Most serious whitetailers have an ongoing love affair with hang-on treestands for one rather simple reason: Most of the time, a quality hang-on will allow you to hunt virtually right on top of the hottest sign or trail crossing you’ve just discovered rather than searching for a suitable “close enough” stand tree, which is often the case with much-less-versatile climbers.
Ultimate stealth is yet another fine hang-on stand strength. One could argue a ladder stand will fit in most any tree as well, and most do, but then you have the task of hauling one into whatever spot you’ve found, and once it’s up, that glaring ladder silhouette is virtually impossible to hide. Conversely, packing a lightweight, compact hang-on stand and climbing system on your back as you scout allows you to hunt the hot sign right now — and of course, a well-set hang-on can become almost invisible in the woods.
Most savvy bowhunters own several hang-on stands, allowing them to have multiple setups to take advantage of changing winds. And, because hang-on designs have increasingly become specialized, most are made for maximum effectiveness in very specific situations. Here’s a look at some of the latest and greatest new models ready to upgrade your personal treestand arsenal.
In terms of a comfortable all-day sit, Millennium’s M100u is a stand the company touts as, at just 11.5 pounds, being a full 20 percent lighter than the original — and very popular — M100 without sacrificing comfort. This stand is built around the patented comfortMAX seat that features a tight, lightweight sling seat construction that provides hours of comfort on stand. It’s made from a durable, non-stretch fabric that doesn’t absorb water or scent and is quiet to the touch. The stand also features an exclusive, patented camLOCK receiver to lock the stand into position in seconds. All you have to do is secure the camLOCK Receiver to the tree, then hoist up the stand and slide its aluminum stabilizing post into the receiver. It’s a slick system that works well. Another key feature is the fact that the seat and platform level out individually to fit a multitude of angles without any tools. You can literally level the stand out in seconds. The aluminum stand features a powder-coat finish, a 20×38-inch platform and 20×17-inch seat that folds up against the tree to make standing shots easier, and it folds flat for easy backpack-type transport. It also comes with a limited lifetime warranty. MSRP: $219.95. www.millenniumstands.com; (601) 932-5832.
Summit The Peak Crush Series
New for 2014, The Peak is the latest addition to the Summit Crush Series of hang-on and ladder stands — and this one is all about extra comfort. The 18×22-inch platform features an incorporated footrest, but the real stand-out luxury comes in the form of the classic, adjustable padded swing seat that’s also used on Summit’s Viper SD climbing stand. It’s coupled with the unique Peak frame that provides padded arm rests. It’s not often you find arm rests on hang-on stands, but the extra comfort they provide during all-day sits can be substantial, though the trade-off is that sitting bow shots must be taken with more care and forethought to avoid bow contact. Like the other uber-comfy stands in this test, the compromise with this powder-coated steel model is substantial weight (27 pounds) and some general awkwardness during tree attachment; like with any stand you’ll want to be securely strapped in, because you’ll definitely need complete use of both hands to anchor this one. This stand comes virtually fully assembled save for attaching the padded seat, a quick and easy job. MSRP: $129.99. www.summitstands.com; (800) 353-0634.
Ameristep Hyde Cliff Hanger
Cast aluminum platforms are quite popular with treestand hunters. In 2014 Ameristep launched its own version of this type of hang-on stand called the Hyde. There are two models dubbed with one basic difference: the seat. The heavy 29.5-pound Sky Walker features a 21×15-inch seat with lumbar support back rest, while the much lighter Cliff Hanger features a 15×12-inch flat seat with a comfy pad decked out in Realtree Xtra, and weighs just 13.5 pounds. With its much lower price and versatility, it is this smaller stand that piqued our interest, but all Hyde series stands feature a 21.5×33-inch cast aluminum platform with nonreflective finish, which of course has no welds, seams, rivets or tubes — greatly decreasing any potential noise, yet helping it remain lightweight and stout. We also loved the self-leveling feature, which makes it relatively easy to adjust the platform to a level setting based on the angle of the tree. Even better, the flip-up seat is also adjustable for angle. The Cliff Hanger is just the type of stand we like to pack into remote and semi-remote areas that require a stealthy approach and the ability to quickly and quietly get it safely hung and ready to rock. MSRP: $219.99. www.ameristep.com; (800)847-8269.
It didn’t take long to find the Bravada is a versatile do-it-all design, with flip-up seat measuring 14×9.5 inches and a roomy 19.5×30.5-inch platform that’s large and well-designed for plenty of comfort, yet still light (12 pounds) and compact enough for use as a dedicated go-anywhere, scout-while-you-hunt unit. Building such a stand is no easy task, but making it possible is the lightweight and strong aluminum construction that contributes to this stand’s premium pricing. This one reminds us of another extra-versatile performer, Lone Wolf’s legendary Alpha Hang-On II, and indeed, this stand uses smart seat and platform leveling technologies very similar to the Lone Wolf, while arguably offering a thicker, more comfortable seat (which smartly includes two quick-detach buckles for easy attachment/removal) and shaving 2 pounds of overall mass weight. Also similar to the LW is the solid two-strap connection system; one more nice touch is the included flip-back footrest that certainly increases overall comfort. The Bravada comes nearly assembled; simply attach seat and footrest (with hardware already installed). MSRP: $229.99. www.biggametreestands.com; (800) 268-5077.
Family Tradition HD/HO Lock-On
If you are not a fan of using ultra-compact hang-ons that can make you feel a bit “confined” while waiting, perhaps you should check out the spacious design and heavy-duty construction of the HD/HO Lock-On. Are you a bigger guy who doesn’t trust those thin platform-supporting cables found on many hang-ons? You’ll likely smile when you see the two full-sized, 1,900-pound tensile strength rubber-sleeved steel chains performing that job on this stand. Still have reservations? The stand is attached to the tree with two separate premium ratchet straps, each rated to 3,300 pounds (recently upgraded from the previous 2,000-pound ratchets the company says were already the best in the industry). Proof is in the testing, and indeed, once ratcheted down this stand was as rock-solid as any tested, and with the seat flipped up, freedom of movement on a spacious 25×31-inch platform, there is no shot angle you can’t pull off. Another bonus is the huge, comfortable, 22×13.5-inch seat that allows you to inch way over to either side to cover behind-the-tree angles while seated — not possible with many other stands. The trade-off for such luxury is weight (19 pounds), but it’s nice to see both a substantial quarter-inch, 25-foot haul rope and T-Handle screw included to help you pull up and temporarily attach the outsized stand at hunting height while you attach the ratchet straps. MSRP: $199.99. www.familytraditiontreestands.com; (517) 543-3926.
Hawk Kickback Hang-On
One of the toughest tests for any hang-on stand is an all-day sit during the Midwest rut that can see a variety of brutal weather conditions. And while our late-summer test fell well short of that experience, this model from exciting newcomer Hawk was easily one of the most comfortable stands in the test, and one of the most comfortable hang-ons our reviewers have ever manned. The biggest reason is the incredible, 20.5-inch-wide flip-up mesh seat with back rest, which does not absorb moisture, ensuring a dry seat. With the large KickBack footrest and spacious 24×30-inch platform, this stand is almost too comfortable. There are some trade-offs, though. The all-steel Kickback was one of the more awkward to hang — it’s listed at 20 pounds but felt heavier — and it also required the most time to assemble. Nothing unusual, but a little tedious. And we did find that two of four holes on one footrest bracket were not drilled completely through, a minor problem that was quickly solved with a portable drill. Fit and finish were otherwise impressive, with nice touches including the silent, over-molded attachment hooks. Once on the tree this stand was rock-solid and absolutely silent. MSRP: $139.99. www.hawkhunting.myshopify.com; (810) 626-3026.
Lone Wolf Alpha Tech F1
Lone Wolf has always been known for its high-quality, premium-priced treestands, and the new-for-2014 Alpha Tech F1 is the company’s attempt to offer a feature-packed model at an affordable price. At a tick over 200 bucks, this is hardly a bargain-basement model, but the smartly designed F1 shares many of the features of Lone Wolf’s proven — and more expensive — Assault II and Alpha Hang On II. The most glaring difference is the Alpha Tech forgoes the spendy one-piece cast aluminum platform for an aluminum tube-style platform (30×19.5 inches) with welded grate-style overlay, and weighs in just under 14 pounds. Overall quality is impressive, however, and we found the stand quiet and easy to set, maybe because it borrows the same familiar (and rock-solid) two-straps-and-Versa-button connection system used by the aforementioned models (another option is the company’s $14 E-Z Hang Hook System that allows you to hang your stand faster and rig multiple trees for more options using just one stand). More good news is the Alpha Tech also uses Lone Wolf’s proven no-tools self-leveling system for both seat and platform; an ingenious slot system in the seat post lets you quickly and easily adjust platform angle to compensate for leaning trees. Who should buy an Alpha Tech? While this compact design wouldn’t be the first choice for an all-day rut seat, it’s ideal for packing long distances and setting up quickly and silently. The Alpha Tech comes mostly assembled save for attaching the Offset Bracket (one screw) and thickly padded Velcro seat cushion. Backpack straps are included. MSRP: $209.99. www.lonewolfhuntingproducts.com; (309) 691-9653.
Twisted Timber Trail Cruiser 3T
Twisted Timber is another exciting treestand newcomer that brings some neat new innovative leveling technology all dedicated treestanders need to see. Most hang-ons touting angle adjustability certainly do offer options, but Twisted Timber’s “Triple Axis Leveling Technology” takes this to the extreme, with impressive wide-ranging adjustment of both platform and seat. The company slogan is “Hunt Where You Want To,” and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a tree this stand would not fit. The company currently offers three all-steel models, of which the Trail Cruiser is the most compact, with an 18×24-inch platform, 14×9-inch seat, and weight of 14.7 pounds. In contrast, the largest, Big Bruiser, features a 28×24-inch platform and weighs 16.8 pounds. All stands use the same system, attaching to the tree via a system of three separate ratchet straps and a series of adjustment holes on the seat post and platform that ensure a level, solid attachment. The seat angle adjusts with a one-screw system that is simple but could be more refined; it’s designed to be finger-adjusted yet the screw head doesn’t possess a finger-friendly grip, and the metal-to-metal contact is noisy and needs an aftermarket adhesive rubber pad or similar to make it bowhunting silent. As stated, these stands are all about ratchet straps — three are required — and I found it interesting the directions include no info on how to properly use a ratchet strap. Sure, their operation is relatively straightforward, but when your treestand demands three of them, a detailed diagram would be nice. However, when it’s all said and done, we found the Trail Cruiser to be a great compact choice that will definitely increase your usable tree options this fall — and that’s always a good thing. MSRP: $144. www.twistedtimbertreestands.com; (507) 427-2221.
Sweet Climbing Systems
Even the greatest hang-on designs require a smart climbing system to access their fine attributes. Here are three choices you’ll want to check out.
Summit has redesigned its popular Bucksteps aluminum tree steps to have a smaller profile for more efficient stacking. You’ll also find they have new traction strips for a more secure tree grip, and a new, smarter and faster nylon strap attachment system for these 20-inch steps that weigh 3 pounds each. MSRP: $130/four-pack. www.summitstands.com.
The AeroLite Climbing System from Big Game Treestands includes three 32-inch aluminum climbing sticks that weigh 3 pounds each and include three separate fold-out steps. These packable, stackable sticks attach with nylon straps and work as promised to get you quickly up even crooked trees. MSRP: $140/three-pack. www.biggametreestands.com.
The new Helium Climbing Sticks from Hawk are touted as the lightest, most portable on the market. The 30-inch aircraft-grade-aluminum sticks that attach via nylon straps are indeed light, weighing in at just 2.8 pounds each. They nest neatly together, and each includes three separate fold-up traction-grabbing steps. MSRP: $100/three-pack; www.hawkhunting.myshopify.com.