Despite our obsession with all-seeing trail cams and game-funneling food plots, a good part of the allure of hunting wily mature whitetails remains in the unknown details—exactly how the new year’s quest will unfold. Much more predictable, at least for those who haunt most public-land tracts, is that a great many treestands will be hung, in a wide variety of great-looking spots, before most of us will ever drop the string.
This is why I developed a homemade treestand-toting pack that allows me to carry a compact hang-on treestand, four climbing sticks, and fully loaded backpack, with more efficiency and comfort than most “store-bought” packs designed specifically for that purpose. This pack’s value really shines when I have to hike long distances to remote public hotspots; most anyone can build one, with minimal time and money invested.
First, locate an old aluminum external-frame pack gathering dust in your attic, on the internet, or maybe a garage sale. “Freighter-type” hunting-style frames are ideal; look for one with nice comfy hip and shoulder pads built for heavy loads. If your frame also includes a bag, remove it; all you will need is the frame.
Next, you’ll need a series of 1- or 1.5-inch nylon straps with quick-release buckles found at most larger hardware stores or mountaineering shops. You’ll need two straps and buckles to attach the stand to the top of the frame, two more to attach a pair of climbing sticks at the top right and left, and a top-center strap with buckle hanging down to attach your loaded daypack. (The pack is attached last, and rides on top of the stand.) Don’t forget a long strap—or two—mounted on the frame sides that allows you to stabilize your load horizontally. Be sure to leave straps nice and long to accommodate varying-sized stands and sticks. In addition, I attached two optional, heavy-duty bungee cords to the frame bottom—one to each side—that allow me to further stabilize unwieldy loads.
Attach straps to the frame with rivets or heavy-duty zip ties; heavy-duty duct tape will do in a pinch. After attaching your straps, perform a “test-drive” with stand, sticks, and pack mounted. Your goal now is to achieve absolute silence under a full load; add duct tape to the pack frame as necessary to silence any squeaks, jangling metal o-rings, or other metal-to-metal contact.
When it comes right down to it, there are few aspects of public-land bowhunting that come easy. Often, success means taking extra caution with stand entrance and exit strategies, which typically equates to longer, more-difficult routes. Adding a custom, versatile treestand pack to your arsenal like the one described above can help make those “long way around” trips faster and easier—and give you a valuable leg up on the local competition.