The Worst Trees for Treestands

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Avoid these eight species and types when hanging deer stands

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently encouraged deer hunters to avoid placing treestands in ash trees. The emerald ash borer kills those trees, resulting in dead timber that’s still standing. 

That announcement sparked a great discussion: Some trees are terrible for treestands. Treestand accidents are the No. 1 hunting-related injury, and some occur because of poor tree selection. As such, here are some — not all — of the worst trees for treestands.

Choosing the right tree for your stand is a matter of practicing safe hunting procedures. Image by Bill Konway

Dead Trees

The most dangerous and ill-suited tree for treestands is a dead tree. This is true for any species. If it’s dead, it’s dangerous. You should never hunt from a dead tree. That includes partially dead trees, too. Signs of dead trees include no leaves, falling limbs, flaking bark, increased presence of insects, popping sounds and more. Ash trees are the leaders in that department, and you should always avoid them, along with any other lifeless timber.

Skinny Trees

Trees that are too small can be dangerous, especially if it’s a softer wood. A small trunk can snap from your weight, especially with moderate to high winds. Further, such trees don’t provide the back-cover necessary to remain concealed.

Fat Trees

A trunk that’s too big is plenty sturdy and offers good back-cover. But don’t try it. It’s very difficult to reach straps around a large trunk. It also makes using a climber dangerous. Avoid trees that are too big for cables and straps.

Leaning Trees

Trees that lean aren’t suitable for treestands. A moderate to significant lean can make ascending and descending dangerous. Also, it can make it almost impossible to level a platform, which can lead to an uncomfortable sit at best and a devastating fall at worst. Either way, it isn’t good.

Smooth-Bark Trees

Trees with smooth bark are accidents waiting to happen. Treestands can’t grip those as well as trees with moderate bark. That’s especially true for climbing treestands, which slide downward much easier when weight shifts. Aspen, beech, birch and hornbeam are a few trees that come to mind. Avoid them when selecting spots for stands.

Scaly-Bark Trees

In contrast, trees with very scaly bark pose a threat, too. They make it more difficult to maintain good contact. Shagbark hickory is a prime example, as those trees make it almost impossible to get a good cinch on a ratchet strap. Forget keeping good contact with a climber. Other scaly trees to avoid include sycamore, pine, paper birch and river birch.

Peeling-Bark Trees

Peeling bark poses a problem, too, and can cause treestands to slip similarly to smooth bark. Sycamore, paper birch, paperbark maple, three-flower maple, crape myrtle, river birch, lacebark elm and others are examples of trees in that category.

Prickly-Bark Trees

Some trees will hold a treestand just fine but will likely make you pay for it. Those prickly-bark trees often have stickers, thorns, and other pointy objects protruding from their trunk and limbs. Such trees include acacia, hawthorn, honey locust, mesquite, osage orange and others.

Good Trees to Focus On

Although it might seem like most trees are off limits, they aren’t. There are many more suitable trees than not. If a tree is living, has compatible bark structure, is in the acceptable size range and is otherwise safe, give it a go. Specific species that often — but not always — make good treestand locations include maple, oak, poplar, and others.

(Don't Miss: 10 More Deer Hunting Myths Debunked)

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