Sunday, September 30, 2012

Treestand Hunting

Victor is a serious moose hunter. Every year he bags a moose from a tree stand. He'd been in a motorcycle accident years back causing some injuries to his back and leg that made humping about the backwoods a bit too painful for pleasurable hunting.
Since flipping my Polaris Quad my back had been hurting. So I asked him about the treestands I'd recently seen in the Cabelas catalogue. (Cabelas is the one stop shopping for adult males who've outgrown the Sears catalogue.) Everything related to hunting all manner of game in all kinds of conditions is found in Cabelas. They've even opened a new store south of the border near Bellingham and it's been my plan for a year to get down there and attend a hunter revival meeting. My friends Luke and Sonny had been and they were pretty much ecstatic describing being inside a Cabelas store like they could walk as Lilluputians right into a Cabelas catalogue
Victor borrowed my Cabelas Catalogue and said he'd look into it for me. Next thing I know, Victor has a newer Cabelas bigger cadillac tree stand and has sold me his old one for next to nothing. He said his was lighter but now that I expect the new one might have hydraulic lift, hover craft and heated seats that made it more appealing than the original basic package. For me the price was right and I figured if this had worked for Victor it was surely going to bag me a moose on it's own. Given all the good mojo it had collected with Victor I kind of hoped it would maybe fall on an animal and crush it in the night so I could just come along and collect the game.
It was spring when Victor showed me how it went up. It was fall when I first took it hunting.
Tom is a Queen's University Mining Engineer, Airplane Pilot, and sailed back from Hawaii with me one summer after I sailed solo to Hawaii one winter.
Meanwhile I'd found a place with regular moose highways all over near Clearwater BC. It was a perfect place for a tree stand. I'd carried the treestand all over in the back of my truck by then looking for just this spot. Finally Tom and I were going to assemble it and put it to good use.
It has a big seat at one end and a half dozen interconnecting scaffolding bits for the ladder. Left to my own devices I'd have had the seat facing the tree but Tom turned it about on the ground getting the bits facing forward to save me later embarrassment.
Getting the 16 foot high contraption up against a tree was a whole other proposition. First the tree I had originally picked was hardly 10 feet high. The next tree we picked was high enough but had a little tree in front of it making for later difficulties. It really should be just one tree and bare tree at the bottom. This little tree caused the whole thing at the last moment to shift so only half the of seat was against the tree and half of the brace. But that only came to light later.
Having watched movies of the Alamo and other Hollywood renditions of wall scaling in war by men charging with ladders, we naturally approached this 'laddered' tree stand the same way. Tom and I got under the ladder walking it up as we assaulted the tree. We forgot that in the war movies they are using light weight wood ladders, not steel scaffolding with a blood heavy padded seat contraption on top. That heavy seat at the top wasn't at all in a cooperative mood, either. The tree stand just about catapulted us back to the ground as it twisted away from the little tree and left us very glad there was no enemy above with cross bows and boiling oil.
While I was trying to remember what Victor had told me about getting the tree stand up, Tom figured a rope was the answer. Thankfully Luke had left one in my truck.
With this Tom got behind the tree and lassooed the tree stand pulling it up to the tree. That worked a heck of a lot better than our previously plan. He even went on to climb up the ladder tying the rope higher and higher each time, having me fetch him up the end. Pretty soon he actually had the stand up and tried pivotting to sit for awhile admiring his work, high up in the tree stand way, close to God.
Proud of himself, he descended, having tested the engineering creation said, "Now you can use it."
I remembered I was afraid of heights from falling out of Garth Robertson's tree when I was 6 or 7 years old. Though I've climbed sailboat masts, worked on roofs with my father and brother, it all seemed at that moment in retrospect, to have been psychotic 'counterphobic behaviour." The ladder was wobbly, seemed very flimsy and the tree stand seat was really really high up there.
Of course, I snagged my rifle on the safety bar that is used to keep a person falling out of the stand. I had to slither up through this opening and laying my rifle across the chair arm rests make this daring pivot. I snagged my coat and the knife on my belt bucket after that. I was exhausted from effort and terror when I finally had myself turned around so I could sit facing out from the tree.
Seeing I'd finally got myself in place Tom showed his approval by bidding adieux. He left in the truck taking Gilbert the cockapoo with him. Victor had given me a basket I could haul Gilbert up in like the Mediterranean monks had done. I figured we'd reserve that plan for another day.
It was nearly an hour before I became unfrozen and got a bit comfortable sitting way up in the ether near the space station. A bird flew by almost hitting my face.
The view though was incredible. The treestand is a great way to hunt. Unfortunately I nodded off and woke with a startle so sure I was falling that I almost threw myself out of the chair to compensate for the feeling.
Victor had told me "Don't kill yourself." I understood better what he meant now.
I prayed, meditated, looked at every shadow with my binoculars , ate granola bars and drank the coke I'd brought alone. I nodded off again, again waking with a startle, sure I was falling out of the sky. This happened a few times over the next few hours. Definitely very disconcerting. Also the no see um bugs found me and I'd not brought bug spray which was in the truck with Tom and Gilbert.
No game came however. I watched voles, chipmunks, whiskey jacks and jays come and go. But the moose remained elusive.
Finally because I had to pee I went back through the daring contortions that had me turned around in the seat not dropping my rifle and getting it over my shoulder so I could descend the ladder. Only my knife hilt snagged this time.
I'd got up and down the ladder a couple times more for night and morning hunting without successfully shooting anything but feeling better and more confident each time.
When Luke and Tom had gone off in the truck for early evening hunting and I was riding the Honda Big Ruckus, all of us agreeing to meet back at the lake , that last evening night, I decided as darkness fell to go the treestand and start taking it down myself.
I left a note for Tom and Luke by the lake and decided I'd start to take it down myself only to arrive in pitch darkness to find Luke's Toyota truck. Tom and he had come while the light was still out so Luke could climb up and check the system out. "Incredible," he said. When I arrived Tom and he with the scaffolding ladder on the ground.
"Taking it down was almost as much of Gong show as putting it up," said Tom. I couldn't imagine that possible so wished I'd been there to see this. Luke had loved it, seeing the incredible view one had. As the big game didn't have predators in the sky, they didn't look up. Clearly one could simply climb into a tree but the tree stand provided a whole other level of comfort to the experience. this was the cat's meow of technology. That I hadn't seen a moose wasn't a reflection on the tree stand but the incredible sunny late fall weather which had the animals having all night to cavort so that they were asleep early and late in the day.
I'd certainly recommend a tree stand. Taking a certified Engineer along the first time was a wise move too. Someone else might remember to pay attention to instructions or read them, if they consider this truly beautiful hunting addition. I was actually lifting my gun and sighting things the next day I was up in the stand. The first morning I didn't even lift my rifle but hung on for dear life trying desperately to stay awake.
Red bull would be a better tree stand beverage than Jack Daniels, just for those who might benefit from such advice.

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