Throughout my farm is scattered about a dozen permanent deer stands that now serve as lasting monuments to seasons gone by and the hunters who first built them. Some of the hunters have come and gone only to pass their abandoned stand on to a new hunter who is now privileged to carry on the original hunter’s dreams for scoring on a deer at that location. Indeed, while permanent stands can be both illegal and an eyesore on public lands…on my private land these features have developed a unique hunting-related character all of their own.
Many stands even have their own name. Take, for instance, “Gary’s stand.” Obviously the stand is a namesake for the person who built it…but it’s much more than just that. Three years ago we lost Gary as a deer hunting partner due to a nasty disease known as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Now the deer stand is a permanent reminder of the person who absolutely loved to hunt deer. No other hunter on this farm has ever spent as much time perfecting his deer stand as did Gary. A stairway (not a ladder) walking to a platform that has a hip-style roof, walls, and even a swivel boat seat to make 360 degree scanning for deer completely quiet and effortless. Now that Gary is gone the remaining hunters pull seniority rank just to see who gets to occupy this plush stand each season.
Then, of course, we have what’s known as the “sleeper stand.” Aptly named because it is so damn comfortable that once a hunter gets nestled into it you could almost guarantee if the action was slow that a hunter could safely catch a little shut-eye. The hunter who first was noted sleeping in the stand didn’t recognize my approach on one particular day. With a hand full of rocks and carefully hiding behind a nearby tree…I was able to create woodland sounds on all sides of the hunter to abruptly awaken him. Turned out to be a funny joke as the hunter could not figure out what the sounds were…but henceforth the deer stand became famous in our minds for providing certain creature comforts conducive to an afternoon deer hunter’s nap.
I would certainly be remiss if I failed to mention the stand with perhaps the most unique name. Our group calls it the “widow maker” because you have to damn near kill yourself to get into it. The stand has been long ago abandoned because of the poorly thought out design and safety issues associated with it…yet the name continues on as a reminder of that particular area of farm where the stand was once located.
In some ways you could say that the seasoned hunters within our group have a code for where we are talking about when out in the deer woods. If we mention the “fence-line stand” most hunters can quickly pinpoint that location. If we talk about the “bottom-lands stand on the point,” …no need for a map. Likewise with the “thicket stand,” “the eagle’s nest stand,” “or the “leaning tree stand,” to name but a few others. No doubt about it our deer stands, much like the hunters who use them, take on a fascinating character all their own.
That’s part of the problem with the new portable or ladder-style stands. Of course, as a hunting implement they are popular and effective, but they lack so much character because they don’t have the element of permanency. We use several of them on the farm, too, don’t get me wrong…but they are not always my favored stands. In most cases the portable stands represent a hunter’s hope for being in a new and perhaps rarely tried area of woods on the farm. In most of the prime hunting spots you’ll find permanent stands because at one time some hunter felt the investment of time and effort was well worth it to be positioned in that particular location.
There are so many elements that comprise the overall deer hunting experience for most of us. Certainly the deer stand is only one small facet of deer hunting, but, oh, what an important part it is, at least for the way we choose to hunt. Each stand develops an interesting character based on its location and history, but long before that…at about the time when the first nails are being pounded…some hunter invested a lot of hopes and dreams into that makeshift structure. Now only time will tell if the efforts will continue proving to be worthwhile for the hunter.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.