Fixed stands are platforms that you attach to a tree using straps, chains, cords or rope. The stand has a large, flat side that rests against the trunk of the tree. The restraints secure the stand to the tree. Before using a fixed stand for the first time, you should attach it to the base of a tree, cinch the restraints tightly and test the stand thoroughly. You should check to make sure it will support your weight without making noise. It's better to find out about any problems while you're only a few feet off the ground than when you're 20 feet (6 meters) up. To attach a fixed stand further up the tree, you'll need climbing gear to get to the right height.
Permanent stands are a special kind of fixed stand and can be anything from a small wooden platform to an elevated shelter that looks like a tree house. These platforms stay up all year. It's a good idea to inspect a permanent stand on a regular basis -- wear and tear can make a stand unsafe. The stand's quality depends entirely upon the skills of the hunter who built it. In other words, if you don't know who built the stand you're probably better off using a different approach.
Ladder stands, as the name implies, are stands attached to the end of a tall ladder. You secure the ladder to a tree using safety restraints and then climb the ladder to get to the platform. In general, it's easier to climb up and down a ladder stand than most other kinds of stands. But there are a couple of disadvantages. One downside is that they aren't easily portable. Ladder stands are big and bulky. They can also be heavier than other stands. Another problem is that it's not difficult for deer to spot ladder stands. Some deer may become skittish if they see a ladder stand, making them difficult to hunt. But if you set up a ladder stand, leave it for a few days and then come back to it, you may find that the deer have become more accustomed to the stand's presence.
Climbing stands are becoming more popular as manufacturers improve designs. There are two big advantages to climbing stands: You don't need extra climbing gear to use them and they aren't as bulky as ladder stands. There are different styles of climbing stands, but they generally work in a similar way. Usually there are two platforms. Putting downward pressure on the platform increases tension on the tree, keeping the stand secure. Lifting the platform releases the tension and allows the hunter to slide that section farther up the tree. Some climbing stands have a lower platform that straps to the hunter's feet. To climb the tree, the hunter lifts his or her feet, pushes the foot platform against the tree, then stands up. This allows the hunter to slide the upper platform up the tree. Once that's been done, the hunter can loosen the lower platform again and slide it up the tree; by moving the two platforms up the tree incrementally, the hunter can climb up, much like an inchworm moves along a leaf. Other stands require the hunter to push up on an upper platform while sitting on a lower platform. The hunter then pulls him or herself up after the first section, then sits and repeats.
Tower stands are freestanding platforms supported by three or more legs. These towers are a good choice for areas that don't have many trees that can support a stand. Some tower stands are portable metal frames. Others are permanent wooden or metal structures. They tend to be bulky and heavy, but they may be the best option depending upon the terrain you'll be in.
How do you know where to set up a tree stand? We'll find out in the next section.