By Darin Potter
Thoughts of my first treestand quickly come to mind each time I set foot in the woods and attach all of my treestands prior to archery season. In the fall of 1990, I remember asking my dad if we could build a ladder stand out of wood a month before my first archery season in Michigan. Not much notice, but at age 12 I was so eager to head afield with bow in hand that thoughts of building a stand totally slipped my mind. Within just a couple of hours, my dad and I had finished the stand, which stood about 10 feet high and consisted of a ladder made of two by fours and a small sheet of plywood for the platform. Back then, there weren’t many treestand manufactures to choose from like there are now, so I had to make do with this wooden one for a while.
A few archery seasons later when I was 15, I finally had a shot opportunity on a four-point buck that came into shooting range. A well-placed shot sent the deer crashing through saplings and through the goldenrods in front of me. Not understanding the importance of giving the deer some time before tracking, I decided after only five minutes that it was time to get down and begin looking for blood. As I stood up, I accidentally bumped the five-gallon pail, I was using as a seat. The noise startled the buck, which to my surprise had bedded down only 30 yards away, causing it to flee from the area. Unfortunately, my dad and I never did recover the buck even though we had good blood. This particular hunt had an impact on me, and to this day it made me realize the importance of making sure that all of my treestands are inspected prior to the season for the detection of any type of noise. After all, there is nothing worse than having your entire hunt ruined because of a little noise that came from somewhere in the trees. In fact, the first measure I took after that hunt was nailing a piece of carpet to the platform. Although the days of permanent and homemade treestands have faded, new treestands can still make some type of noise out of the box.
With that said, here are some tips that will help prevent unwanted noise from ruining your bow hunt:
A lot of attention has been given to the extraordinary sense of smell that whitetails have. We hunt according to the wind, wear scent-eliminating clothing and spray ourselves and our gear down in order to prevent a whitetail from scenting us. However, their hearing should not be a sense that goes unnoticed. Although their hearing is not much better than ours, it lives and breathes in the areas that we hunt. Any foreign noises such as our bow clanging against the treestand or a creaking noise from our seat can cause a mature whitetail to run for cover. Unfortunately, I found this out the hard way.
Whitetails large, cupped ears allow it to amplify the sound coming from long distances away. They also have the ability to rotate their ears independently, allowing them to pinpoint the direction noise is coming from. However, rain, thick cover and topography can negatively affect the quality of their hearing.
Removing all of my treestands from the deer woods isn’t one of my favorite things to do in the world. It means that bowhunting season has come to an end. However, in order to maintain the integrity of the treestand and prevent stand noise, an inspection must occur. Nuts and bolts may loosen or rust, sunlight may cause the straps securing the stand to deteriorate and wildlife may chew at them also. I’ve had several instances where squirrels have chewed at and completely destroyed my strap on seat cushions during the archery deer season. Another danger that poses a threat to your treestand is tree growth. This natural occurrence will cause the tree stand to shift and may weaken cables, nuts and bolts compromising your safety. I’ve also seen trees that had screw in steps placed in them where the tree had grown and started expanding around the steps. Most treestand manufacturers recommend not leaving your stands up for extended periods of time due to the stress placed on them from these types of things. Another problem with leaving treestands up year-round is the potential creaking noise they may produce due to rust and the impact of the growing tree on the stand. This is definitely something that all bowhunters fear when standing up on their stand and coming to full draw.
Rubber Spray Paint
Tired of battling with a particularly noisy ladder stand this past season that creaked every time I reached about the halfway point, I decided to spray a liberal coat of Rust-Oleum Rubberized Undercoating to it. My only regret is not doing this task when I first purchased the stand nine years ago. Had I taken the time to do this, I probably would have filled more tags and seen less white flags. Applying some type of rubberized paint to your treestands is one of the best steps that you can take to dampen noise during a hunt or while setting up or taking down a stand. This rubber application also acts as a protective barrier against rust, which can form on the stand’s nuts, bolts or the mainframe.
Foam pipe insulation can also be used to pad the shooting rests or the armrests on your treestands. This product already comes with a slit in it, which will allow you to place this around the metal bars easily. I added these to the armrests on my ladder stand, and they were a great fit. In order to prevent them from sliding, I took some 8-inch zip ties and placed them around the foam insulation on both ends. Duct tape can also be used in place of the zip ties. If you have a few spare pool noodles laying around the house, they can also be used in place of pipe insulation. These multi-colored pool toys can be spray painted to camouflage them if needed.
The unfortunate part about using both of these is the red squirrels like to chew on them, so make sure to have spare ones just in case they become shredded or worse yet go missing.
Felt and Weatherstrip
Besides using pipe insulation, you can also add felt or weatherstripping to the rails or tubular supports of your treestand to help soundproof them and absorb vibration. Both of these materials are available in weatherproof material and have a peel-n-stick design for easy application. Another alternative to these types of materials is rubberized, non-slip tape, which would be a great addition on the steps of a ladder stand or portions of the platform. These materials are considered all-weather and will resist any of the elements which come with a season in the deer woods.
Maybe some of you already do this, but here is an easy tip that will prevent your gun or bow from making noise when raising and lowering them from your stand. Take a thin, UV/rot-resistant rope and cut it short enough so that the gun or bow suspends freely without touching the ground. As long as either of these stop just shy of the ground (could be one or two inches), that is fine. A carabiner can be attached to the lower end to make attaching or detaching easier. If you would rather not have either of these dangling in the air, there is an alternative. Simply remove leaves, sticks and other debris from where your gun or bow will touch the ground.
Although, on occasion, I sometimes end up with unfilled tags in my pocket this doesn’t necessarily mean that the season was a failure. Every time I set foot in the deer woods, I come back with invaluable knowledge that will help me improve, whether it is my woodsman skills or my equipment. I have found that soundproofing your stands is one more step we can take as bowhunters to increase our chances of harvesting a mature whitetail. After all, paying attention to the details is the name of the game when it comes to bowhunting. I only wish that I had taken this step 28 seasons ago when I was 10 feet high sitting on that wooden platform.