I prefer to use climbing sticks or lineman spikes/strap to prepare the tree, by ascending the tree and cutting away any branches, limbs, obstacles PRIOR to erecting the stand.
Here's my assembly checklist:
- Select suitable tree - 9-12" minimum diameter (depends on the tree stand manufacturer recommendations & your common sense).
- Ascend tree & prepare for stand, place a pully & rope onto a suitable branch for lifting the stand
- Level ground with shovel/pick for ladder legs (optional adjustable length ladder extensions and a pair of 6"x6" to 10"x10" steel plate feet will make it more stable)
- Assemble the stand on the ground, connect your rope (the one that's on the block & tackle in the tree). I have a permanent block & tackle rig for my Jeep winch that I use for this - carabiners make clipping it together easier.
- Hoist the trees stand upright with the rope/block & tackle, tie off the hoist rope as added safety.
- Tie off any ladder retention straps & support bars.
- Climb ladder & tie off any platform to tree straps
- Assemble any blind/shade enclosure and accessories (bags, hanging hooks, bars, etc.)
- I use the block & tackle to hoist up our gear (use a large duffel bag) (if hunting for just a few day, I'll leave the block & tackle in place for the tear down).
- Hoist your UNLOADED gun into the stand (I raise our guns in a gun rug to prevent banging them up)
- Aim straight and true.
The cost difference between most of the stands are determined by the foot plate area, the back, railing, etc. I prefer one with a full foot area, solid back rest, and complete railing. It makes Jr. hunters feel more secure and prevents a lot of dropped gear.
Pre-assemble paracords with plastic carabiners (they don't make noise on the metal stand) to attach your gear to the side railings (binoculars, lunch pail, pee bottle, cup holder, thermos, etc.) to prevent dropped gear. Cut the cords to length & tie a permanent loop in each end, slip loop one end on the rail & clip the other to your gear. Plastic carabiners are commonly found as key chains at your local hardware/thrift store.
I have installed a single vertical rifle rack/mount/holder on each side of my stand (G-Lox Model #06533). The base holder is mounted to the platform and keeps the rifle in place & ready for use. The upper bracket is mounted to the side railing. A small bungie cord on the top bracket is quieter that the factory metal clip.
- When hunting with Jr. Hunters, stretch bungie cords around the sides & back about 6-8" above the foot platform to keep gear from accidentally being kicked off the platform. Another great argument for a using a blind/enclosure around your stand.
- To prolong the life of your stand & to silence metal to metal contact, consider spraying it with a quality rubberized automotive undercoating. At a minimum spray the foot platform. I like it on the ladder too as it improves my grip & traction when it's wet!
- River's Edge Double Action Extreme 15' Ladder Stand #RE613 ($150 on EBay incls. S&H)
- Guide Gear 17.5' Double 2-Man Ladder Tree Stand (Sportsman's Guide #GID-177435 - $140 + S&H)
2-man ladder stands are tough for a single hunter to set up, but with practice it can be done safely. They provide a large comfortable platform to hunt from for hours! I've even been known to catch a cat nap in them.
ALWAYS WEAR YOUR FULL-BODY SAFETY HARNESS.