My very first tree stand was an assorted collection of scrap wood from my dad's shop nailed to a very forked tree overlooking a single scrape.

Each board was nailed with precise care at the exact location that would advance me up the tree through the maze of limbs to the "platform" seat I had nailed at an awkward angle across the flattest limb I could find.

That tree eventually accepted its puncture wounds and claimed the wooden steps as its own. And up until the time that it fell victim to the loggers clear-cutting this property a few years ago, my first stand stood as a testimony to my youthful determination to deer hunt.

This was but one stand like thousands of identical stands spread through bottoms and hardwood flats across the south.

Deer stands aren't so simple, anymore.

Like fishing rods, they are now made from high-tech materials designed to meet specific situations, and one is never enough.

For years, fishing rod manufacturers tried to compare rods to golf clubs in that a specific rod could help an angler catch a fish in a specific situation much like a specific club helped golfers when their balls were at specific spots on a course.

I'm not going to go so far as to suggest that hunters have to have as many deer stands as they do fishing rods or golf clubs, but there are certain advantages and disadvantages to the four basic kinds of tree stands - lock-on, ladder, climber and box.

Adam Lee has seen these advantages and disadvantages first hand over years of hunting the Port Gibson area around Claiborne County and the Lexington area in Holmes County.

He's also heard kudos and complaints about each one from hunters who have visited his Brookhaven archery shop, LSE Archery.

Lee sells everything from a basic $100 square-frame ladder stand to the much higher-priced and uber-comfortable Millennium lock-on stands and Summit climbers.

Although he favors stands suited for bow hunting, Lee has logged enough rifle-hunting hours to know the ins and outs of both kinds of hunting and why he should use each kind of stand and when.

 

Lock-on stands

For Lee, lock-on stands can be used anywhere, and they are a happy medium that represents the best of all of the elevated deer stands. However, the most important advantage he sees in lock-on stands is their adaptability to fit less-than-perfect trees.

"You can get a lock-on in a tree you can't get a climber up," Lee explained. "A tree may lean to the left or lean to the right, or it might have a funny angle to it or split halfway up. With a lock-in, you're going to be able to get up that tree."

Therefore, Lee doesn't spend all his time looking for a perfect tree in which to strap his stand. And with a little experience, he said he can get up a tree just as quickly, if not quicker, than he could in a climber.

"If you have all your gear handy, you can get the sticks put together in under a minute," he said. "Then all you do is lean it against the tree, put your first strap on and work your way up ratcheting each strap not super tight but tight enough to hold secure."

With the Millennium lock-on stands that Lee prefers using, all he's got to do once he gets as high as he wants is to attach the stand receiver and pull up and position the platform and seat, which drops right into the receiver bracket.

Although lock-on stands are good for rifle hunting, Lee said they are especially good for bowhunters since there's not a lot of stuff to get in your way.

"They're not like ladder stands with all the rails that get in your way," he pointed out. "You're really wide open, and you're not limited in how you shoot. It's definitely an open atmosphere, and you can shoot sitting down or standing up."

But it is also that openness that some would consider a disadvantage of lock-on stands. There is no security for hunters who like to be surrounded by something, and cold weather can ice up the platforms, which is going to make them really slick.

Lee generally likes to get his lock-on stands set up the day before he hunts a timbered area, but he has put them up during the middle of the day for an afternoon hunt.

Millennium makes his favorite lock-on, but Lee also pointed out Big Game, API, Gorilla, Summit and Ol' Man as having some really comfortable and popular models.

 

Ladder stands

The one thing that stands out to Lee about ladder stands other than that they can be set up just about anywhere is how really good they are for rifle hunting. Regardless of what brand ladder stand you buy, odds are it's going to have a shooting rail across the front of the main seat.

"I don't want to free-hand a shot if I can help it," Lee acknowledged. "I'm comfortable doing it if I have to, but I really like having that rest so there is no question when the rifle goes off where my shot is going."

The shooting rail also offers that little bit of extra security that some hunters like, and it does present the opportunity for a little extra concealment with some camo netting hung from it.

"And even some of the cheap ones are really comfortable," Lee continued. "A lot of people get those two-man ladder stands so they can take a kid hunting or maybe somebody that's never hunted before. You can put them right there with you, and that's a plus."

Many hunters view ladders as permanent stand sites they set up before the season and never move again. Whether you consider that an advantage or disadvantage is up to your own personal hunting style.

Being in a fixed position means you're eventually going to clue the deer in to where you're sitting, and they'll eventually start avoiding your ladder-stand site.

On the other hand, if you can sneak in and out of a ladder stand without being detected and only hunt it when the wind is right, you can kill just as many deer out of them as you can any other kind of stand.

"They're a little cumbersome, though," Lee pointed out, "so you're going to need some help assembling them and getting them up against a tree. It's definitely a two- or three-man job. But once you get one up, it's very easy and something very quiet to get into, say, if you're hunting close to a bedding area."

One caution that Lee mentioned about ladder stands is that squirrels will sometimes chew the ratchet straps that hold them to the tree. In one instance, he got halfway up one of his ladders to see that less than 1/4 inch of his strap was intact. Therefore, make sure to check your straps as part of your preseason checklist.

"Again, I really like the Millennium ladder stands because of their comfortable seat, but Big Game has a good ladder, Ameristep has some tall 20-foot ones and just about every hunting store in Mississippi runs a preseason special on those basic 12- to 15-foot ladders that anybody can afford."

 

Climbing stands

If you're looking to be a mobile deer hunter, there's no better stand choice for you than a climbing stand. How many times have you hunted your favorite ladder or box stand only to watch deer headed to an acorn tree way out of your range?

"Well, with a climber you can take it over there close to the right spot, jack up the tree and hunt right where you saw all that activity," Lee explained. "And I've been known to head into the woods with my bow, day pack and climber without having a definite hunting spot in mind."

In that case, Lee lays down his climber and scouts around until he finds something that looks good. Then he just walks back to get his stand and climbs up a tree right next to the sign.

Climbers also allow hunters to throw educated deer a curve ball. Some days, Lee has chosen to not hunt a ladder stand because he believes the deer are wise to him. Instead, he sets up on the same food plot or food source with his climber in a spot where deer least expect him to be.

"And one thing I do a lot with a climber is reposition when the wind starts blowing a different direction," Lee added. "That allows me to take advantage of a good spot that I would either blow out if I stayed in the wrong tree or have to leave all together so the deer didn't wind me."

As convenient as they are, climbers have a few more disadvantages than some of the other stands - the first of which is finding a good tree.

"Finding the right tree is sometimes a chore," Lee pointed out. "It can be a pain when you find some good sign and think you could get a shot that afternoon, but there's not a tree within 40 yards that's straight with a uniform trunk diameter."

Also, even when you do find a good tree for a climbing stand, it might not be the best to actually climb even if it does meet all the requirements. Certain trees like sycamore and cotton wood have slick bark that don't hold climbing stands too well.

"My favorite is a pine," Lee said. "Call me crazy, but they are round, straight and have a consistent taper. I've found a lot of good trees that I couldn't climb because their bases were too big to get started, and I'm totally against making cable adjustments once you're off the ground."

For climbers, Lee likes Summit stands. Tipping the scales at about 220 pounds, he prefers the Viper, but hunters up to 350 pounds will find a Summit model like the Titan or Goliath suited for them.

 

Box stands

Offering the ultimate in creature comfort, box stands fit the bill for hunters looking for a secluded spot to get out of adverse weather like rain, sleet and snow.

They are most frequently found jutting above agriculture land, positioned in the corner of large food plots or centered in a power line right of way. And other than offering shelter from the elements, they conceal most any mistake a hunter, or their kids, might make.

"While a ladder stand is good to take an older kid, box stands allow you to do some baby-sitting hunting," Lee quipped. "I actually killed a couple bucks last year with my 4-year-old sitting on the floor playing."

Being a big part of box stands, concealment can be made even better by rigging it up to be quiet. Lee likes to add some carpet on the floor, lower walls and around the window rails. All that carpet deadens any accidental sound he might make inside his stand.

And Lee isn't averse to putting a box stand in a hardwood bottom. However, he typically puts them on the ground or raises them 10 feet or less because he doesn't have to be able to see nearly as far as he would in more-open areas.

"I've made my own box stands in the past, but now it all boils down to cost and time," Lee noted. "If you build it right, it's going to cost you $500 to do a shooting house. Now you've got the Sportsman Condo, where all you got to do is slide your post in it, build a ladder and go hunting. You can have it set up in 30 minutes ready to hunt."

Sportsman Condos also cure the bane of box stands - not being able to move them where you want them. Although some hunters have built them on skids so they can move them around with an ATV or tractor, moving a Sportsman Condo is as simple as taking down the posts, loading it up and putting it back up.

"And they've got a 25-year warranty on the structure," Lee said. "If you're local around West Point, you can drive it up there and they can weld the thick plastic back together."

Which deer stand should you get? Well, if you've convinced your wife that you need a flipping rod, a crankbait rod, a worm rod, a drop-shot rod - get all four of them.

However, if you're only going to invest in one deer stand, select the one that fits your specific needs, your property's characteristics and how you plan on hunting it.

Whichever you select, it's not going to be as simple, but you can rest assured that it's going to be a lot safer and more comfortable than some scrap wood and a handful of nails.