While you have a bow in your hand, you sure as heck don't want anything obstructing your shot. That's my biggest beef with ladder and climbing treestands; they usually have a bar that sits right in front of your shot, making it a lot harder to use a bow while deer hunting. Lock-on treestands, on the other hand, are not much more than a small platform and a seat, which is exactly why bowhunters like them so much. Lock-on stands are also fairly inexpensive compared to ladders or climbers, and you can set up two or three of them for what you would pay for other types of stands.
Before you go buying a shiny new lock-on stand, you need to make sure you're looking for the right thing. They sound fairly simple, but there are a few specifics you should look at before you hit that "Add to Cart" button.
Top Features of Quality Lock-On Treestands
Let's talk about one of the most important factors about this type of hunting gear first—comfort. We always want our deer stands to be fairly comfortable, but up to certain a point. You are in the stand to hunt, and you should be watching the woods, not the back of your eyelids. Comfort is going to depend the most on the seat. Some climber stands have a back to their seat, and others don't. Seats also come in two main material types: a mesh-like fabric, and a regular foam seat cushion.
I can say from experience that the mesh seats are more comfortable than you may think if you have never used one before. They also dry out quicker than their foam counterparts. Foam seats are fairly comfortable as well, but you can't really leave a foam seat out for an extended period of time and expect it to hold up. Picking between the two just comes down to personal preference, and your preferred hunting method.
You'll also need a lock-on treestand that is easy to carry in and out. Mobile hunters like to use lock-on stands because the good ones are much lighter than a typical climber stand. You can easily find lock-on stands between 12 and 20 pounds, and the lightest climbers on the market are 18 to 20 pounds. If you are hunting in a new area for about a week, you probably want to hunt a few different places on the property. Many would prefer the lighter, sleeker stand that isn't going to get hung on brush and limbs while moving from hunting spot to hunting spot.
Like any hunting stand, you also don't want it to make much noise. Most of the stands on the market today have some sort of coating on them that reduces any metal-on-metal clattering. High quality stands can also have foam injected into their tubing to further dampen the noise. This technology is fairly common, and you can easily find a stand that will not clang at all when you hit it with metal, and won't squeak when it rubs against itself. Now that you know what you're looking for, let's look at a few stands worth considering.
If you want a lock-on stand that you can sit in for a whole day comfortably, you want the Millennium M150. This stand has a back rest, extremely comfortable seat, and a generous platform. The seat is made of mesh, so it is durable and has some give to it, but it can also be a little tougher to get up from than other stands. It does weigh a lot for a lock-on stand at 19.5 pounds, but it's still fairly easy to hang up. That extra weight goes towards the huge platform that also has a foot rest on the end. This gives you plenty of room to move around for a shot, even while the seat is down. Even though this stand is relatively heavy, its design makes it super simple to hang. In fact, you don't actually have to hold the whole stand up to hang it. Instead, you hang a receiver onto the tree. Once you have all of that strapped down, you climb back down to get your lock-on, climb back up and just slide the stand onto the receiver. All and all, this is a roomy and comfortable lock-on choice.
A lot of hunters look for the most affordable gear they can find that isn't complete garbage. If you want a decent lock-on stand that costs less than $150, then the "The Boss" from Muddy is ideal. This is a simple, no-frills lock-on and it is made to get the job done without a ton of bells and whistles. Personally, I like to use less expensive stands so I can hang more of them around my hunting property. If I can get two or three of these reliable units for the same price as a top of the line stand, why wouldn't I? Plus, these things are built to last, and a little rain is not going to hurt them.
We all live for prime time in the woods. You know the moment: just as the late evening is settling in and you can feel that deer are about to start moving... that's when you want to be on stand. It's when most hunters get super excited and really start hunting hard. The best stand for prime time is actually the best stand for standing up, at the ready, waiting for the perfect opportunity.
For steady and stable standing, the best heavy duty treestand is definitely the Summit Dual Axis Treestand. Interestingly enough, it's the seat that makes this stand ideal to stand in. When you flip up the seat of the Dual Axis, it actually acts as a lower back support thanks to its curved design. So this is going to help you stand up longer and be more comfortable when deer start moving. Of course, the seat is also super comfortable to sit in as well.
Lock-on stands are also a favorite for mobile hunters. If you are the type who likes mobile options and you are going to be moving around a lot, you know you'll be taking your stand up and down frequently. You do not want to be lugging around a heavy treestand. If that is you, then your best lock-on stand would be the Millennium Treestands M7 Microlite. Of course, there are a few trade offs due the light weight, but the fact that this stand weighs just 8.5 pounds sets it apart from the rest. That's a serious advantage! My climber stand weighs at least three times that. Thanks to its low profile, the M7 Microlite won't get caught on very many briars or limbs if you are pushing through thick brush to a new hunting spot.