Title:
Leveling device for use with a tree stand, tree stand incorporating same, and method of using same
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A leveling apparatus, for use with a tree stand, allows a user to angularly adjust a position of the tree stand on an inclined tree, to bring platforms of the tree stand into a horizontal orientation. The apparatus includes a fork member having a shaft portion with a threaded bore formed therein and a working end opposite the shaft portion. The working end of the fork member has a toothed structure for contacting a tree trunk. The apparatus also includes a mounting member including a sleeve having an open end which slidably receives the shaft portion of the fork member therein. The apparatus also includes a mechanism for moving the fork member in relation to the sleeve member, to facilitate leveling of a tree stand attached to the mounting member. A tree stand incorporating the leveling apparatus, and a method of using the apparatus are also described.



Inventors:
Pestrue, Jeffrey A. (St. Louis, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/368033
Publication Date:
09/07/2006
Filing Date:
03/03/2006
Assignee:
Eastman Holding Company (Flushing, MI, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04G3/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20060254856Ladder base anchoring deviceNovember, 2006Kuniewich et al.
20090084629Intermediate BracketApril, 2009Luke
20060283666Flexible ladder with supporting accessoryDecember, 2006Zhou
20080105492Transport and storage container for scaffold frames and bracesMay, 2008Maxson
20080000720LADDER ANCHORING SYSTEMJanuary, 2008Porch et al.
20090084630FALL-PREVENTION DEVICE DESIGNED TO INTERACT WITH A RIGID BELAY SUPPORTApril, 2009Argoud
20090078827FOLDABLE STEP FOR A VEHICLE, AND A VEHICLE PROVIDED WITH SUCH A STEP UNITMarch, 2009Martin
20050145435Twin retractable for fall arrestJuly, 2005Choate
20040011590Extension ladder roller deviceJanuary, 2004Quick
20100025154MODULAR LADDERFebruary, 2010Kim
20090308003SWIMMING POOL STAIRSDecember, 2009Juneau et al.



Primary Examiner:
CHIN-SHUE, ALVIN CONSTANTINE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARRIER BLACKMAN AND ASSOCIATES PC (NOVI, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An adjustable leveling apparatus for use with a tree stand, said leveling apparatus comprising: a fork member having a shaft portion and a working end opposite the shaft portion, said working end having toothed structure thereon for engagingly contacting a tree trunk, a mounting member, comprising: a sleeve having an open end which slidably and telescopically receives the shaft portion of the fork member therein, said mounting member, said sleeve having a hollow passage formed therein and having a longitudinal axis; and a bracket fixedly attached to the sleeve for use in attaching the mounting member to a tree stand; and an adjustment mechanism interconnecting the fork member and the mounting member for slidably moving the sleeve member in relation to the fork member.

2. The leveling apparatus of claim 1, wherein the shaft portion of the fork member has a threaded bore formed therein; wherein the mounting member comprises a substantially vertical plate attached to the sleeve and oriented substantially transverse to the longitudinal axis of the sleeve, said plate having a through hole formed therein which communicates with the hollow passage of the sleeve; and wherein the adjustment mechanism comprises an adjustment stud having a transverse medial flange thereon and having a first end portion with male threading thereon and configured to fit into the threaded bore of the shaft portion, said adjustment stud having a second end portion opposite the first end portion, said second end portion configured to fit through the through hole of the mounting member's vertical plate.

3. The leveling apparatus of claim 2, further comprising a handle member which fits on a tip of the second end portion of the adjustment stud.

4. The leveling apparatus of claim 2, further comprising a grommet which fits into the through hole of the mounting member's vertical plate, and which receives part of the second end of the adjustment stud therein.

5. The leveling apparatus of claim 1, wherein the sleeve comprises a top wall having a bore formed therein, wherein a retainer nut is welded to the top wall of the sleeve in a manner such that respective openings of the bore and the retainer nut are concentrically aligned with one another, and further comprising a locking stud which fits into the retainer nut and which can be tightened against the shaft of the fork member to temporarily fix the position of the fork member in the sleeve.

6. An adjustable leveling apparatus for use with a tree stand, said leveling apparatus comprising: a fork member having a shaft portion with a threaded bore formed therein and a working end opposite the shaft portion, said working end having toothed structure thereon for engagingly contacting a tree trunk, a mounting member, comprising: a sleeve having an open end which slidably and telescopically receives the shaft portion of the fork member therein, said sleeve having a hollow passage formed therein and having a longitudinal axis; and a bracket fixedly attached to the sleeve for use in attaching the mounting member to a tree stand; and an adjustment mechanism interconnecting the fork member and the mounting member for slidably moving the sleeve member in relation to the fork member.

7. The leveling apparatus of claim 6, wherein the mounting member comprises a bracket having a substantially L-shaped cross-section, said bracket comprising a substantially vertical plate attached to the sleeve and oriented substantially transverse to the longitudinal axis of the sleeve, said plate having a through hole formed therein which communicates with the hollow passage of the sleeve; and wherein the adjustment mechanism comprises an adjustment stud having a transverse medial flange thereon and having a first end portion with male threading thereon and configured to fit into the threaded bore of the shaft portion, said adjustment stud having a second end portion opposite the first end portion, said second end portion configured to fit through the through hole of the mounting member's vertical plate; and wherein the apparatus further comprises a handle member which fits on a tip of the second end portion of the adjustment stud outside of the sleeve.

8. The leveling apparatus of claim 7, further comprising a grommet which fits into the through hole of the mounting member's vertical plate, and which receives part of the second end of the adjustment stud therein.

9. The leveling apparatus of claim 6, wherein the sleeve comprises a top wall having a bore formed therein, wherein a retainer nut is welded to the top wall of the sleeve in a manner such that respective openings of the bore and the retainer nut are concentrically aligned with one another, and further comprising a locking stud which fits into the retainer nut and which can be tightened against the shaft of the fork member to temporarily fix the position of the fork member in the sleeve.

10. A kit of components capable of being assembled to form an adjustable leveling apparatus for use with a tree stand, said kit comprising: a fork member having a shaft portion with a threaded bore formed therein and a working end opposite the shaft portion, said working end having toothed structure thereon for engagingly contacting a tree trunk, a mounting member, comprising: a sleeve having an open end which slidably and telescopically receives the shaft portion of the fork member therein, said sleeve having a hollow passage formed therein and having a longitudinal axis; and a bracket fixedly attached to the sleeve for use in attaching the mounting member to a tree stand wherein the mounting member, said bracket having a substantially L-shaped cross-section and comprising a substantially vertical plate attached to the sleeve and oriented substantially transverse to the longitudinal axis of the sleeve, said plate having a through hole formed therein which communicates with the hollow passage of the sleeve; an adjustment stud having a transverse medial flange thereon and having a first end portion with male threading thereon and configured to fit into the threaded bore of the shaft portion, said adjustment stud having a second end portion opposite the first end portion, said second end portion configured to fit through the through hole of the mounting member's vertical plate, and a handle member which fits on a tip of the second end portion of the adjustment stud.

11. The kit of claim 10, wherein the sleeve comprises a top wall having a bore formed therein, wherein a retainer nut is welded to the top wall of the sleeve in a manner such that respective openings of the bore and the retainer nut are concentrically aligned with one another, and further comprising a locking stud which fits into the retainer nut and which can be tightened against the shaft of the fork member to temporarily fix the position of the fork member in the sleeve.

12. A tree stand, comprising: a main frame section; a flexible mounting member operatively the main frame section for use in attaching the tree stand to a tree trunk; a seat section operatively attached to a top portion of the main frame section; a foot support platform operatively attached to a bottom portion of the main frame section; and an adjustable leveling apparatus attached to the main frame section of the tree stand, where said leveling apparatus is the apparatus of claim 1.

13. A tree stand, comprising: a main frame section; a flexible mounting member operatively the main frame section for use in attaching the tree stand to a tree trunk; a seat section operatively attached to a top portion of the main frame section; a foot support platform operatively attached to a bottom portion of the main frame section; and an adjustable leveling apparatus attached to the main frame section of the tree stand, where said leveling apparatus is the apparatus of claim 7.

14. A method of leveling a tree stand, said method comprising the steps of: a) operating an adjustment member to push a mounting member of a leveling apparatus outwardly relative to a fork member of the apparatus, where the mounting member is affixed to a frame of a tree stand, where movement of the mounting member changes an angular orientation of the tree stand in relation to a tree on which the tree stand is mounted; b) tightening a locking member to temporarily fix the position of the mounting member in relation to the fork member.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein the adjustment member is operated by rotating an adjustment stud with a handle member, where an end portion of the adjustment stud opposite the handle member has male threads thereon which are threadably engaged in a threaded bore of the fork member.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a leveling device for use with a tree stand utilized by a hunter or a naturalist in the wild, to a method of leveling a tree stand, and to a tree stand incorporating a leveling device as a component thereof. More particularly, the present invention relates to a leveling device that allows fine tuning of leveling of a tree stand mounted on a variety of tree trunks including slant, variable diameter and crooked tree trunks.

2. Description of the Background Art

There are many known climbing and elevated support devices, generally referred as tree stands, for elevating the position of a hunter or a naturalist in the field. These devices may be divided into three categories: a fixed position tree stand, a climbing tree stand and a ladder stand.

A fixed-position tree stand, also known as hang-on tree stand, includes a standing platform connected to a lower end of a main frame section, and a seating platform connected to an opposite end of the frame section. In use, the main frame section is engaged with tree trunk, such that the standing platform and the seating platform are oriented parallel to each other.

A drawback of the conventional tree stands without a leveling feature, is that they are mainly suitable for mounting on trees with substantially upright or vertically oriented trunks. If one of the known tree stands is mounted on a leaning, bent or inclined tree trunk, the standing and seating platforms are also inclined accordingly, as these platforms are rigidly and non-adjustably configured in relation to the main frame section.

A climbing tree stand generally includes a pair of climbing members, including a lower climbing member and an upper climbing member, which are alternatively raised by a person to attain a desired elevated position on a tree. A ladder stand includes a ladder and a platform attached to one end of the ladder. The stand is positioned and leaned against the tree and secured thereon such that the platform comes in contact with the tree trunk at a desired elevation.

The attachment of tree stands to a tree trunk rely generally on the size and angle of the tree. The tree stands are generally securely attached to the tree via a connecting strap or other fastening mechanism. As the seating and standing platforms of a tree stand are generally fixed to a frame, these platforms will be inevitably in a directional orientation corresponding to an orientation of the tree to which the stand is attached. When a conventional tree stand is attached to a leaned tree, the seating and standing platforms of a tree stand will be placed in an in inclined position, and such inclination of the platforms will be of similar magnitude as of the deviation of tree trunk from the vertical plane, causing inconvenience to an outdoor enthusiast who may stay up in a tree for extended time periods. This may also create a dangerous situation where an outdoor enthusiast could fall out of the inclined tree stand.

Examples of some known devices that depict tree stands with leveling mechanisms are illustrated in U.S. Pat. No. 4,942,942 (Bradley), U.S. Pat. No. 4,997,063 (Bradley), U.S. Pat. No. 5,016,733 (Bradley), U.S. Pat. No. 5,316,104 (Amacker), U.S. Pat. No. 5,458,215 (Burgin), U.S. Pat. No. 6,085,868 (Anthony et al.), U.S. Pat. No. 6,102,158 (Winschel), U.S. Pat. No. 6,196,354 (Anthony et al.), U.S. Pat. No. 6,336,520 (Amacker), U.S. Pat. No. 6,367,585 (Fast), U.S. Pat. No. 6,386,321 (Muhich), U.S. Pat. No. 6,571,916 (Swanson), U.S. Pat. No. 6,595,325 (Ulrich) and U.S. Pat. No. 6,722,472 (Berkbuegler).

U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,942,942, and 5,016,733 issued to Bradley, each titled “Wedging Tree Stand,” discloses a self-locking leveling feature for a tree stand, including a compression spring captured within a frame member.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,458,215 issued to Burgin, titled, “Tree Stand Leveler,” discloses an add-on leveling device which is attached at the bottom of an existing platform of a tree stand and bears against the tree rather than the stand bearing against the tree trunk. A leveling device includes a pair of adjustment screws, each passing through the adjuster, with an adjustment knob extending from the adjuster opposite to the tree bearing portion of the device.

The known leveling devices used with tree stands, both as an integral part of tree stands or as add-on mechanisms, have a number of drawbacks including having relatively limited number of leveling adjustments, causing potential damage to a tree trunk, having application to only a few types of tree stands, and relying heavily on user to use all parts properly to level the seating and standing platforms of the tree stand.

Although the known devices have some utility for their intended purposes, a need still exists in the art for a new safer and user-friendly leveling device to fine tune leveling of tree stands. In particular, there is a need for an improved leveling device to be used with tree stands mounted on a leaned, oddly shaped and crooked tree trunk which overcome the drawbacks and limitations encountered with the known art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides an improved leveling device for use with tree stands, which is different from the known designs for leveling tree stands. The leveling device of the present invention overcomes limitations and drawbacks of the leveling devices known in the art. The present invention also provides an apparatus which permits a mounted tree stand to be adjustably placed in a horizontal orientation for the comfort and safety of the user.

Accordingly, in a first embodiment hereof, the present invention provides a leveling device that allows fine leveling adjustment of tree stands mounted

A leveling device according to the first embodiment includes, in combination, a fork member, a sleeve, an L-shaped bracket, a gripping section, a mechanism for securing L-shaped bracket to the tree stand and a mechanism for securing and tightening gripping section against tree trunk. At one end of the fork member, the tree gripping section is secured via a bolt and a washer, and at the other end, provisions are made for adjusting the length of the fork member. The required length of the fork member for bearing the gripping section against the tree trunk is adjusted through the threaded adjuster bar and the corresponding threaded bore within the fork member provided at the other end of the fork member, and such adjustment is controlled by the adjuster lever connected to the threaded adjuster bar through the sleeve.

One end of the sleeve is attached to the L-shaped bracket used for attaching the device to the tree stand. The other end of the sleeve is used for receiving an end portion of fork member and securing the fork member via a retainer device provided on the sleeve. This retainer provides an additional protection against the movement of fork member and the attached gripping section to the fork member.

The L-shaped bracket has horizontal plate portion and a vertical plate portion integrally attached to each other. The vertical plate portion of the L-shaped bracket has a pair of holes formed therein one at each end of the bracket for attaching the leveling device to the horizontal frame member of the tree stand via a pair of nut and bolts. The vertical plate portion of the L-shaped bracket also has a central hole, which corresponds with the hole of same diameter on the horizontal frame member of tree stand, formed therein for allowing an end of the adjuster rod, which also passes through the sleeve, to be connected with the lever.

In another embodiment hereof, the present invention provides a tree stand having a leveling device as a component part thereof.

In a first aspect of the present invention, an add-on leveling device is provided for use with a conventional tree stand, to enable a user to level seating and standing platforms of the tree stands mounted on leaning and oddly-shaped trees.

In a second aspect of the present invention, a leveling device is quickly and easily attachable to various tree stands having different configurations, with some simple modification of the tree stand.

In a third aspect of the present invention, the leveling device can be used to angularly adjust and level the standing and seating platforms of a tree stand simultaneously, and hence only one leveling device is required for leveling both the platforms of a tree stand.

In a fourth aspect of the present invention, a leveling device is provided for use with a tree stands, where the leveling device is of simple design, and is of durable and reliable construction.

In a fifth aspect of the present invention, a tree stand assembly with an integrated leveling apparatus is provided to enable a hunter to adjust the orientation of the tree stand after installation on a non-vertical tree.

The leveling device according to the present invention does not penetrate the tree trunk on which the tree stand is mounted, and thus does not cause any damage to the tree.

A leveling device according to the present invention may include a locking retainer to temporarily lock the leveling device in its selectively adjusted position when engaged with a tree.

For a more complete understanding of the present invention, the reader is referred to the following detailed description section, which should be read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. Throughout the following detailed description and in the drawings, like numbers refer to like parts.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A is an environmental perspective view of a tree stand shown mounted on a section of a tree trunk.

FIG. 1B is a simplified side elevational view contrasting relative orientations of a mounted tree stand with and without a leveling device on an inclined tree trunk, where the tree stand without a leveling device is shown in phantom.

FIG. 2 is a detail perspective view of an upper rear portion of the tree stand of FIG. 1A, with a leveling device according to a first embodiment of the present invention shown attached to the mounted tree stand and resting on a tree trunk.

FIG. 3 is an upper perspective detail view of the leveling device of FIG. 2, shown attached to the tree stand and with the fork member in a first position.

FIG. 4 is an upper perspective detail view of the leveling device of FIG. 2, shown attached to the tree stand, and showing two different positions of the fork member.

FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view of the leveling device of FIGS. 2-3.

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of the leveling device according to the illustrative embodiment.

FIG. 7 is a bottom plan view of the leveling device according to the illustrative embodiment.

FIG. 8 is a left side view of the leveling device according to the illustrative embodiment, partially in plan view and partially in cross-section.

FIG. 9 is a front plan view of the leveling device according to the illustrative embodiment.

FIG. 10 is a rear plan view of the leveling device according to the illustrative embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

It should be understood that only structures considered necessary for clarifying the present invention of leveling device are described herein. Other conventional structures, and those of ancillary and auxiliary components of the system, are assumed to be known and understood by those skilled in the art.

Referring now to FIG. 1A, a tree stand according to a first embodiment of the invention is shown generally at 200, attached to a tree trunk 40.

The portable tree stand 200 includes a main frame 22, an attachment member 21 for cooperating with the main frame 22 to attach the tree stand 200 to a tree 40, and may, optionally, include a seat cushion 50, which is operatively attached to the frame. The tree stand 200 also includes a leveling device 10, which is obscured from view in FIG. 1A by the seat cushion 50, but which can be seen in each of the remaining Figures. Each of the components of the tree stand 200 will be described in further detail herein.

Throughout the present specification, relative positional terms like ‘upper’, ‘lower’, ‘top’, ‘bottom’, ‘horizontal’, ‘vertical’, and the like are used to refer to the orientation of the apparatus as shown in the drawings. These terms are used in an illustrative sense to describe the depicted embodiments, and are not meant to be limitative. It will be understood that the depicted apparatus may be placed at an orientation different from that shown in the drawings, such as folded for storage or temporarily inverted 180 degrees or transverse to that shown, and in such a case, the above-identified relative positional terms will no longer be accurate.

As noted, a tree stand according to the invention includes a main frame. In a first embodiment of the tree stand 200, and as illustrated in FIG. 1A, the main frame 22 includes at least one connector bar, such as that shown at 23, for substantially vertical placement adjacent a tree trunk 10. It is preferred that the main frame 22 include two spaced apart connector bars 23, 24 as shown. The connector bars 23, 24 may be interconnected by a crossbar 25, as shown, or by multiple crossbars, as desired. Alternatively, a flat plate (not shown) could be used to interconnect the two connector bars 23, 24.

The main frame 22 also includes a standing platform 26 operatively attached to the connector bar 23, proximate the lower end thereof. The standing platform 26 is preferred to be rigidly attached to the bottom end of the connector bar 23, so as to be fixed in place with respect thereto. The standing platform 26 may be a solid or perforate member.

In the depicted embodiment, the standing platform 26 includes a support rack 27 and a screen 13 attached to the top surface of the support rack. Other configurations could be used for the standing platform, such as a solid or perforated flat metal or plastic plate.

One or more chains or flexible suspension cables, such as the cable shown at 29, may, optionally, be provided to interconnect the standing platform 26 and the connector bar(s) 23, 24.

The main frame 22 further includes a seat support platform 20. The seat support platform 20 is operatively attached to the top section of the connector bars 23, 25 and is spaced away from the standing platform 26. The seat support platform 20 is formed from strong, rigid materials such as metal, composites, high-strength plastics, or a combination of these. The seat support platform 20 may have a construction similar to that of the standing platform 26, as previously described.

Optionally, the seat support platform 20 may also be pivotally and adjustably attached to the connector bars 23, 25 to make the apparatus foldable when not in use. However, where so attached, it is important to include a stop member for limiting the extent of downward pivotal travel of the seat support platform 20 to generally orient the platform in a substantially horizontal orientation, so that it will safely support the full weight of a user thereon for an extended time period.

The attachment member 21 is provided to cooperate with the main frame 22, to temporarily and removably attach the tree stand 200 to a tree 40. In the embodiment of FIG. 1A, the attachment member 21 is provided in the form of an adjustable strap 42. Where used, this strap 42 is formed from a high-strength woven fabric material, and includes conventional hardware such as a buckle and attachment connectors. The attachment member 21 could also be provided as a chain or cable (not shown).

Alternatively, the attachment member 21 may be provided in the form of a substantially

V-shaped or U-shaped metal tube or rod for interlocking attachment to the frame, substantially similar to that disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,979,603. The disclosure of U.S. Pat. No. 5,979,603 is incorporated by reference herein.

With specific reference to the drawings, and in particular to FIGS. 1B and 2-5, an illustrative embodiment of a leveling device according to the present invention will be designated and described by the reference numeral 10 herein. The leveling device 10 is intended for use with a tree stand 200, to enable the tree stand be mounted on a leaning, variable diameter or crooked tree trunk 40. The leveling device 10 is provided to enable a user thereof to adjust the angular orientation and level of the tree stand 200 mounted a leaned tree trunk 40 (FIGS. 1A, 1B and FIG. 2). If the tree stand 200 was mounted on a leaning or crooked tree trunk 40 without a leveling device, it would be oriented in an inclined position, as shown by the dotted line outline in FIG. 1B, because of the predefined relationship between the main frame 22 and the seat and standing platform portions.

The leveling device 10, according to the illustrative embodiment, includes a plurality of components in combination (FIG. 3 and FIG. 5). These components include a fork member 12 including a shaft 13 and a tree gripping section 14. The leveling device 10 also includes a mounting member 19 including a sleeve 16, for supportably receiving a shaft portion of the fork member 12, and a generally L-shaped mounting bracket 100 attached to an end of the sleeve. The leveling device 10 also includes an adjustment stud 18, a handle member 15, and a locking stud 17. Optionally, the leveling device 10 may further include a plastic grommet 88 and assorted attachment hardware. These components are individually configured and interrelated with each other in order to achieve the desired objects of the present invention. Most of the components of the present invention may be made of durable and high-strength metals or metal alloys.

The Fork Member

Now referring to FIGS. 5 through 11, the fork member 12 includes a shaft portion 13 and a tree gripping section 14 rigidly attached to an outer end of the shaft portion. The shaft portion 13 has an outer end 31, an intermediate portion and an inner end 32. The shaft portion 13 has a generally square cross-sectional shape in the depicted embodiment, and is designed to fit slidably and telescopically inside of the sleeve 16. The shaft portion 13 of the fork member 12 has a bore 43 formed centrally therein, with female threading formed inside of the bore, for threadably receiving a first end portion 76 of the adjustment stud 18 therein. The male threading of the first end portion 76 of the adjustment stud 18 is threadably engaged in the female threading in the bore 43 of the shaft portion 13, to permit a user to adjust the effective length of the fork member 12, and to thereby adjust the angle of the tree stand 200 when the fork member is abutting against a tree 40, as will be further described herein.

The tree gripping section 14 of the fork member 12 is much wider than the shaft portion 13, as shown, and includes a first side portion 44, a central portion 46 and a second side portion 48. The tree gripping section 14 further includes an outwardly directed working face 50 and a reverse face 52 which is integrally joined to the outer end 31 of the shaft portion 13.

The working face 50 of the tree gripping section 14 has a plurality of angular inner teeth 54 formed integrally thereon, for biting into and gripping a tree trunk 40 which, as noted, may be an inclined or crooked tree trunk. The gripping of the tree trunk is further facilitated by providing a pair of outer teeth 56 at the first side portion 44 and the second side portion 48, respectively, of the tree gripping section 14. These outer teeth 56 are longer in length than the inner teeth 54 of the working face 50, in order to accommodate the rounded cross-sectional shape of the tree trunk 40.

The Mounting Member

The sleeve 16 of the mounting member 19 includes a first end portion 58, an intermediate portion 61 and a second end portion 62. The first end portion 58 of the sleeve 16 has an opening 64 formed therein which communicates with a hollow passage 63 formed inside of the sleeve. The hollow passage 63 of the sleeve 16 slidably receives the inner end 32 of the fork member 12 therein.

The position of the fork member 12 relative to the sleeve 16 is adjustable via rotation of the handle member 15 to turn the adjustment stud 18, in order to permit a user to level the tree stand 200. The sleeve 16 houses the shaft portion 13 of the fork member 12 during the adjustment of leveling of the tree stand through rotary movement of the adjustment stud 18.

A provision for mounting a locking stud 17, for temporarily fixing the position of the fork member 12 within the sleeve 16, is made by forming a bore 66 in the top wall 70 of the first end portion 58 of the sleeve 16, and fixedly welding a retainer nut 68 on the top wall 70 of the sleeve 16. The openings of the bore 66 and the retainer nut 68 are concentrically aligned, and thus allow the tightening of the locking stud 17 in the retainer nut 68 to press against the shaft of the fork member 12, and retain the fork member 12 in position within the sleeve 16. The locking stud 17, when tightened, presses downwardly against the top wall 33 of the shaft portion 13 of the fork member 12.

The adjustment stud 18 includes a first end portion 76 having a first diameter, a transverse medial flange 78 and a second end portion 80 having a diameter smaller than the first end portion. The tip of the second end portion has male threads formed thereon to support a cap portion 82 of the handle member 15 thereon. It may be noted that the diameter of the first end portion 76 of the adjustment stud 18 is different and is generally greater than that of the second end portion 80 thereof.

The entire length of the first end portion 76 of the adjustment stud 18 has male threading 77 formed thereon, for engagement with the female threading 43 in the shaft portion 13 of the fork member 12. The second end portion 80 of the adjustment stud 18 includes a male threaded portion 84, as noted, and an unthreaded portion 86. One end of the unthreaded portion 86 is integrally attached to the transverse medial flange 78, and the other end is integrally formed with the male threaded portion 84.

The second end portion 80 of the adjustment stud 18 fits through a central hole 114 of a generally L-shaped bracket 100, and may be attached to a hole in a horizontal bar member 60 of the tree stand 200 (FIGS. 2, 3). A grommet 88 may be provided for placement in a hole 115 formed in the tree stand's horizontal bar 60, and the male threaded portion 84 of the second end portion 80 of the adjustment stud 18 is threadably engaged with a female threaded bore 90 formed inside the cap portion 82 of the handle member 15. The handle member 15 is retained in place on the second end portion 80 of the adjustment stud 18 by a set screw 94, which fits into a threaded hole 92 formed radially in the cap portion 82 of the handle member 15 (FIG. 6).

The plastic grommet 88, where used, facilitates alignment of the adjustment stud 18 through the horizontal bar member 60 of the tree stand 200. The grommet 88 fits in the hole 115 of the tree stand's horizontal bar member 60, and thus resists damage to the adjustment stud 18 while promoting easy rotation thereof. The handle member 15 is provided with an operating lever 98 which is pivotally attached to the cap portion 82, to facilitate manual rotation of the adjustment stud 18, both in clockwise and counter-clockwise directions, thus resulting in threading and unthreading of the first end portion 76 of the adjustment stud 18 into the shaft 16 of the fork member 12, to achieve a desired leveling of the tree stand 200.

The mounting member 19 of the leveling device 10 includes an L-shaped bracket 100 fixed by means of welding to (or by being integrally cast with) the second end portion 62 of the sleeve 16. The leveling apparatus hereof may also include carriage bolts 120 and nuts 118 for use in securely attaching the bracket 100 to a horizontal bar 60 of the tree stand 200.

The L-shaped bracket 100 includes a vertical plate portion 102 and a horizontal plate portion 104. An upper alignment flange 116 of the L-shaped bracket 100 is integrally formed with, and extends over the vertical portion 102 of the L-shaped bracket 100.

The vertical plate portion 102 further includes a first end portion 106, a central portion 108 and a second end portion 110. Each of the first and second end portions 106, 110 has a square hole 112 formed therein for aligning with the square neck portion of the carriage bolts 120 during fastening the leveling device 10 to the horizontal bar member 60 of the tree stand 200, to prevent rotation of the carriage bolts.

The central portion 108 of the L-shaped bracket has a circular hole 114 formed therein for allowing the second end portion 80 of the adjustment stud 18 through the bracket 100 and ultimately through the horizontal bar member 60 of the tree stand.

It is important that the spacing and size of the holes formed in the horizontal bar member of the tree stand must be appropriately sized to cooperate with the holes formed in the vertical portion 102 of the L-shaped bracket 100.

Kit of Components

The present invention also encompasses a kit of components which can be assembled by a user to form a leveling apparatus for use with a tree stand. The components of the kit are essentially those component parts shown in FIG. 5 of the drawings, as previously described herein. The fasteners may, optionally, be omitted from the kit.

Method

One example of a suitable method of using a leveling device according to the present invention includes the following steps.

The leveling device 10 is attached to a horizontal bar 60 of a tree stand 200, where three appropriately spaced holes have been machined in the horizontal bar for the two carriage bolts 120 and for the adjustment stud 18. The vertical portion 102 of the L-shaped bracket 100 is lined up with the horizontal bar 60 of the tree stand 200 such that the three holes of the central portion 102 of the bracket 100 are aligned with the corresponding holes on the horizontal bar member of the tree stand. The horizontal portion 104 of the L-shaped bracket 100 should be placed immediately below the horizontal bar member 60 of the tree stand 200. The L-shaped bracket 100 is secured to the tree stand via the nuts 118 and carriage bolts 120, as schematically shown in FIG. 2.

The handle member 15 is attached to the threaded portion 84 of the adjustment stud 18 that protrudes out of the horizontal bar member of the tree stand 200. The handle member 15 is further secured to the threaded portion of the adjustment stud 18 by tightening the set screw 96 provided on the cap portion 82 of the handle member 15.

The fork member 12 is fully retracted into the sleeve 16 by, first, loosening the locking stud 17. The handle member 15 is then spun clockwise to retract the fork member into the sleeve 16. Once the fork member 12 is fully retracted into the sleeve 16, the locking stud 17 may then be tightened, if desired, to temporarily restrict further movement of the fork member 12 (FIGS. 4, 8).

The tree stand is securely attached to the tree via a connecting strap or other fastening mechanism. When the tree stand is securely attached to the slant tree trunk, the tree stand will be in an inclined position, as shown by the dotted-line outline in FIG. 1B.

The locking stud 17 is loosened to allow the movement of fork member 12 in the sleeve 16. The tree gripping section 14 along with the fork member 12 is pushed outwardly towards the tree trunk by rotating the adjustment stud 18 counter-clockwise via the handle member 15, until the gripping section 14 comes in contact with the tree trunk and bears against the tree trunk. Further rotation of the adjustment stud 18 pushes the top of the tree stand 200 outwardly in relation to the tree trunk 40, thus bringing the standing and seat support platforms of the tree stand into a leveled position. The locking stud 17 is then tightened to further secure the tree gripping section 14 against the tree trunk by retaining the fork member 12 within the sleeve 16. Normal use of the tree stand can now take place.

Later, after hunting or outdoor activities have been concluded, when removing the tree stand 200 from the tree 40, to disengage the tree gripping section 14, the locking stud 17 is loosened, and the fork member 12 is retracted back into the sleeve 16 by rotating the handle member 15 clockwise again.

Not all of the above-described steps are required in the method of the present invention.

Another example of a method in accordance with the present invention includes the steps of:

    • a) operating the adjustment member 18 to push the mounting member 19 of the leveling apparatus 10 outwardly relative to the fork member 13, where the mounting member is affixed to a frame portion 60 of a tree stand 200, where movement of the mounting member 19 changes an angular orientation of the tree stand in relation to a tree 40 on which the tree stand is mounted; and
    • b) tightening a locking member 17 to temporarily fix the position of the mounting member 19 in relation to the fork member 13.

In carrying out the above-described method, the adjustment member is operated by rotating the adjustment stud 18 with the handle member 15, where the first end portion 76 of the adjustment stud, opposite the handle member, has male threads thereon which are threadably engaged in the threaded bore 43 of the fork member 13.

The leveling device according to the present invention has a number of advantages when utilized with a tree stand 200. First, this add-on leveling device of the present invention can be employed on many of the conventional tree stands having a frame of vertical and horizontal bar members. Without the utilization of a leveling device, many conventional tree stands may not be used with inclined or oddly-shaped trees. The leveling device disclosed herein provides an increased level of comfort and safety to the user, because the device levels the standing and seating platforms of a tree stand. The leveling device of the present invention provides increased stability of the tree stands as the device allows leveling of tree stands on inclined and oddly shaped crooked tree trunks. The device further provides an increased level of quietness as it restricts the movement of tree stand when mounted on leaned and irregular shaped trees. The leveling device of the present invention furthermore makes the conventional tree stands more adaptable because these stands may be utilized in more number of trees when used in conjunction with the leveling device of the present invention.

Although the present invention has been described herein with respect to a number of specific illustrative embodiments, the foregoing description is intended to illustrate, rather than to limit the invention. Those skilled in the art will realize that many modifications of the preferred embodiment could be made which would be operable. All such modifications, which are within the scope of the present disclosure, are intended to be within the scope and spirit of the present invention.