Came up around 3:00 with the whole family and the ATV trailer in tow. It’s full of treated lumber destined for the marsh; this weekend, I shall rebuild the deer stand. With the scaffolding no longer viable, I looked up some other tower-based stand construction methods and settled on an option that uses a wooden deck mounted on cross-braced 4x4s with purpose-built compound-angle brackets. Here’s hoping I can actually get the thing put together by tomorrow night.
Hannah was happy to be back and got right to sprinting around the yard. I think I broke her by coming up last weekend without her; she’s been acting weird all week. The boys went straight for their Power Wheels and began exploring the edges of the yard, Lyssa started setting things up in the keep, and I got right to work putting together the deck platform.
Earlier this week, I used SketchUp to plan out the new stand. The old one’s masonry scaffolding skeleton provided a 5′ x 7′ platform about 9 feet off the ground, so I shot for something similar. Using 12′ 4x4s sunk 2 feet into the ground as the main support legs and a 5′ x 8′ deck platform, this new stand will have a little more room, sit a little higher up, and it can be put together with minimal board cutting and very little waste of material. I began by framing out 2x6s for the deck platform. I used joist hangers for each board to provide extra support as this thing is going to be out in the elements and I don’t want to depend on edge-screwed lumber to hold me up. Lyssa gave me a hand getting things lined up before going off to see what the boys were up to.
Turns out, they had their sights set on tree-climbing. There’s a nice, tall pine near the marsh trails with branches perfectly spaced for it. I tried not to think about how much effort I was putting into a deer stand when these guys can just shimmy up a tree like it’s nothing. As I was going through the fasteners and other goods from Menards for the stand, I remembered that I bought some sturdy rope last time I was there, too. I grabbed it, tossed it over a branch, and set up the boys’ swing again for them.
By 6:00, I had the platform built and the elevator brackets attached. I grabbed the green ATV, hooked up the larger of the two yard trailers, and slid the platform onto it. I stacked the 12′ 4x4s and the cross-brace boards on top and parked the ATV along the brick garden wall. Tomorrow, I’ll drive this out to the marsh and start assembly of the base.
It was starting to get dark, so the boys parked their Power Wheels in the pole barn, I cleaned up my tools, and we all headed inside where Lyssa made some pizzas for us. She and I have been married 11 years today and this isn’t the first time we’ve celebrated an anniversary up here. I married a very understanding woman.
I took a quick shower, then set up the boys on the futon and put on Mythbusters for them. Hannah was passed out on her dog bed fairly early. Lyssa and I watched some TV in the bedroom and were out before 11:00. Big day of work ahead tomorrow.
Jake and Josh were up characteristically early and were dressed and out playing by 8:00, Hannah happily loping along behind them. It’s only in the mid 40s out, but the keep stayed comfortably 70° all night. Lyssa and I enjoyed some morning coffee and got ourselves ready for the day. We called Hannah back inside, and the four of us headed to Aunt Judy’s around 9:45. The boys ate like we had starved them for a week, both of them absolutely inhaling their omelets.
We got back a little before 11:00 and Hannah got to feast on Lyssa’s leftover chocolate-chip pancakes. We also gave her an English muffin. Instead of eating it, she paced around the yard with it in her mouth. Curious about her plans for it, Lyssa and I watched her make her way to the tall grass in the brick garden, set it down against the foundation wall, and use her nose to bury it with leaves. We’ve never seen her do anything like that before; it was really cute to watch her carefully bury her treasure.
I got the ATV fired up, grabbed my tools and supplies, and headed out to the marsh. I figured the best way to get the base together would be to do it upside-down while the platform was still on the trailer. Lyssa gave me a hand getting the 4×4 posts in place while I secured them to the brackets. Next, she held the cross-braces in place so I could screw them into the posts. I also sunk some screws into the X where each set of cross-braces meet to give it some extra rigidity. The boys were playing pretend and exploring the marsh as we worked, and Hannah found a cool patch of marsh grass to melt into.
When the frame was fully assembled, we carefully tilted it to one side and flipped it off the trailer. It’s heavy, large, and unwieldy, but it’s certainly sturdy. The next part was the make-or-break point for the whole operation: raising the platform. After tugging it in place and propping the bottom-side of the deck platform up on a bucket to get it in starting position, I hooked my tow strap into the two top-side elevator brackets and attached the ATV’s winch cable to the middle of the strap. Lyssa ran the winch while keeping the ATV throttling in reverse as I helped lift and guide the stand upward from the other side. As it got closer to upright position, I hung off the far end from a rope to keep it from crashing down and possibly tipping toward my wife. The whole thing settled into place with a satisfying thud and I let out a yell of triumph.
There was still a lot to do to finish construction, but at least the rest could be handled solo. Lyssa headed back to the keep and the boys went off to explore again. I grabbed a shovel and the ever-useful blue ice auger and started digging post holes for the four corners of the platform right next to each post. I used duct tape to mark the handle of the auger two feet down the shaft so I knew when to stop. After I had my holes dug, I tossed a few bricks in the bottom of each one to (hopefully) help prevent this thing from being swallowed whole by the marsh. Getting it in place was easier than I expected; I was able to lift and heave two legs at a time. It ended up sitting surprisingly level but I’m sure we’ll have to do some work on that front once it settles.
I used the blue ATV and the smaller yard trailer to bring out the rest of my lumber. I tossed all the deck planks up onto the platform and climbed the ladder to screw them in. Once I had them properly positioned, spaced out, and screwed to the outermost framing joists, I climbed up on the platform for the first time. It was glorious. While it’s not all that much taller than the old one, the difference is immediately noticeable. Plenty of work remained, so I didn’t stop too long before getting back to it. I finished screwing the planks to the rest of the joists and removed the two outermost planks completely. I’ll need them out to attach the 8′ 4x4s and 2x4s for the frame of the actual blind.
This proved to be the hardest part of the entire build. At this point in the day, it was misting so everything was slick. I had to hold the post upright against a framing square with one hand as I sunk some temporary screws into it with the other. After it was in place, I drilled a 1/2″ hole through it and secured it to the platform with a 6″ lag bolt. This was repeated for each corner. The two 2x4s that frame out the ladder opening were a little easier because of how much lighter they are and the fact that they were secured with brackets instead.
With the posts in place, I wrapped them together with some treated 2×4 “rails” about four feet up from the bottom. This will serve as an attachment point for wall panels later. Finally, I cut openings for the posts and slid the two outer deck planks back into place and screwed them down. I drilled into the frame of the aluminum ladder and fastened it to one of the 2×4 posts with a lag screw. With that, my project was complete.
Jake had been hanging around and watching me for the last hour or so of the build and was anxious to finally get my blessing to come up and check it out himself. Josh had gone inside for a snack and to warm up, but Jake ran back to get him and he was just as excited to climb up. I had been sending Dad pictures as the day progressed and he was thrilled with the results. He couldn’t believe the whole thing went up in a day and honestly neither could I. The whole project went better than I could have hoped and now we’ve got a place to come and chill out for Puckaweekend again. I christened the new stand, “the battlement” in keeping with our castle-parts naming scheme.
It was late afternoon at this point and I was absolutely spent. I gathered up my tools, the little bit of scrap lumber left from the build, and the junk (mostly cinder blocks and rotten planking) from around the base of the stand and headed back to the yard. I finished cleaning up and closed up the pole barn while Lyssa got the keep buttoned up. I changed out of my wet clothes and hooked up the ATV trailer to haul back to my folks’ house and we were on the road around 6:45 just as it got dark, riding high on success.