Herald Photo / Provided
STAND — There is no need to think that deer will spot a ladder stand any easier than a portable one, especially if you place it in the right tree.  Movement is the key to whether a deer will pick you off.
Herald Photo / Provided STAND — There is no need to think that deer will spot a ladder stand any easier than a portable one, especially if you place it in the right tree. Movement is the key to whether a deer will pick you off.
For years I vowed that I would ever use ladder stands while deer hunting. I simply felt that they were too big and would be too obvious to get most deer in close for archery shots. I felt like I had to be perched in an ultra-small, compact hang-on platform in order to be effective at getting close to the more mature, wary whitetails. This thought kept me from utilizing any ladder stands for the majority of my past deer hunts. This thought is also wrong in my opinion.

Well, a couple of things made me eat my words and give ladder stands a try. One was my son. I started toting Nicholas along with me on hunts long before he was able to hunt himself, and it just was not feasible for him to climb into a portable hang-on stand. Never mind the fact that those types of stands would have been impossible for us both to sit in together anyway. The other thing that made me change my mind was that many ladder stands are just plain easier and safer to hunt out of, not to mention they are comfortable. The increased comfort of a quality ladder stand allows me to stay on stand longer, which is a key component of being successful.

I started out slow, hanging a ladder stand or two while still using portable hang-on stands for the bulk of my hunting. What I learned then was that, in most cases, ladder stands could be very effective and that they had a more useful place in my lineup of stands than I would have earlier imagined.  For one, it made taking my son hunting with me a whole lot more practical. It also made it more enjoyable as we could hunt out of two-person ladder stands and sit side by side and enjoy the time spent in the woods. Blinds can offer the same thing except for the fact that in many areas – depending on where you place them – blinds can limit visibility drastically. With ladder stand, you do not give up any visibility. Yes, hanging two portable hang-on stands side by side in a tree will work also, but only given that the youngster is able to safely climb a set of climbing sticks or tree steps. If putting up large two-man stands, then you need the help of a buddy as these stands can be heavy and cumbersome.

There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on which ladder stand(s) you plan to use. One thing I do not like about many of the less expensive ladder stands is that the seats do not fold up. This can really silhouette your outline and make you stick out like a sore thumb. If you can afford it, opt for ones that have the sling-type fold up seats. They can be folded up while you are standing allowing you to lean right against the tree, aiding in your concealment. 

Another thing I like to look for when choosing a ladder stand is height.  Some stands are only 12’ in height. They will work, but I like to either buy taller ones or purchase extra extensions to try to get me to at least 16’ high or higher. That extra few feet does not sound like much, but it does help hide you from a deer’s keen eyesight. But remember, if the cover on the tree you have picked out for your stand is, say, 12’ off the ground, then opting for a shorter stand may be the ticket. In other words, if the tree you will be attaching the stand to has a lot of limb cover closer to the ground, then going higher may actually be worse. If there is sparse cover all the way up the tree thought, then going a little higher is a good idea.

As for the ladder itself, you would think that it too would be a target for the eyes of a whitetail, but for the most part, I have not seen that to be an issue. Some of the higher-end stands have tapered ladders that greatly reduce the profile of the ladder, but even the stands without tapered ladders are fine. It just has not seemed to be an issue as far as I am concerned. Heck, have had mature deer walk right next to the ladder without as much as being suspicious. 

If you can place the stand in a cluster of trees, that helps conceal it better, but here again, most of mine are not in clusters so don’t fret about it. Remember, it is better to be in the right spot. 

A key to being successful when hunting in ladder stands, or in any stands for that matter, is knowing when it is okay to move and when you need to remain motionless. Whitetail deer can pick up even the slightest movement so it does not matter what type of stand you are in, if you move at the wrong time, you are busted. They do, however, have difficulty telling what an object is when it is motionless, so keep this in mind.

I still use the portable hang-on type stands, and probably always will, but I have definitely found a place for ladder stands in some of my locations as well. I find that the mix of the two allows me to be a little more versatile in the way I approach deer hunting. For instance, I f I plan on sitting all day long, I will usually opt for one of my ladder stands as I know I will be able to remain comfortable and alert for the day. And even though Nicholas is thirteen now and capable of climbing into a portable stand, may times he will opt for a ladder stand as well. And if we want to spend the time together, we will sit in a two-man ladder stand, although now that he is a teenager, that does not happen as often as I would like as he would usually rather hunt alone!

So if you ever find yourself questioning whether or not ladder stands can be effective on whitetail deer, the answer is yes. As to whether or not they are every bit as undetectable to a deer’s eyesight as portable hang-on stands, I cannot say for sure. All I can say is that they do not seem to be nearly as intrusive to as I had originally thought. My opinion on them has changed, and the only way for you to decide is to try one for yourself if you are curious about it.