Hunters have a lot to be thankful for these days. Just about every tool they use is better than it was back in the day. Better weapons, better clothing, better camo, better scents and lures. And all kinds of high-tech gadgets that do everything but carry the game home for you.
But arguably the thing that they should be most thankful for is that it’s a heck of alot easier to get up into a tree. At one time a tree stand was just a few old boards nailed to a branch. When the first climbing tree stands came out they were heavy, clunky things that were uncomfortable and hard to use.
Nowadays bow hunters can choose from a wide variety of climbers that make getting up in the tree a breeze, and sitting there all day comfy. Yet many prefer the simplicity of the hang-on type of tree stand, which is no more than a platform to stand on and a seat that straps or bolts directly to the tree. Which is fine, and they have their advantages.
But you still have to get up there. You can use a ladder stand of course, but they’re ungainly to set up and they stand out. Or you can use a climbing stick. You have two basic options.
Types of Climbing Sticks
Tree Sticks – These are fairly new on the scene. They consist of a central metal tube of a certain length with steps protruding on each side that can be attached to a tree. They come in sections that can be stacked one atop another to reach the desired stand height. They’re light and portable, and form a secure and safe ladder that blends with the tree.
Tree Steps – These are simply ‘Z’ shaped metal steps that screw into a tree much like you see used on telephone poles. They are the most portable option and might be the best choice if you’re putting up a stand far out into the field. You have to make sure they’re securely placed, a loose one can ruin your day.
Now let’s take a look at some of the more popular climbing sticks you can buy today.
These sticks use what the company calls a Versa-Button strap that you can use either left or right-handed to attach or remove the stick. A swivel V-bracket rests against the tree and adjusts to different angles and contours.
The steps can be swiveled to either side of the central tube for versatility and convenience. These sticks weigh in at 2.5 lbs per 32” section, and has a max weight capacity of 350 lbs. The set comes with four sections.
These are a good choice in cold and snowy conditions when you might be wearing large, slippery boots as they feature 11” steps for plenty of foot room. Rubber ‘silencers’ on the steps help to eliminate noise from equipment clanking on them during the climb.
The Muddy Ascenders are constructed of steel DXT tubing with a Fiber Guard weather coating. It attaches to the tree with a 1” cam strap. The set comes with five 48” sections for a total of 20’, and the set weighs 33 lbs. Rated to carry 300 lbs max.
The light weight of these sticks make them among the more portable products available, a good option if you want to set them up farther afield. The angled steel-welded steps are an enhancement to safety as they keep your feet close to the central tube and prevent them from slipping off the ends.
This is also one of the more sturdy climbing sticks on the market. The set comes with five sections for a total of 20’. The entire package weighs 20 lbs and can hold a maximum of 300 lbs.
These climbing sticks use a bit different design that some will find useful They feature a dual-step configuration, meaning two steps are placed at the intervals directly opposite from each other so you can stand in one spot with both feet on the same level, which can be a lot safer if you have to stop mid-climb and rearrange your gear.
The steps are extra-large in area for stable footing. Aluminum construction with cam-strap attachment. V-bars at the top and bottom of each section give firm stability. Four steps in a set gives you 16’ of height, at a weight of just 11 lbs, and they are made to hold up to 260 lbs.
As the name implies, these climbing sticks are made to be light using what Muddy describes as “ultra-strong but lightweight Alumi-Lite aluminum”. At only three pounds per section, it’s another good option if you plan to pack your set-up a long ways into the boonies. The fold-out steps also make it convenient for carry.
Uses a cam-buckle with nylon washers that eliminate noise when tightening the straps. The Aerolite is protected from the weather with a Fiber Guard coating. A set of Muddy Aerolite comes with three 32” sections, which will give you 12.5’ of height if you hang each section 18” apart. The max weight capacity is 350 lbs.
How To Use Climbing Sticks Effectively
Though sticks and steps are pretty straightforward tools, there are a few things to keep in mind to use them effectively, and more importantly, safely.
Even though they hug the tree and thus have a low profile, it’s a good idea to use some natural camouflage to help them blend in. Vines work well for blending in your climbing sticks.
Many bow hunters will assemble all the sections, then lean the whole set against the tree, fastening the straps as they climb up.
Carrying a lot of gear plus a stand can be a recipe for disaster. Consider using a pulley to haul the stand up to height.
Grease or oil the connections to help lessen creaking while climbing. Make sure not to get any on the steps though.
Practice using your climbing sticks with all the gear you’ll be carrying on the actual hunt.
Have a buddy with you when practicing and setting up your sticks. He can assist if you have trouble, and call the ambulance if you fall off.