The homemade treestand is a forgotten hunting tradition
My arms grew weary with each swing of the axe. Dad told me he’d finish the job. But I was too stubborn. My toothpick kid arms produced little momentum, but repetition and precision eventually achieved the goal. The thigh-sized cedar toppled to the ground. I felled that tree.
We proceeded to shape and mold my first treestand. I was barely old enough to draw a lethal bow. But I’d been practicing the art. I was learning another, too — treestand building.
We eventually finished. A nice, sturdy ladder to climb up. A 5-foot platform to sit our butts on. It stood about 12-feet tall. But to me, it was greater than the Eiffel tower. We made it. And my hairless chest swelled with pride. I daydreamed of all the 10-point bucks we’d bring down from our new outpost.
Where It All Began
(Josh Honeycutt photo)
Many years later, this is all that remains of that monument. One of which signifies the very beginning of my life as a bowhunter. That’s where I sat for the first time with bow in hand.
That first bowhunt stands out in my mind as clear as the day it imprinted in me. It was a cool, frosty morning. My grandfather’s lush creek bottom wasn’t as green as a few days prior. The leaves were beginning to turn. A slight wind out of the West rippled through the trees.
Around sunrise, five deer climbed up the creek bank and fed in the bottom. A big doe and two fawns, along with a yearling buck and doe casually munched on clover as I quivered in my boots. Dad to my right, he did everything possible to keep me still. But I was no match for my adrenaline. I shook the entire tree.
Once the deer closed within 50 yards, they noticed our tree vibrating at a much different frequency than all the rest. I still remember all five of them lined up, side-by-side, heads up and ears alert. They stared a hole right through me. It didn’t take them long to smell the rat.
Most would consider that an unsuccessful deer hunt. But that encounter played a huge role in tripping my bowhunting trigger. I accredit the entire process — from building the treestand to hunting from it for many years — for molding me into a bowhunter.
That stand, no longer stands today. It lays on its side, slowly decaying into the hillside. Eventually it will be gone. But the memories made from it will remain. And as long as we tell the stories, a small piece of the tradition and heritage will remain, too.
Only One Still Stands
(Josh Honeycutt photo)
Later in life, my father and I built other stands. This was one of them. Using my great grandfather’s Remington Model 700 (chambered in .243), I eventually killed my first doe from it. I can still smell the gun powder.
We must have done a better job crafting this one, though. While it doesn’t look as good as it once did, it’s still standing. Like me, it’s too stubborn to go down.
We haven’t hunted from it in several years, probably 10 or more. And honestly, I doubt if it’s still structurally sound enough to climb. I guess we should tear it down so no one gets hurt. But everyone knows not to hunt from it. It’s just a memorial of times gone by. And of all the wooden treestands we built, it’s the last one standing. So, I keep putting it off.
I walk by it every now and then. Whether it’s when I’m turkey hunting, shed hunting, or following an entry route into a newer treestand, I stop by the old wooden haunt and give the latter a pat from time to time. I do that to keep the memories fresh.
When You See a Wooden Treestand
(Josh Honeycutt photo)
In the old days — and even today — the sight of a wooden stand was significant. And smart hunters don’t just look at it and reminisce, they mark the spot as one to consider, not just remember. Old timers didn’t invest all of that time erecting a permanent stand for nothing. That was a good stand location then. It’s likely a good one now. The old guard new how to hunt, even better than most outdoorsmen today.
It’s becoming less and less common to see them, though. Few remain on the landscape. Those that do, are mostly tattered. Mere scraps of once-great masterpieces. True works of art.
Take the above stand, for example. It’s one I’ve peered upon many times. Located on my great grandfather’s farm, it’s older than I am. I don’t know who built it. It was before my time. But I quickly realized the great spot it’s located in and hung a modern treestand a few yards from it. Sitting in my own stand, I catch myself staring at it often, thinking about all of the hunts that must’ve played out from there.
The sight of these wooden stands continues to decline as their makers decline and fade with them. I liken the tradition of treestand building to that of trapping, traditional bowhunting and small game hunting — all dying hunting arts that are passing just a little faster than all the rest. It’s a sad but seemingly inevitable truth.
What Treestands Look Like Today
(Tyler Ridenour photo)
Treestands look much different today. Rarely do you hear of wooden stands being built. Everything is made from metal now. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Things change with time. And modern stands are much safer.
We have a lot of options now: ladder stands, hang-ons, climbers, and more. These choices offer convenience, safety and variety. They also offer the same heritage and tradition of treestands long past. It’s just a little different.
Summit is a prime example of a brand that offers heritage. They offer options for all hunters. Take the Featherweight Switch above as proof. Other models such as The Ledge, Sentry SD and Dual Pro are great options, too. Check out the line of offerings today.
Build Your Own Heritage
(Josh Honeycutt photo)
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'” — Genesis 1:26
We live in an age where social media, big racks, and record books overshadow the things that really hold value. It isn’t about who hunts the best ground. It isn’t about who shoots the most deer. And I’ll be danged if it’s about who kills the biggest bucks.
No. It’s about the rush of an opening day. It’s about following a fresh blood trail. It’s about knowing you’re a deer hunter, understanding what that truly means, and showing others the way.
But to do that, land access is a must. For some, public land is the answer. Some hunters gain permission or lease properties. Still, others buy land of their own. If you seek the latter, Realtree United Country has unlimited listings of premiere hunting properties for sale. Call a land pro today.
Once you start building your own traditions and heritage, recognize that passion. Harness that raw emotion. Share it with others. That’s what truly matters . . . continue reading . . .
Are you a hunter wanting to learn how to accomplish your goals? Check out our stories, videos and hard-hitting how-to's on food plots and land management.