When I first started hunting Fort Gordon in the '70s I met another hunter who was a Supply SGT in the Pole Lineman's Course. He signed me out a Pole Lineman's Toolbox which contained a set of the regular pole lineman's climbers, a climbing belt (w/ tool-holder loops), and extra replacement spike inserts. I used them quite a bit for getting up into the lower branches of pines and oak trees to hunt out of. The only climbing stands around at that time were the, then new, HIGHLY UNRELIABLE Baker Stands.
Here are a few hints and some information for those who might consider using them. The following list is in no particular order, but all items are important to note:
1. To start with, you MUST HAVE pretty strong ankles and legs to use them properly.
2. When climbing, you MUST KEEP YOUR LEGS SLIGHTLY BOW-LEGGED in order for the spikes to BITE INTO THE TREE PROPERLY
3. Use the RIGHT SPIKE SET for the type of tree/wood you are climbing on.
The SHORT SPIKES are for HARDWOODS AND POLES. The LONG SPIKES are for PINES AND SOFT-BARKED TREES.
NOTE: Using the SHORT SPIKES in a PINE TREE will most likely result in the spike NOT PENETRATING through the outer bark into the tree itself.... resulting in a "TREE RASH" as you "BURN THE POLE" back to the ground when the bark comes off embeded on the spike. (This can sometimes even happen with the LONG SPIKES too on older, large THICK-BARKED PINES.)
4. Use a CLIMBING BELT designed for use with Tree Climbing Spikes
. It allows you to climb AT A BETTER ANGLE to the tree, is easier on the legs/ankles, and gives you a THIRD HAND effectively as you climb.... PLUS --- can help keep you from slipping if your spike "CUTS-OUT".
5. Adjust the CLIMBING BELT so your chest is about 8-10" from the tree when used for climbing
. This way it can "catch you" and STOP YOU FROM FALLING should your spikes "CUT-OUT" from the tree. This also is far enough away from the tree to allow you to "LAY-BACK" once you "LOCK-IN" BOTH FEET
and hook up your fixed stand or cut branches off that might need to be removed to climb higher.
6. When climbing try to PLANT YOUR SPIKES at the edge of a 90 degree arc relative your placement on the tree
7. KEEP BOTH HANDS FREE WHEN CLIMBING!
If you carry a saw or tools, TIE THEM TO YOUR CLIMBING BELT. Attach a rope to your belt and then to your stand, gun or pack and then pull them up ONCE YOU'VE REACHED YOUR CLIMBING GOAL AND ARE "LOCKED-IN".
**Use of a SAFETY HARNESS is also recommended when attaching a stand or hunting from tree branches.**
8. PRACTICE! .... PRACTICE! .... PRACTICE! ....
Using only a 3-6 foot high HEIGHT LIMIT until you are VERY CONFIDENT in BOTH CLIMBING UP and DESCENDING. Also practice "LOCKING-IN" BOTH FEET and "LAYING-BACK" --- at ONE FOOT HIGH from the ground until your ARE CONFIDENT IN THE CLIMBING BELT
VERY IMPORTANT REASON TO USE THE CLIMBING BELT!
(And hardest to remember to do!)
9. If you should happen to "CUT-OUT" (loose your "BITE" on the tree with your SPIKES), PUSH Y0URSELF AWAY FROM THE TREE with your hands.... while at the same time BRINGING YOUR HEELS TOGETHER AND PUSHING THEM INTO THE TREE.
**This will allow the CLIMBING BELT to GRIP THE TREE and STOP YOUR FALL, while at the same time forcing your lower body and legs into the tree. ** IT WORKS!
**PRACTICE this manuever at 4-6 feet from the ground to prove to yourself that it works and gain confidence in the ability of the CLIMBING BELT and SPIKES to do their job
It is INSTINCTIVE to grab the tree with your arms if you slip, but this will not normally prevent you from slipping down the tree (since your CLIMBING BELT is too loose to get a "grip" on the tree) resulting in a very painful "TREE-RASH" or splinters/bark being embedded into your face, chest, arms and legs.
This is how I was taught to use them by an instructor at the Pole Lineman's Course and is what they teach their students.
I hope this helps some of you who might consider using climbing spikes for setting up your treestands or just to enable you to climb directly into trees with no branches near ground level.
As others have mentioned, spend the extra money and buy a "professional quality" set that attaches BOTH firmly ABOVE THE CALF and AROUND THE LOWER FOOT/ANKLE! On the ones I used the main steel shank was L-shaped and extended from just below the knee to under the arch of the foot in front of boot heel.
The CLIMBING BELT should have large D-RINGS on both hips.... the one I used was all HEAVY LEATHER. You might be able to locate a complete climber set at a war-surplus store or in Sportsman's Guide. I'll check to see if they have them there.
NOTE: I checked Sportsman's Guide and they have a set, but the CLIMBING SPIKES look like the SAME SET sold by Cabelas - short, with little leg support. The CLIMBING BELT is made of nylon and not very sturdy looking or practical.