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Old 01-04-2017, 05:21 PM
Honolua Honolua is offline
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Default Buckhorn Outdoors Higher Level Climber (Leveling Climber)

I made a post on AT that I had been looking for a Climber that would be compact and highly portable. Jim Litmer from Thirdhand Archery chimed in and suggested that I get one of the, "Higher Level", climbers from Buckhorn Outdoors. I was skeptical since I was totally unfamiliar with the company or their products. But I spent some time on the Buckhorn Outdoor Products website http://www.buckhornoutdoorproducts.com/ and I quickly found out that these particular stands have the ability to maintain a level position on the tree with the aid of a small hand crank. To be clear, No Matter How Wide The Base Of The Tree Or How Much It Tapers During Your Ascent You Can ALWAYS STAY LEVEL! Say What? You Read that right.

I have a couple Summit Goliath climbers that I leave in the woods because they are so big and carrying them any where is a pain in the but because of their size. carrying them on my back feels about like carrying a ping pong table on my back, Not Fun. I am only 5'9" and have shorter legs than a lot of taller guys. What I needed was something that I could leave in the garage and tote in the woods as I change my mind on stand placement based on changing deer patterns.

After spending some time on the Buckhorn Outdoors website I ordered the Higher Level Archer Archer with a list Price of $375. It seemed like a little more money than I would typically spend but if it can do half of what the manufacturer claims it would seemingly be a bargain at twice the price!

Well after nearly a week of looking out the window every time a truck came up the street hoping it was my new climber it finally arrived yesterday.

Opening the box was like early Christmas. The stand is beautiful. The attention to detail is impressive and the quality is first rate. I grew up riding and racing dirtbikes. Until recently there was a very big gap between Honda dirtbikes and many of the other manufactures. The attention to detail is a big deal. I changed manufactures several times over the years and would always miss the 10-12mm bolts vs. the 8mm bolts of other manufactures. I even stripped an oil plug on the bottom of a Suzuki Crankcase once even though I used a torque wrench to tighten the CensoredCensoredCensoredCensored thing up...That would have never happened on a red bike. Well the attention to detail (or lack there of) can be expensive when it comes to breaking seat bolts and stripping drain plugs on dirt bikes but when it comes to a climbing stand it COULDCOST YOU YOUR LIFE.

The welds on this stand are flawless, a real thing of beauty. The powder coat finish is great as well. I have had several Summit Climbers and everyone I have had has had paint chipping off before it came out of the box. The backpack straps are padded and a noticeable step up from the Summit straps as well. Buckhorns straps are made with a very soft foam inside that your shoulders will thank you for after a long walk.

Packing the stand was easy and although it doesn't fold perfectly flat but it isn't terrible. It is pretty much on par with a Summit in this regard but I did find that is more compact and agile on the walk through the woods. I deliberately chose a stand location that would force a long walk bordering on a March so that I could either like or hate the portability by the time I reached my tree. I Loved It! I found it easier than the Summit Viper to tote a long distance.

Buckhorn includes a stabilizer strap system that is innovative as well. unlike traditional stabilizer straps the alligator clip is bolted to the side of the stand. STOP HERE FOR A SECOND AND LISTEN UP: IF YOU DO NOT USE STABILIZER STRAPS EVERYTIME YOU USE A CLIMBER YOU ARE RISKING YOUR LIFE! Stabilizer straps are every bit as important to your safety as a harness. They prevent lateral movement of your top and bottom sections that can jar your stand loose and cause you to fall. The fact that Buckhorn incorporates there stabilizer straps on their stand is nothing short of visionary. I know that there are several other companies that have stabilizer straps on their stands but I haven't found anything that works as well as Buckhorn's except for Thirdand Archery You can argue back and forth as to which is better but I think it is six of one and half dozen of the other, or a dead heat. I bolted the alligator clips facing down and backwards at roughly 45 degree angles to better accommodate the straps.

The stand did not come with a harness but lets be honest, who the CensoredCensoredCensoredCensored uses the ones that come with the stand in the first place? I have a whole CensoredCensoredCensoredCensored drawer dedicated to probably 12-14 of those things. While the harnesses that come with any typical stand is better than nothing, they leave a lot to be desired.

Buckhorn tackles the issue of foot straps or stirrups head on as well. There is an elastic band that is nestled down between the third and forth rungs on the platform that is kind of hidden away but always there when you need it. Although you can not just slide your foot into place with out leaning down and pulling them up over your boots they are extremely comfortable and very very effective. By comparison the Stirrups on the summits (Although I love the ease with which you can use them) are big and cumbersome and take up a lot of real estate. there is no question that Buckhorn's Foot straps are the best I have seen. Very simple and light weight.

The cable system on the higher level is definitely different than what I am used to. But where the rubber meets the road it is a great and practical system...just different than what I was accustomed to. The Higher Level utilizes sort of double "L" shaped pins and a tightening knob that secure the cables to the rail. It is safe, fast, quiet, and very secure. You decide where you want the cable, place the L-pins into the slots and simply tighten the knob. This system is very quiet and anyone that has ever used a summit will definitely appreciate the Higher Level's stealthier approach. Trying to adjust the cable length on a Summit without making any noise is about as easy as stepping on your kids' legos on the hard wood floor with a smile on your face...it aint gonna happen.

The gripping teeth are unique in their design. there are actually two rows of teeth that are about an inch or so apart and unlike the single row of white shark teeth on the Summit the Higher level's teeth are designed to grip just as well but not damage the cambium layer of the tree. This is important!!!! We are stewards of the woods leaving as little impact as we can and hopefully strengthening the herds and forest when we can. We are the managers of these resources that we enjoy. I have a big pine tree that I have hunted out of fairly regularly for two years that I have real reservations about climbing because I am afraid that my Summit stands are killing it. There are two vertical stripes that run down the 25 foot length of the tree where I have stripped the dang bark. The problem is that there are no other trees that are in a good position to hunt that greenfield. Ninety percent of the time I hunt with a bow and that really limits what trees I can hunt from. Although I don't have enough experience to say that the teeth on the Higher Level stands are less damaging to the tree, the certainly appear to be. The teeth on this stand are squared and wide, definitely a different approach from most manufacturers.

The thing that really distances this stand from the rest of the pack in a heavily saturated market is the leveling system. Buckhorn uses a Patented geared cranking system to accomplish this via a small removable hand crank on both the top section and platform section of the stand. If you find yourself on a tree that has a very wide base and a somewhat smaller trunk as your climb you will appreciate Buckhorn's solution to this problem. I don't know about you but I enjoy climbing down to add or subtract cable length about as much as I enjoy the sitting in the peeing section of the kiddie pool at the public park. I have bad knees from years of abuse and do not like to get on and off my stand platform any more than I absolutely have to.

According to Buckhorn Outdoors The leveling system has 10" of adjustment in the cable that can compensate for 6" in tree width. The cranking system is a thing of beauty. there is a small carrier cartridge that contains the gears and moves up and down the length of a threaded rod as you crank the handle one way or another. The hand crank has two places that it can be operated basically one on the inside and one on the outside which is very forward thinking since depending on what you are doing and where you are sitting you may be able to reach one side easier than the other. I won't pretend to understand how it works but I can tell you that it does exactly what they claim it will. It take a lot of the guess work on precise cable length out of the equation making for a much easier climb, particularly on trees that have wide bases or narrow trunks.

After getting the stand on the tree and securing my harness, I got onto the platform and started climbing. This particular tree is one that I used last year and knew it would make a great test tree for my maiden climb. It is not especially extreme but is definitely wider at the base than where you end up hunting from. This tree is great because on my Goliath it always seemed to me to be in between really good cable lengths and although that is a rare problem it was a non-issue with the higher level. making adjustments was a breeze but you absolutely can not have the slightest bit of weight on whichever section you are leveling. as I was raising the end of the platform I inadvertently allowed my feet to come into contact with the platform mid-adjustment and for a moment thought I had stripped the hand crank. My initial reaction was that it needs to be beefier, but in retrospect I think it is a great safety feature providing the user with a gentle reminder that it is not safe to be on the stand while it is being adjusted. It worked a bit like a fuse does. The crank would go before you would hurt yourself or damage the more expensive parts of the stand...another gold star for Buckhorn Outdoors.

The seat that comes with the higher level is definitely unusual, especially if you are used to the Summit style hanging seats. The Summit seat kinda lets you sit down under the top section and although it is comfortable on the bigger stands can be very constrictive once cold weather arrives and you are wearing bulky clothes. Point of fact this is the reason that I sold my Summit Viper, it was down right claustrophobic in the winter. The Buckhorn Outdoors solution to this issue is to mount the seat on top of the rails and let you sit above the snag and choke points. This is quite literally thinking outside the traditional box. The seat that they provide is basically a vinyl wrapped piece of foam padding that sits on a metal tray. The seat fits securely across the side rails and can be mounted across the front of the tree stand( making it possible to hunt facing the tree), across the back, or most anywhere in between. Although it is certainly adequate for long sits I wonder how much weight you would save by leaving it at home and utilizing Buckhorn's, "Silent Seat", which is their version of the Hazemore seat. I can tell you that I will be ordering one from them very soon.

When my hunt was over I did not adjust the stand on the way down as I wanted to see again the angle difference at the bottom of the tree and was surprised at the difference. packing up was a breeze and there is a 1" square piece that works perfectly for hanging my back pack handle from. I know it is designed to use the Buckhorn bow holder from but for my needs it works amazing to secure my pack from. I use the Thirdhand bow holder because I HATE using bow ropes and climb with my bow in the holder so this frees up the square piece to hold my pack.

On the way out of the woods I chose a very thick short cut that I learned long ago never to take with a Summit climber as they are just too bulky and snag every CensoredCensoredCensoredCensored thing imaginable so for comparison I wanted to see how the Higher level would perform on my back in the thick privet and brambles. I was very happy and before tonight could never imagine a stand allowing me the agility needed to navigate through that crap. WOW is all I can say.

Back at the atv I opted to leave the load on my back again to see how easy it was to drive like that. I was pleasantly surprised again that I could just about ride in a normal seating position. Although I had to stand up it was not nearly as uncomfortable as a Summit Viper.

This review was based on using the stand once. I will post follow ups as I use the stand more but I am very happy with my investment. I would recommend this stand to anyone. While it isn't cheap to buy it isn't cheaply made either. The stand is made with the highest craftsmanship and attention to detail. The safety features alone could literally save your live through preventing an accident.

Buckhorn Outdoor products has hit is out of the park and into the next county with this stand. I believe that as they grow and become more well known they will become an industry standard by which all others are measured. In an industry that is over saturated with tree stands and claims of greatness, this climber is in a very literal sense on a, "Higher level", than anything that I have used before. Buckhorn Outdoor Products has very quietly entered into the fray and through innovation and attention to detail has positioned to get a choke hold on the industry.

Climber Width 21.5" Length 27" Weighs 22 Lbs 7 Oz.
Tree sizes 8" - 20" Diameter
Rated to 350 Lbs.
Lifetime Guarantee on the Frame and all welds
Specialty Geared-Leveling Channel Arms
Welded High-Strength, Lightweight Aluminum
Heat-Treated to reduce stress points
Constructed of Aluminum, Stainless Steel, and High-Strength Nylon (no rusting)
Powder Coated, Durable finish
Easy to Assemble design will last a lifetime.
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