For real satisfaction, sit in a tree

Posted October 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I remember seeing the manufactured tree stands for bow-hunters when I was young, but they weren’t as advanced as they are now. They were heavy, and they were expensive. The one thing I wanted more than anything else was one of those self-climbing tree stands, which were also heavy and still expensive. Well, that and a new boat and a new pick-up.

Probably nothing I ever did was more of a waste of time than bow hunting, in terms of producing meat for the freezer per hours spent. I’d spend a whole season without getting a shot some of those years, way back there when I lived in Arkansas. When I moved back to Missouri in 1990, I still couldn’t afford one of those manufactured tree stands for bow hunters, so I started making my own. More time spent, in the basement, with a saw and hammer. More time wasted. Each year I would make a couple more, a small platform at the end of a ladder, to carry out to some new place I had found, struggling and sweating and swearing I had built my last one.

I killed enough deer with a bow to keep me at it, but to tell the truth, I loved being there even if I didn’t see deer. That’s why I did it every year, I just loved being out there in the woods, up in the limbs, watching and waiting in anticipation of seeing something significant. Every now and then I would get a shot at a turkey or deer. Wild turkeys are tough to get a shot at when you are in the air and they are on the ground. Their enemies, the bobcat and the owl, live in trees, and you are much bigger than either, so therefore easy to see.

As I have written before, the first turkey I ever killed was a Jake standing behind the one I was actually shooting at. You could say I was very lucky, or he was awfully unlucky, I don’t know which. The first deer I killed was the result of an arrow that ricocheted off a sassafras sapling. I was lucky, he wasn’t.

I was also lucky that all those tree stands I built held up. Of course I used a harness most of the time, but when you are young and think you are invincible, you don’t buckle up all the time, and I nearly fell out of one on two or three occasions. Maybe more.

And while I call it a waste of time, for a young outdoor writer, spending time outdoors is a necessity. I learned a lot. I always took my camera and I often took a pen and tablet. That way I could sit there high above the ground and write about what I was seeing and feeling and thinking while I was wasting time out there in the woods. The money I made from magazine articles I wrote about bow-hunting, and the pictures I sold, came to a considerable amount, and likely paid for the lumber and nails I bought for the tree stands I built.

What a wonderful Christmas that was, about 20 years or so ago, when Gloria Jean bought me a self-climbing tree stand. I think she did it knowing it would keep me out in the woods longer, hoping I might sell more magazine articles and buy her a new washer and dryer or something of that sort.

I still use it, and it is a contraption to behold. You can’t hardly fall out of it, because it sort of comes up around you. But you could fall with it, if you get it up there about 20 feet and it doesn’t quite fit the tree.

I bought another one, with a ladder on it, that my daughter, Christy, and I could both sit in during the gun season when she was younger. But now, we both don’t fit in it really well, because I think she has gained a little weight since she was 15. I may have gained a little, too.

Last year during the gun season, she climbed up in that ladder stand before daylight, and I helped her get all her gear up there with her, and then I went off to see if I could find my self-climbing tree stand in the dark, a quarter mile away.

When it got light enough, I found it, and tied my pack and my rifle to a long cord, then worked it up the side of the tree very carefully and quietly. As I got situated way up there by the first limb, I reached over to pull my rifle up, and saw a nice eight-point buck walking past me.

I got ahold of the rifle, and tried to get a shell pumped into it quietly and got it jammed, and the buck just kept walking. Either Christy was awfully lucky or that buck was very unlucky because 15 or 20 minutes later he walked past Christy’s stand and stopped broadside about 40 yards away. All last winter and this summer we have had venison hamburger, smoked roasts, summer sausage and jerky, and loin steaks and venison stew. But the freezer is almost devoid of venison now, so I am thinking it is time to climb up in the tree stand with my camera and tablet and enjoy life away from the mainstream, waiting for a deer to pass close enough for a sure shot.

I know I am living a quality life when I am sitting in that stand, unaware of whatever is going on out in the world where ordinary people live. I never get mad, and no one is mad at me, at least no one who can find me. I talk to God a little, presenting what I believe to be some very good arguments, and I don’t get stressed, unless I drop my tablet or my pen.

Sometimes I sit there for hours and don’t see a thing worth remembering, and sometimes I see things I just wouldn’t have missed for the world. I have written about most of those things at one time or another. This fall, there will be other things to get a picture of, other sights to write about, and maybe even a turkey or deer to butcher and eat. I have a big freezer in my basement, and I keep it partially filled with fish and wild game. It is unusual to have beef in it in any significant quantity in that freezer, but I do this year, thanks to my editor selling me that half-steer which they had to chase down and shoot when it got loose last summer.

Did you know that you can grind up beef and venison and pork and it won’t taste a bit like venison? That’s something to remember if you are as tired of eating venison as I am.

And I am guessing that there are a lot of you readers who have never gone out in the grandeur of autumn, the majesty of October, and sat in a tree stand so deep in the woods you can’t hear a thing that tells you it isn’t the early 1800’s. If you haven’t, you need to. If you haven’t had a good talk with God lately, it is a good thing to do, even if you don’t want to shoot a deer. Take along the camera, and just try it once. If those self-climbing tree stands are too expensive for you, I understand that completely. But I can build you a nice ladder and platform stand for very little, and if you should see a nice buck while you are out there, I might go out there with you sometime and shoot him for you. Just call me for a list of the lumber and materials you’ll need.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at My website is

Big Buck 2 cc .tif

BIG BUCK – Sometimes when you are sitting in a tree stand in October, you see sights that make great photos…if not venison in the freezer.

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WITH BATED BREATH – When you make your own treestand, an afternoon is never boring. You are too worried it might capsize with you.