Ah, deer stands … rule number one is of course the obvious credo shared with real estate moguls: location, location, location.
But there are a few other requirements for many. This short list includes concealment, and if possible, some creature comforts.
Admittedly a little more attention has been paid to the latter requirements over the years, especially since the manufacture of stands has grown into an industry. But it has always been in the backs of hunters’ minds. Over the years, I have been surprised, amazed and at times even bewildered at the stands hunters have devised to pursue their favorite whitetailed quarry.
I once saw a barber shop chair attached to the trunk of a tree, about 20 feet up in the air.
And my dad (a farmer and duck hunter turned deer hunter only because his son was bitten by the bug) once had us climb atop an old, empty tenant house surrounded by row crops, and lie atop the tin roof to wait for deer. Likewise, I also hunted from the lofts of several old, abandoned barns.
In telling the stories of such good ol’ days, I admittedly do feel like the grandfather who walked 5 miles to school, uphill, both ways. But I do remember driving metal cotton picker spindles into trees to use as steps and then sitting 25 to 30 feet up in the fork of a tree atop a wooden pallet. Safety harnesses were unheard of back then.
Today, we are older and wiser (at least those of us who survived) and safety factors into the primary deer stand requirements of concealment and comfort.
And of course we’re more design aware today, too.
Along that line of thought, there are infamous photos of deer stands that routinely show up in our email inboxes. And though the 5-star stands are nice, sometimes they seem to miss the mark on ingenuity and creativity in a “necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention” kind of way.
The creative minds of deer-stand builders linger both in legacy and through present day blinds built with a mixture of sweat, innovation and “it’s all I have to work with.” With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of these creations.
Longtime outdoor writer, Realtree.com contributor and editor of FLW Outdoors Magazine Colin Moore told me he once saw a pickup cab up on a frame in Texas. I would imagine this is not unlike a similar display showcased in many Bass Pro Shops mega stores. Moore also mentioned a deer stand/box blind that had previously been used as a concession stand to sell funnel cakes at county fairs.
He even told me I might track down a photo of that funnel cake stand through famed Missouri turkey hunter Ray Eye. But that proved to be a dead end. However, Eye did confirm he likewise knew of some creative blinds for bucks.
“I do not remember a funnel cake stand…but maybe I just don’t remember—that happens a lot these days,” he laughed. “But I have seen a few strange stands, such as an old 1936 Chevy on blocks in a food plot, and old abandoned combine in a soybean field, all tricked out with heater and inside lights.
“One place I hunted had the top sections of a radio tower with platforms on top (about a 15-foot section) all over the place. Of course I’ve seen a wide variety of camper trailers set up as stands, ground level and up on poles. But the one that comes foremost to mind was in western Missouri. It was on telephone poles, about 20 feet high with a wrap-around porch. The inside was dry-walled. It had a bed, stove and refrigerator, big screen TV and high-speed Internet. The guy said he was not leaving his stand during gun season!” Eye said.
Nashville, Tennessee’s Bobby Wilson, deer hunter and Chief of Fisheries for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, has seen all sorts of make-shift, use-what-one-has-to-work-with deer stands. But most notable for him are the variety of ladders up to the stands, rather than the stands themselves.
“I have often seen those old TV antennae towers used as ladders,” Wilson said, adding, as with the creative stands, the ladders follow along in the spirit of whatever works.
Mike Boyd a farmer, deer hunter and waterfowl guide from Tunica, Mississippi, has seen an agriculture chemical container used as a deer stand. These big plastic containers hold liquids, water and farming chemicals, but evidently they are also big enough to provide concealment for a deer hunter.
The health advisory of spending time in a former chemical container might come to mind for some, but evidently it wasn’t a concern for that particular deer hunter.
One of my favorite, recently-discovered inventive deer stands belongs to Terry Hooper of Brownsville, Tennessee. His deer blind is converted from a 1960-something International-Harvester cotton picker.
Ironically, Hooper once farmed and spent all fall working like a man on a mission trying to finish picking cotton so he could go deer hunting. These days he has built a really nice (by deer hunting standards) shooting house on the ’picker and hunts from the machine.
“Yep, Terry would be on that picker all the time…in a rush to get finished with his cotton crop so he could go deer hunting. And now, look where he ended up—on a ’picker during a lot of the deer season. But today he’s picking his shots and not cotton,” laughed Hooper’s long-time hunting partner, Steve “Gofer” Darnaby, also of Brownsville.
In constructing the cotton-picking deer stand, Hooper built a shooting house in the area where once the cotton picker had a big metal basket for picked cotton. He went on to make the deer blind on the back of the ’picker quite comfortable with its wall-to-wall carpet, office chairs and gas heat. Sliding-glass shooting windows are along the walls and its “parking” spot on a hill by a small pond provides an excellent vantage point to watch for deer.
“I’ve always kind of liked the idea of being mobile, anyway. I even have a deer blind built on the bed of a bob truck, but I have to haul that one from one hunting spot to another like a trailer,” Hooper said.
Both Hooper and Darnaby admit to the novelty of the blind. Darnaby said one of his daughters had expressed her opinion as such: “You two are just a couple of old men with way too much time on your hands!
“I am pretty sure this is an original,” Darnaby says. “Why, I doubt there is another deer blind like this in the entire world, and if so, there ain’t a whole lot of ’em!”
What’s the craziest deer stand you’ve ever seen? Tell us in the comment section below, or e-mail us a picture at [email protected].