The treestand, the mystical treestand. It doesn’t matter whether portable, climber, ladder, or even ground blind. Some of the most peaceful, reflective, and spiritual times of my life have been on stand. Sound crazy, maybe, but consider the last time you saw the sun rise or set while actually waiting for it to happen. How about the last time you thought about your first girlfriend, or first car, or first girlfriend in the first car, or your wedding day, an old friend or enemy from your past? Remember sitting on stand and forgiving folks who have crossed you in your life, if only for the few hours on stand?
How about watching a ladybug trudging along your arrow shaft or the nuthatch walking upside down on the tree next to you, or that spike buck that lingers in front of your stand, a mere 8 yards away? He wouldn’t leave even as I made loud noises, threw branches at him, and even yelled at him! Then there was a trophy buck that came past my stand at 12 yards and turned inside-out because my stomach growled. Go figure!
Have you ever showed up at hunting camp and next morning, the guide takes you to your stand at o’dark-thirty and the stand is in the nosebleed part of the tree? I don’t like being up more than 15 feet, and I need branches around me at that! I’m a bowhunter not a Sherpa or an iron worker. I’m an asphalt contractor. I like the ground!
Have you ever wondered why, just as the sun starts to break over the horizon in the morning, it seems to get colder for about an hour? My first experience with this phenomenon was on a duck hunting trip with my dad, R.J. Evans, Sr. I was 11, I think, and when I asked my dad why it got cold all of a sudden, he explained to me that “my mother” had just awakened to find me not at school and duck hunting with him. I understand what he meant today!
How about right at dusk, just before it gets difficult to see, it seems to glow or light up for 10 minutes or so?
Have you ever been visited by a “knucklehead”, who decides to put his treestand 20 yards from yours, at prime time, in the evening? Even as you ask him not to, he tries to reason with you with only an hour of light left. How about the “hikers” or stray dogs, that happen by from time to time?
If bowhunting has taught me one thing, that has been hard for me to accept, it’s acceptance! I have to accept the fact that idiots set up next to you, trespass or poach, steal stands and cameras, and are stupid, apprentice human beings, and I can’t change them. But I can—and have—given a few object lessons while in the field.
Have you ever climbed into your stand opening morning or any morning and just as it starts to get light, you strain your eyes to see the deer out in front of you, it’s not moving, but it’s there? That holds your attention right up to the time it’s light enough to make out that clump of weeds you didn’t notice while setting up your stand, the dreaded “deer weed”!
How about the time you slowly dug a piece of candy out of your pocket and lifted your Scent-Lok hood to get it in your mouth and after a few minutes you swallow wrong, then spend the next 20 minutes coughing into your arm hoping the deer don’t hear you?
Do you remember thanking God for your wife and kids, wondering “why” He allowed a wretch like you those very precious gifts? How about admitting to yourself all of your faults and vowing to correct them starting tomorrow? Staring at a tree and marveling at how it got there? Or, why the anti-fog spray on your glasses doesn’t work, as I am doing this moment. (If only the guy that makes this stuff was sitting next to my tree!)
If you have spent enough time in a stand waiting for your trophy buck, then you know and have experienced “limb slumber.” No, not the tree—your own limbs! It seems to start in the back of the thigh working its way down each leg to the feet and north to the cheeks. You know which cheeks. You tighten the left one to allow some blood flow to the right one and vice versa. I once set up in a Double Bull Ground Blind and forgot a stool and spent an eternity sitting back on my heels while a big buck ate his way toward me. Unfortunately, the buck left, and so did the blood and all feeling in my legs. I did not want to straighten my legs or move for fear of the “terrible tingles” that follow the awakening of the extremities.
Of course, there is the elimination situation that occurs almost precisely 45 minutes after going on stand. You sit there and tighten everything while fending off the bursting feeling only to get a chill that seems to accompany that situation.
As time passes, you watch a spider hanging by an unseen single thread, then watch as he makes his way back up the thread. Amazing!
Then there’s the squirrel going up and down the backside of your tree, and as time passes that same squirrel scampering along the forest floor can get your attention. I’ve been fooled more than once by the pesky “deer squirrel.”
Have you ever dropped your rattling horns or rangefinder or even your release? Have you ever driven to your hunting spot, got dressed, sprayed down with Scent Killer, and discovered you forgot your bow? Have you ever been on stand and discovered a squeak that was not there yesterday and search for it, stuffing gloves, toilet paper, facemask, etc., in the crevices to stop it? Have you ever set your stand in preparation for the next day’s hunt and arrived the next morning only to find that you cut the haul-up rope too short!
I often wonder how many relationships have been saved or made better because of hours on stand and thinking it over, or how many have ended. How many new inventions were thought of on stand or products made better because of the hours on stand? How many new shows or businesses have been started or new techniques discovered? Or, in my case, how many articles have been thought of and written? I’ll bet Mr. Winke, Mr. Strandlund, or Mr. Melotik, or even Mr. Samuel or M.R. James could answer that!
Well, I’m done, but before I stop, let me give you an example in my case. On stand was where the germ of an idea for a fund-raiser originated. Twenty years later, it has raised over 12 million dollars for the fight against cancer. Another, well-known, 15-year tradition, the “Baldies,” has raised part of that money.
I guess that stand manufacturers have given us…well, an alternative to the psychiatrist and his couch. The stand in a quiet woods offers time to reflect on life and its trials and tribulations. It’s a great way to talk with the Head Shrink: God Himself.
It’s amazing what happens on stand, all the promises you make to yourself and forget by the time you reach the vehicle. It makes me wonder just how much time I have left to fulfill those promises, to right my wrongs, or just to tell the people I really care about how great they are and how much I love them.
I dedicate this story to my best friend, my dad who passed away. Dad, I’ll think of you each time I walk to the stand and know you will be saving me a great stand site up there. Assuming I go that direction, at the end, but if I do, knowing you, Dad, it will be the “Best seat in the House”!