.com, I bought the Mystery Ranch Pintler. The Pintler is a 41-Liter external frame pack that can be expanded to carry more gear or meat on the load shelf, between the bag and frame – or in my case, a treestand. Using this pack to carry my set-up in, most of the time upwards of two miles or more, is a far better option than the backpack straps that came with the stand. Simply put, it is more comfortable, puts the weight on my hips versus my shoulders, and less strenuous on my body.
GETTING SET UP
Now that I’ve covered the gear I use and how I get it all back to my tree, I’ll detail how I get up the tree quickly, quietly, and safely. I begin by putting my harness on at the base of the tree. I’ve equipped my harness with two paracord loops at my hip that are used to loop one stick through each. This lets me carry more up and eliminate making multiple trips up and down.
Next, I slip the Super Mount through the back of my harness, with the bracket on one side and the ratchet on the other.
I set the stand on one side of the tree and my bow on the other, both have pull ropes attached to them and go to the leg straps on my harness. Again, this is to eliminate making multiple trips. I strap the first stick to the tree, the one with the webbing extensions, with the center of the stick at about nose height.
The second stick is placed on top of the first, and will stay there until I pick it up to strap it to the tree. From here I strap the sticks on the tree as I climb, with space between the top of one stick to the bottom of the next at about the space from my foot to the top of my knee.
Once I get the final stick on, I place the Super Mount onto the tree, positioned where I want the stand. This can be tricky if it’s your first time in that particular tree and may take some adjustment. I pull the stand up using the rope attached to it, and hook the male end of the Super Mount to the tree.
With the stand hanging, I run bottom rope through the cam system, lift the platform towards the tree and tighten rope – then I push the stand platform back down and away from the tree. This ensures a tight fit to the tree and will remove the chance for the stand to wiggle from side to side.
Treestands and Sticks
There are now several stand makers and stands on the market that will allow you to be as mobile as you want to be. Manufacturers include Hawk, Lone Wolf, Muddy, XOP and several others. Lighter weight stands, less than 14lbs and ideally even less than that, from these companies will be priced starting at just over $150. Climbing sticks as well as stand mounts can be found from these companies as well. All of which are made slightly different and have their own sets of pros and cons.
There are multiple brands of packs on the market, including Mystery Ranch, Kifaru, Exo, and Stone Glacier among others. The downside is that these packs can be very costly and aren’t in everyone’s budget. Generally speaking even used, these can start at more than $300. With that said, you get what you pay for and you likely won’t be disappointed with this purchase. Any simple external frame would work, and can likely be found second hand for a good price. If metal is exposed, I would recommend doing some modifications to add padding to keep it quiet. XOP does make a pack carrying system, with an integrated bag that sells for around $60. I’ve never used this, but it looks like it could kill two birds with one stone with carrying the stand and your gear. Molle II backpack straps and hip belt would also be an improved over the traditional straps that come on these stands. This is probably the most cost-effective upgrade from the simple backpack straps, and can be found at most Army Surplus stores.
TROUBLES YOU MAY ENCOUNTER
Less is more. For some, going lighter isn’t an issue. For me, it was a big hurdle because I generally pack the kitchen sink. Going lighter and packing less is a recommendation because you’re already going to have 20-25lbs on your back. Granted, if you’re comfortable carrying more and have a good pack, feel free to take the extra pair of gloves or extra candy bar.
Noise. Being quiet can be difficult when setting up your sticks and stand, especially in the dark. This is where practicing setting up your sticks and stand in your yard can be very helpful. The more you know about the process, the easier it will be to do quickly and quietly.
Sweating. Sweating can also be an issue you’ll deal with when packing a stand in over a long distance, and then setting it up. Quality clothing can be worth their weight in gold when they have the ability to wick away your sweat. Generally speaking, avoid cotton and you should be okay. Oddly enough, hunters are used to being uncomfortable for long periods of time, but yet most of us learn the hard way to leave the truck cold or chilly. If you start your walk with all of your clothes on for a morning in the low 30’s, I can almost guarantee you’re going to sweat and likely be cold from the added moisture. Lastly, go slow walking in and setting up the stand. This helps you control your sweating, and also helps you stay quieter when setting up.
Time. While it can be fast to get up and down the tree, the time aspect comes when you arrive at the tree and when you’re preparing to leave the tree. Unpacking or packing your gear can be time consuming, if you don’t practice. Being organized, having and understanding a system will absolutely make unpacking and packing much more efficient and enjoyable – versus a jumbled pile of clinks, clanks, and frustration. It also ensures you don’t leave anything behind. So, the next time you’re watching a ball game, or listening to a podcast; pack, unpack, and repeat until you’re bored with doing it.
Falling. Lastly, falling from the tree is at a higher risk. Treestands have come with safety harnesses for at least the past ten years, and higher quality harnesses are very affordable compared to the $900 bow you’re carrying. Buy a harness and utilize the lineman’s rope while ascending the tree. It will add time to setting everything up, but it allows you to use two hands, which makes it much easier to hang everything, and keeps you from riding in a helicopter.