Whitetail Pursuits: Gearing Up for a Hang-and-Hunt

An in-depth look at this effective whitetail hunting tactic, and lightweight treestand gear to go with it.

Whitetail Pursuits: Gearing Up for a Hang-and-Hunt

Being mobile and using the run-and-gun tactic requires equipment that makes you quieter and more efficient.

Long, velvet-covered tines twist, turn and jut skyward like old-school TV antennas. Except the only signal they picked up was my attention, which wasn’t good for the huge 4x4’s health. Only 75 yards separated me and the world-class whitetail buck.

But the story didn’t start there.

The story began a year earlier, in 2017. A big 4x4 showed up on my trail cameras 2 weeks after I filled my Kentucky whitetail tag on a velvet droptine buck. So, I spent the remainder of deer season studying and learning the newcomer.

I spread trail cameras throughout the 50-acre property, attempting to garner as much information on the buck as possible. These ran from the fall of 2017 to the spring of 2018. I pulled the cameras, studied the photos, and created a profile around where I thought this big buck bedded, fed, watered, traveled, and how these things changed throughout the phases of deer season.

Then, during summer 2018, I put cameras back up, and hoped the buck returned. He did. A 6.5-year-old monster, he packed on about 25 inches of antler from the season before.

I continued planning and scouting for the next couple months, and a pattern emerged. Thinking I figured out the buck, I planned to hunt the deer from a ladder stand he frequently traveled past. Then, right before opener, the big 4x4 shifted just enough that he was no longer in play from that spot.

Still, I tried it anyway, hoping he’d shift back. I stayed away from the ladder, however, because the wind wasn’t right. A few days into the season, I finally received the wind direction necessary to hunt the ladder. Sure enough, the buck and his bachelor group entered the open, but he remained out of range from the ladder. He never breached the 50-yard mark.

Enter tactical mode. The next day, I mobilized my lightweight treestand and sticks — which I always keep in my truck or at home rather than in the field — and moved in on the buck. I quietly slipped closer to where the deer entered the field, effectively cutting the distance in half from where I was the day before.

While I couldn’t find the perfect tree, I did find one I thought might work — a 10-inch-diameter tulip poplar with plenty of back cover. So, I quietly installed my lightweight sticks, then the treestand, and finally, my safety line. I remained tied in with a safety harness and lineman’s rope while installing everything. Then, after my perch was ready, I hoisted my gear and settled in for the afternoon sit. Somehow, I managed to do everything without making a sound loud enough to spook deer.

The afternoon sun dipped lower as my anxiety rose higher. Fortunately, a light rainstorm popped up to cool it back down. However, it came and went a couple hours before dark, which was perfect for getting deer on their feet.

Less than 30 minutes later, deer started moving. Several does, fawns and small bucks were first to emerge. Then, while watching two young bucks to my left, I caught movement across the large green field. There he stood — the big 8. Fortunately, this buck, and most of the other deer, bedded on the property I had access to, and even staged up in the clover field on the property until closer to dark.

I filmed the buck mill around and feed in the field for about 30 minutes before he finally walked toward his evening destination — a soybean field across the property line to my south. The buck’s line of travel brought him 24 yards from my position. When the buck stepped into range, I slowly drew my bow, carefully anchored, and stopped the walking buck with a bleat sound. I split my 20- and 30-yard pins on the vitals and loosed the arrow. It connected. The buck lunged forward and expired just over the hill.

Looking back, one of my most memorable trips afield involved using portable, lightweight gear for a heavyweight buck, and it worked. Of course, tactics and equipment matter, as well as the proper execution of these. For me, it led to a tremendous velvet 4x4 Kentucky whitetail that grossed 164 inches. (You can watch the hunt on Realtree’s Monster Bucks on www.realtree365.com)

In early September 2018, the author used lightweight hang-and-hunt treestand gear to tag this huge velvet 8-pointer in Kentucky.
In early September 2018, the author used lightweight hang-and-hunt treestand gear to tag this huge velvet 8-pointer in Kentucky.

Lightweight Treestands

Hunters who frequently use the hang-and-hunt strategy should consider a lightweight treestand setup. These compact models are built to be durable, lightweight and quiet. These are made for long hikes afield, frequent pulling and re-hanging, and quiet deployment while close to bedded whitetails. Here are some stands that get it done.

The X-Stand X-Pedition 2.0 is one of the best. It is crafted from 60/61 aircraft aluminum and has a 300-pound weight capacity. The platform is 21 by 26 inches, seat is 19 by 11 inches, and the stand height is 19 inches. It’s just under 10 pounds and is priced at $209.99. Contact: www.x-stand.com

Up next is the Millennium M7 MicroLite. Weighing 8.5 pounds, it is one of the lightest models on the market. Still, it has a 300-pound capacity, and has a 20.5-by-26-inch platform and 20-inch seat height. It folds up easily and quietly and is quickly adjustable for standing up. It’s listed at $249.99. Contact: www.millennium-outdoors.com

The XOP Vanish Evolution is another clear winner. Thanks to a dual-action seat cushion, this treestand is comfortable, even for a lighter stand. It also has heavy-duty, UV-treated straps, has quick-connect bracket compatibility, works with crooked trees, and more. It even has accessory hooks for gear. This stand weighs 10.5 pounds and has a 350-pound weight capacity. The platform is 27 by 19 inches, seat is 14 by 12 inches, and the stand sits 21 inches tall. The MSRP is $219.99. Contact: www.xopoutdoors.com

Another great selection is Lone Wolf’s D’Acquisto Series Hang-On 0.5. The platform is 23 by 16.5 inches, standard seat is 9.5 by 10 inches, and the stand is about 18 inches tall. Crafted with American-made metal, it weighs about 6.5 pounds (with securing strap) and has a 300-pound weight capacity. It even sports a leveling seat and platform, an asymmetrical pattern for concealment, and accessory hook compatibility. It’s also customizable, which is largely limited to the seat. MSRP varies based on selections. Contact: www.lonewolfcustomgear.com

Those looking for a very compact stand should check out the Novix Helo Hang-On Treestand. It’s crafted with aluminum and fits on smaller-diameter trees. This package comes with a water-resistant cushion, two cam-buckle belts, and more. The platform is 26.5 by 16 inches. It weighs only 9.2 pounds and has a 300-pound capacity. MSRP is $339.99. Contact: www.novixoutdoors.com

Somewhat newer to the game, the Element Hang-On Stand is manufactured entirely in America. The base measures 29 by 18.75 inches, seat measures 12 by 10.5 inches, and the seat height is 19.5 inches. It is crafted with 6061-T6 aluminum and weighs 10.5 pounds. MSRP is $459.99. Contact: www.elevatestand.co

Commonly a favorite, the Helium Ultra Lite is the heaviest of the hang-on treestands on this list (weighing 11 pounds), but it’s possibly the most comfortable. It has a thick seat cushion that helps on long sits in the tree. The platform is 20 by 24 inches, which is great for those who prefer a little more foot room. This stand also has a 300-pound weight capacity. It comes with a ratchet strap, pull strap, and more. It’s listed for $289.99. Contact: www.hawkhunting.com

Some hunters might want a combination of comfort and reasonable weight from their hang-on treestand. While the 16-pound Summit Dual Axis is heavier than the other hang-on models on this list, it shines in the comfort department. It has a patented seat design that silently locks into a seated or standing position while still offering something to put weight against. Furthermore, it’s dual post design spreads the cables outward for additional room and a larger platform. This stand is also built for quicker set up time thanks to a quick-attach strap for easier installation. It comes with a 5-year limited warranty and an MSRP of $279.99. Contact: www.summitstands.com

We recognize that some mobile hunters prefer climbing treestands. There are two lightweight models that really shine. The first is the Summit Viper Level Pro SD. It’s loaded with specialty features, such as the patented Easy Level, which makes leveling the frame simple, Quick Draw cables, which speed up attachment to the tree, and the FasTrack Rail, which allows you to attach a variety of add-on accessories. The platform frame is 25 by 36 inches, seat frame is 27 by 37.5 inches, and the seat itself is quite large. This stand weighs 26 pounds and has a 300-pound capacity. It comes with a $529.99 tag. Contact: www.summitstands.com

Lastly, the X-Stand The X-1 is one of the lightest climbing treestands on the market. It is crafted with Pro-Lite Series 60/61 aluminum, weighs only 9.6 pounds (frame only) and 13.8 pounds (accessories included), and has a 300-pound weight capacity. The platform is 21 by 26 inches and seat is 19 by 10 inches. This is smaller than other climbers, but it’s made to be lightweight, mobile, and quiet. Best of all is the price tag, which is only $299.99. Contact: www.x-stand.com


Lightweight Climbing Sticks

Unless you opt for a climbing treestand, a lightweight stand setup isn’t complete without a good, mobile set of sticks. Such a set should be lightweight, noise dampening, and easily packable. There are currently several market options that excel in these categories.

The first is the Summit Aluminum Folding Climbing Sticks. These stack together neatly and have quick-attach strap points for easy installation. Each stick is 30 inches long and weighs 3.6 pounds. These come in a pack of three with a one-year limited warranty and a $169.99 sticker price. Contact: www.summitstands.com

The Millennium M250 Aluminum Hang-On Climbing Sticks make for another great option. This set of sticks is one of the most versatile in the industry, and works on most healthy trees, even if these are somewhat crooked. With its lightweight aluminum construction, single tube design, and alternating steps with sure traction, this is a great option for the run-and-gun deer hunter. It even sports a stackable design. And best of all, it has no moving parts or metal-to-metal contact. Each stick is 32 inches long and weighs 2.6 pounds. This comes in a pack of four for $199.99. Contact: www.millennium-outdoors.com

Another great selection is the XOP Ultra Series Single Rotating Step. It is a much smaller and more compact offering that’s great for long and difficult hikes in and out of the woods. It has a sliding mechanism that allows it to pack up into a neat transport mode. Each stick is 18 inches long, weighs 2 pounds, and comes available in single or double step models. Get yours in a pack of four for $149.99. Contact: www.xopoutdoors.com

The Lone Wolf D’Acquisto Series Compact Climbing Sticks is another popular choice. This comes in 17- or 20-inch models, weighs approximately 2 pounds, and stacks very securely. It’s a sleek, quiet option. These sell individually. The 17-inch model is priced at $109.99, and the 20-inch model is $119.99. Contact: www.lonewolfcustomgear.com

The Beast Gear Mini Climbing Stick (No Hole) rounds out our list. It is another lightweight market offering, and this one comes from the legendary Dan Infalt. It is 20 inches long, weighs 2 pounds with strap, and packs nicely. It’s made in the USA. Sticks sell individually for $79.99. Contact: www.huntingbeastgear.com

All things considered, it’s important to determine which hang-and-hunt gear works best for you. Do some research. See which market options check the most boxes for you. Select the system that best fits your needs. Then, get out there and go hunt.

Sidebar: Hang-and-Hunt 101

There are numerous considerations to keep in mind when running and gunning with lightweight treestand equipment. This isn’t all-inclusive, but it will get you started.

  • Acquire lightweight gear. This is essential for maintaining stamina, and for being quiet in the field.
  • The hang-and-hunt method is about getting closer to whitetails. You can’t get close without knowing what deer are doing at the time.
  • Use good entry and exit routes. Focus on those that shield you visually, audibly, and in relation to wind.
  • Move quietly. Use silent footholds. Don’t brush up against foliage. If you make noise, especially close to bedding areas, stop for a few moments.
  • On the final leg of your approach, be even more quiet and stealthy than before.
  • Find the right tree. Rarely is there a perfect one, but there’s one that’s better than all the rest.
  • Once at your chosen tree, wear a safety harness and lineman’s belt while hanging the treestand.
  • If you know exactly where whitetails are bedded, and the tree allows you to do so, keep the trunk of the tree between you and the deer. Do this by hanging the sticks on the backside of the trunk.
  • Position the treestand so it’s optimized for the shot. Position the stand so it allows you to most likely shoot toward your strong side.
  • Continue to wear a safety harness throughout the hunt.

Sidebar: Lightweight Portable Blinds

Those who want a lightweight, portable hunting blind have numerous options. The Wraith 270 by Primal Treestands is one of these. It’s a full-sized ground blind with a great 16-pound weight. It also features full-width, see-through shooting window panels. It boasts a 72-inch hub-to-hub shooting width and 67-inch height. MSRP: $258.99. Contact: www.primaltreestands.com

Another great option is the Barronett Blinds Prowler 200. It weighs only 9 pounds. However, it is slightly smaller with a 71-by-71-inch width. Still, if lightweight is your focus, this checks that box very well. MSRP: $99.99. Contact: www.barronettblinds.com

Sizing downward, we have the three-sided Auscamotek Pop-Up Ground Blind. It isn’t enclosed, but it does weigh only 6.2 pounds. It’s spacious enough for one or two people, and it allows you to shoot in any direction. MSRP: $89.99. Contact: www.auscamotek.com

Those who’ve been around for any length of time have likely heard of the Ghost Blind. It’s the silver reflective material that looks like its surroundings. The Ghost Blind 4-Panel Blind is no different, and it offers excellent wrap-around cover. The unique design reflects the sun down to the ground. MSRP: $259.99 Contact: www.shadowhunterblinds.com

Hunters looking for a two-panel foldout should consider the Primos Double Bull SurroundView Stakeout Hunting Blind. It utilizes advanced technology with holes in the fabric that allow you to see out, but game can’t see in. It also reduces overall weight. MSRP: $99.99. Contact: www.primos.com

Those who just want some extra cover might opt for something lighter, such as the GRVCN 300D Camouflage Netting Camo Burlap Material. It’s 5-feet-by-6.56-feet of shielding material, which can be very handy in certain situations. MSRP: $14.99. Contact: www.amazon.com


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