As an avid bowhunter, I’ve spent countless hours perched up in ladder stands, waiting patiently for that perfect shot. And over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to hunt successfully from these popular elevated platforms.
In my early days, I made plenty of mistakes – my stand was often in the wrong location, my scent control was poor, and I didn’t have the right gear. But with trial and error (and a lot of time spent reading articles and talking to fellow hunters), I eventually figured out a system that works. Now I consistently tag out every season, and most of my success happens from the comfort of my favorite ladder stands.
If you’re new to bow hunting from an elevated perch, don’t be discouraged. With the right strategies and information, you can have plenty of success. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know, from picking the best ladder stand to proper set-up, effective hunting tactics, safety protocols, and more. Let’s get started!
- Ladder stands offer hunters a stable, comfortable platform with a great view of the terrain below.
- There are several types of ladder stands to choose from, including box blind ladder stands and tower ladder stands. Consider factors like comfort, concealment, and ease of setup.
- Set up ladder stands along trails leading to food sources that deer frequent. Use aerial photos or scouting to find the best locations.
- Always use a high-quality safety harness along with an adjustable tether when hunting from a ladder stand.
- Scent control is critical. Use rubber boots, scent elimination spray, and store gear in scent-proof bags.
- Practice shooting angles from an elevated stand before season. Deer rarely stand broadside at close range.
When it comes to hunting from an elevated perch, ladder stands are one of the most popular choices because they’re affordable, durable, and easy to set up. But not all ladder stands are created equal. There are a few different types to choose from, each with their own pros and cons.
These are the simplest and often the most budget-friendly option. Basic ladder stands consist of a small platform (usually around 20 x 26 inches) with a ladder section connected to it. The ladder is braced by a stabilizer bar or two angled support bars.
Basic ladder stands only accommodate one person and don’t have any kind of enclosure around them. They leave you completely exposed, which can be good for visibility and shot opportunities but bad for concealment. The seat is usually just a simple padded cushion or small folding seat.
- Inexpensive – usually around $200 or less
- Lightweight – easy for one person to carry and set up
- Open design – unobstructed visibility
- Minimal comfort
- No protection from weather or concealment
As the name suggests, box blind ladder stands incorporate a box blind enclosure along with a ladder section. The blind provides concealment from deer and protection from the elements.
Box blinds are typically constructed of wood or wrapped in camo print material. They range in size but are usually large enough to accommodate 1-2 hunters. Most have small windows that you can shoot through while remaining concealed. Some even have roof hatches for stand up shots.
Storage space for your gear as well as small creature comforts like armrests and padded seats are standard. Storage pockets and drink holders are common too. Expect to spend $200 or more for a quality box blind ladder stand.
- Concealed from deer’s view
- Protection from wind, rain, snow
- More comfortable with extra amenities
- Space for another person to hunt with you
- Bulkier and heavier than other ladder stands
- Can be noisy to climb into
- Reduced visibility through blind windows
Tower ladder stands combine the simplicity and affordability of basic ladder stands with the comfort and amenities of box blinds. Like basic ladder stands, they have an open-air platform design that keeps your profile low and visibility unobstructed.
But they also incorporate things like swivel padded seats, flip-up armrests, and a footrest. Some models even have overhead roofs or small blinds that can flip up for added concealment when needed.
Tower ladder stands are roomier, often large enough for two people. The platform size is around 30 x 30 inches on average. Expect to spend around $200 to $800 for a quality tower ladder stand.
- Open platform with full visibility
- More spacious and comfortable than basic ladders
- Features like padded swivel seat and armrests
- Affordable compared to box blinds
- Less protection from weather and concealment
- Not as many amenities as box blind models
Benefits of Bow Hunting from a Ladder Stand
Hunting from an elevated ladder stand offers some unique advantages that you just can’t get from hunting on the ground. Here are some of the biggest benefits:
Better Visibility of Game
Being perched 10-20 feet off the ground drastically expands your field of view. You can see further into brush and over low ground cover that may otherwise obstruct your vision from the ground. Plus, you can see deer approaching from much farther away.
Increased Effective Shooting Range
An elevated position gives you a steeper shot angle, increasing your effective shooting range. Shots out to 40 or 50 yards are very achievable from an elevated ladder stand, especially with a fast, flat-shooting compound bow.
More Time to Prepare Shots
Spotting deer earlier thanks to your aerial view gives you more time to evaluate the situation, range your target, and get ready for the shot. No more suddenly spotting a deer at close range and having to rush the shot!
Better Scent Concealment
Your human scent will dissipate and disperse more effectively from an elevated position before reaching the deer below. Deer are less likely to smell you compared to hunting on the ground.
You can stand up, draw your bow, and shift positions without deer noticing from a ladder stand. Movement from ground level is much more likely to catch their eye.
All Day Comfort
Ladder stands let you hunt in comfort all day long! Features like padded seats, armrests, and backrests make it easy to sit for hours on end. No sore knees or aching back.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take every advantage I can get when matching wits with big whitetails. Ladder stands level the playing field substantially.
With different types of ladder stands available, how do you decide which is best for your needs? Here are some key factors to consider:
Will you primarily be bow hunting or gun hunting? For bow, open platforms are great for maneuvering shots. For gun, box blinds provide solid resting spots.
Do you want a basic seat pad or luxurious swivel chair with a backrest? Tower ladders offer a nice middle ground for comfort.
Basic ladders are light and packable. Box blinds are heavy and cumbersome. Make sure you can reasonably transport it.
In high pressure areas, a box blind is best. For more remote spots, an open platform ladder works fine.
Tower ladders offer the best bang for buck in my opinion. But basic ladders work for those on a tight budget.
Double check the weight capacity matches your size, especially if hunting with a partner.
Consider amenities like shooting ports, storage options, footrests, padded armrests, etc.
Try setting up a few different types of ladder stands in the store if possible. This gives you a feel for the size, comfort, etc before buying.
And don’t feel like you need to use the same stand every time you hunt. Having different options to choose from based on the specific hunt is ideal.
I like to have an open tower ladder and a box blind ladder stand so I can pick the best one for the moment.
As with any form of elevated tree stand hunting, safety should be your top priority. Here are some key tips for staying safe while using your ladder stand:
Always Use a Fall Arrest System
A full-body safety harness paired with a tether gives you unbeatable protection. Keep it snug to your body but comfortable.
Have Three Points of Contact Climbing
Maintain three points of contact on your way up and down the ladder. This prevents slips and falls.
Clear Shooting Lanes Safely
Use a pole saw to clear branches from the ground first before climbing. Have a partner assist if possible.
Check Stability and Condition
Inspect for structural issues, loose bolts, etc. Ensure the ladder stand is on solid, stable ground.
Watch Your Distance from Top
Don’t stand up too quickly. First gradually lift your head to check distance from the roof or shooting rails.
Practice Proper Climbing Technique
Face the ladder at all times. Maintain three points of contact. Lean forward as you climb and back as you descend.
Stay Connected When Sitting
Use a lineman’s belt or tree strap so you’re always secured to the tree, even when sitting on stand.
Practice First at Ground Level
Set up the stand a few feet off the ground first to learn how to use it properly before going up high.
Replace Bolts Yearly
Use thread locking glue and replace worn bolts each season to prevent loosening over time.
Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to safety. A little bit of precaution goes a long way to prevent accidents. Following these tips will help keep you secure.
Placing your ladder stand in just the right location is critical for success. And proper setup will keep it secure and functional. Here are some tips:
Select a Straight Tree
Pick a straight, healthy tree with few branches for the top 2/3 of the tree. This prevents ladder interference.
Clear Shooting Lanes First
Trim back branches and limbs that will obstruct your view or shots. Do this from the ground using a pole saw if possible.
Face the Correct Direction
Consider factors like wind direction, sun location, and deer approach routes when orienting the stand.
Level the Stand
Make sure your ladder stand sits flat and level on the ground. If the ground is uneven, build it up with gravel or dirt.
Anchor it Securely
Use quality ratchet straps or cable lock-ons to firmly secure the stand to the tree. No wobbling!
Put it at the Right Height
I recommend 15-20’ up the tree to be high enough yet still easy to climb.
Add Screw-In Steps
Screw steps into the tree above the ladder for easy climbing on and off from the platform.
Once secured, practice climbing up and down at least a few times to ensure the setup is solid.
Have Help Setting Up
A partner makes setting up a ladder stand much easier and safer. Have them assist.
Give it Time to Settle
Allow a few days or more before hunting to let the stand become part of the landscape.
Taking the time to properly set up your ladder stand will certainly pay off in the long run. Don’t rush – make sure it’s done right!
Simply having a ladder stand doesn’t guarantee success. You need the right hunting strategies and tips to make the most of your time on stand. Here are my top tactics:
Consider Wind Direction
Make sure wind is in your face. If the wind shifts, get down and relocate your stand.
Take a Dozen Arrows
Have at least 6-12 arrows within reach so you never have to climb down to look for a stray one.
Have Gear Ready
Keep bow, arrows, release, and other essentials ready so you can shoot immediately when needed.
Use a Hoist Rope
Use a rope to lift gear up and down so you don’t have to climb excessively. Keep noise to a minimum.
Practice Shooting Angles
Ladder stands offer different angles than ground level. Practice from various heights and positions ahead of time.
Wear a Safety Harness
Always stay clipped in when on stand, even when simply sitting down in the stand.
Watch Your Silhouette
Avoid “skylining” yourself against the horizon. Keep back from shooting rails for a lower profile.
Have Multiple Stands
Use several ladder stands and rotate as wind direction and deer movement changes.
Bring Creature Comforts
A seat pad, neck pillow, and handwarmers make long sits much more enjoyable.
Be Ready to Stop Climbing
If a deer approaches as you climb, stop moving and get ready for possible shots if needed.
Preparation and staying alert are certainly the keys to success when it comes to any type of treestand hunting. Follow these ladder stand-specific tips and you’ll be off to a great start.
Beyond just the ladder stand itself, there are a number of useful accessories that can take your setup to the next level:
Harness and Lineman’s Strap – Always use a full-body harness for safety. Add a lineman’s strap to stay secured while sitting.
Armrests – Resting your arms and bow on padded armrests helps accuracy and reduces fatigue.
Bow Holder – Hands-free bow holders allow you to relax your grip between shots.
Footrest – A footrest lets you sit back comfortably with feet propped up.
Seat Cushion – An extra seat pad or cushion adds comfort for long sits.
Ladder Steps – Securing additional steps to the tree makes climbing easier.
** Shooting Rail** – Add a rail for rock-solid rifle rest when gun hunting.
** Storage Bags** – Use scent-proof bags/pouches to stash small gear out of the way.
** Cup Holder** – Hydrate safely with an attached cup holder in easy reach.
** ThermaSeat** – Heated seat pads connect to your stand to warm up on cold days.
** Sun Shade** – A removable roof section provides shade and concealment.
Customize your ladder stand and make it perfect for all-day sits. Take advantage of available accessories to maximize success.
Between hunting seasons, proper storage is crucial to keep your ladder stand safe and in top condition. Here are my best tips for storage and off-season care:
Use a stiff brush and cleaning solution to remove all dirt, blood, and debris before storage.
Back off any tight knobs or bolts to relieve tension and prevent warping of the stand.
Apply Protective Coating
Spray down all metal surfaces with a corrosion inhibiting sealant or oil.
Store Under Cover
Keep your ladder stand protected from weather and sun either indoors or under a tarp.
Elevate Off Ground
Set on raised blocks or pallets to keep away from moisture and dirt.
Disassemble When Possible
If easily separable, disassemble stand sections for compact stacking.
Use Rodent Deterrents
Place moth balls or dryer sheets around stand to help deter mice and squirrels.
Avoid Excessive Heat
Don’t store in hot attics or garages that get extremely hot in summer.
Inspect Before Reusing
Do a thorough inspection for damage, wear, loose hardware, etc. before setting back up.
Take care of your gear and it will take care of you. Be sure to store your ladder stand properly between seasons to maximize its lifespan.
Regular maintenance and care for your ladder stand means it will be safe and ready to hunt from year after year. Here are some key points:
Inspect Bolts Yearly – Check all bolts for tightness and corrosion. Replace any that are heavily worn.
Add Thread Locking Glue – Apply a thread locking compound to help bolts maintain tightness over time.
Check Welds and Joints – Look closely for signs of cracking, bending, or other distortion along welds and joints.
Replace Worn Padding – Swap out seat cushions, arm pads, etc. if they become flattened or weather damaged.
Clean and Lubricate – Use a protectant spray to clean metal and lubricate any moving parts like seat swivels.
Watch for Rust – Sand and touch up any spots of rust as soon as they appear to prevent spreading.
Secure Tree Straps – Cinch down ratchet straps or cable locks to eliminate any slack or looseness.
Test Safety Harness – Inspect harness for wear/damage. Hang from harness on ground to double check.
Practice Proper Use – Only stand/sit in specified areas, avoid sudden movements, follow weight limits, etc.
Replace When Needed – If damage or wear is excessive, replace the stand rather than compromise safety.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to keeping your ladder stand properly maintained. Follow these tips to ensure it’s in flawless shape when hunting season rolls around.
Ladder Stand Regulations
Before setting up your ladder stand, be sure you understand the rules and regulations that apply for the area you’ll be hunting. Regulations can vary depending on whether you’re hunting on public or private land.
Public Land Regulations
Many public lands prohibit the use of permanent tree stands. However, portable stands are usually allowed as long as they’re temporary.
- Stands can only be put up a certain number of days before hunting season – usually around 2 weeks ahead of time.
- They must be clearly marked with your full name, address, phone number, and hunting license number.
- Stands left out longer than the allowed time or unmarked stands may be removed and confiscated.
Private Land Regulations
On private property, regulations are minimal but a few still apply:
- Always gain permission from the landowner before setting up ladder stands.
- Take safety precautions if hunting near public roads or trails.
- Don’t overtrim trees or brush on someone else’s property.
- Follow hunting season dates and weapon-type restrictions.
- Understand liability if allowing others to hunt on your private land.
General Ladder Stand Regulations
- Adhere to tree stand safety guidelines like wearing a harness.
- Follow all other broader hunting regulations for your region.
- Never hunt under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Take responsibility for removing your stand after the season.
Make sure to do your homework beforehand so there are no questions about the legality of your ladder stand setup. Following the regulations is important for ethical hunting. And it can save you headaches down the road.
- Ladder stands provide an affordable elevated hunting platform that’s easy to set up. Tower and box blind models offer added amenities.
- Benefits include better visibility, increased range, advanced ability to prepare shots, effective scent control, and all-day comfort.
- Place stands near trails leading to food sources based on scouting. Proper set up includes securing to the tree, achieving the right height, and clearing shooting lanes.
- Safety is paramount. Always use a fall arrest system, maintain three points of contact climbing, and watch your distance from the top.
- Bring plenty of arrows, stay ready to shoot, and practice shooting angles. Use a haul line to raise and lower gear quietly.
- Accessories like armrests, bow holders, and shooting rails can enhance success. Store stands properly when not in use.
- Stay safe, hunt ethically and legally by following regulations, and with the right strategies, ladder stands are a bowhunter’s best friend!
Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website CaptainHunter.com. When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.