Tree-seat Whitetails

©Dean Torges/The Bowyer's Edge™

Mike was hunting new ground. He'd worked across a standing cornfield and waded a creek to get to this thicket. Nothing more than a small acre of tangled briars and thigh-sized elms and locust, it poked out into another standing cornfield on the other side of the creek. It looked good.

He continued his still hunt until he figured he must be near the major scrape his friend told kim about. Several faint trails with fresh sign and the plentiful appearance of rubs suggested he was indeed inside a hangout for rutting whitetails.

Mike looked about for the perfect ambush site and tugged at a length of rope tied around his waist. A tree seat swung loose. In just a few quick and quiet moments, he fixed the seat to the base of an elm, laid his quiver beside him, nocked an arrow, scraped away a few Ieaves and twigs, fixed his face mask and settled into the seat.

"OK," he thought. "Showtime. Forty-five minutes 'til dark and I've got the best seat in the house .... Except, maybe for that one, over there. Twenty yards upwind. More cover. I should stay here now, though."

After a few more fitful moments, Mike quickly and noiselessly removed the seat, moved 20 yards upwind and quietly reestablished himself.

'Now," he thought "Now I do have the best seat in the house. Except that my range is cut down, and ...."

The sound of dry cornstalks crunching and popping cleared his head. A deer was heading into the drainage, straight for his backside. Mike clutched his "Arkansas Stick" and said a little prayer.

If his prayer was answered, the deer would veer to the left, where the wind favored Mike; if the deer was praying louder, it would bear to the right, where the wind favored the deer.

A fine buck came in from the right, 12 yards upwind of Mike's first tree-seat selection, but 8 yards downwind of his current position.

The buck wheeled and disappeared. Mike smiled while he roughed himself up with second guesses.

Mike Binsack is a serious and dedicated bow hunter from Northwest Ohio. He climbed down out of the trees about 10 years ago. Free of the constraints of tree stand hunting—the expense, the inflexibility, and even the danger—Mike has evolved his deer hunting back to an old level—ground level.

Mike spent several days bowhunting whitetails with me last fall. I dropped him into similar thickets while he hunted here, patches that didn't lend themselves to my preferred style of tree stand hunting, patches tailored for the hunt-and-sit approach. During his stay, he went eyeball to eyeball with more and better bucks than I saw from advantage.

Moreover, the seat Mike carried with him that day, the seat from which he's killed half a dozen whitetail bucks is the same seat he conned from me over six years ago during another visit.

It consists of nothing more than a small piece of plywood and a short length of rope. It can be made with the simplest equipment, yet is superior in every way to its sophisticated, commercially available counterparts. Where they are comparatively heavy, noisy, clumsy, and expensive, this one is light, quiet, simple, and cheap.

I've made this seat with all popular thicknesses of plywood, but 1/2" presents the best compromise between strength and weight.

One-quarter-inch braided polypropylene (ski boat tow rope) works quite well, but 3/8" stretches less, grips tree bark better and provides a more supportive knot than 1/4" without being as bulky as 1/2".

You can cut back on weight by making the seat hour-glass shaped. Also, a width of carpet tacked to the seat where your buns make contact adds an appreciable measure of comfort.

To use the seat, tie a simple overhand knot on one end of the rope and from the under-side pass the other end through the hole that is not slotted. Pull the rope up to the knot and pass it around the tree once in sling fashion so that at the height of its backside arc the rope is approximately one foot above the seat.

Pass the rope through the slotted hole from the top side and tie another overhand knot underneath so that the seat tilts up at a 30 to 45° angle. Pull the rope into the slot so the knot cannot escape and then settle your weight into it.

The seat should sag to a slightly upraised angle as slack and stretch come out of the rope. Adjustments in angle can be made by simply tilting the seat.

When you leave, no need to untie the knot. Just slip the rope from the capture slot and pull it back through the oversized hole. Sling it over your shoulder, tie it around your waist, or, if you make the hinged version, drop it in your pack or pocket and be gone. If the knot is not close enough to right for the next tree, tie another. Eventually you'll end up with a succession of knots, evenly spaced along the rope, that accommodate about any tree.

To increase the seat's longevity, slit a scrap length of garden hose along its length and staple it over the birdsmouth end that crunches against the tree. This will protect the plywood edges from snagging and delaminating. For the same reason, chamfer all other exposed edges and corners.

This seat is 9 3/8" by 12" long, has an hour-glass shape to reduce weight and sports carpeting tacked to the bun area.

If you want a seat that stuffs in your pack, rip the seat down the middle, front to back, and screw a wide strip of piano hinge on the underside the length of the cut. If you have the mechanical capability, undercut or shave a slight angle on each face of the kerf so that the hinge-joined seat has a modest crown to it. Such a seat won't sag from repeated use. Use 3/4 plywood, and glue fabric over the hinge.

You can play lots of variations on seat length and width and actually make a very small but serviceable version. Just remember that this seat works on the lever/fulcrum principle with the knotted rope serving as the fulcrum. If the seat tends to collapse from your weight, you have positioned the two holes too close to the tree side of the seat. Conversely, if the seat does not stretch out and lock or grab into the tree, the holes are too distant from the tree.

The turkey hunting archer also has use for this seat. However you use it, for safety's sake, keep your excitement at ground level by keeping the seat out of tall trees.

And if you want to be more like Mike, before you go afield, practice shaking your head while you smile.