Staying SAFE in Tree Stands
Hunting from tree stands offers excellent views and great versatility for getting that perfect shot but leaves no room for error when it comes to safety. Statistics show that tree stand accidents are the number one cause of hunter-related injuries every season. It is estimated that one of every three deer hunters in an elevated stand will fall and sustain a serious injury at some point in their lives. In eighty-two percent of these incidents, the hunter was not wearing any kind of fall-arrest system according to the Treestand Manufacturers Association. Thankfully, many tree stand accidents can easily be prevented by adhering to a few safety precautions each time you go hunting.
Here is an easy-to-follow guide to help you stay SAFE this hunting season:
Only use high-quality supplies. Don’t let a few dollars be the difference in potentially ending your hunting career.
• Safety harness: make sure it is comfortable and comes with some sort of mechanism (i.e. strap) that allows you to straighten yourself by grabbing a tree or ladder while hanging. If your harness doesn’t have this, consider taking a screw-in step. If you are planning to bow hunt, be sure the harness allows for full range of motion.
• Rope/strap: use a sturdy strap or rope for harness and tree attachment. Be sure that in case of a fall that you will not go more than 12”.
• Haul-line (pull rope): a common and deadly mistake made by many hunters is hauling up gear while climbing. Make it a habit to send up equipment and backpack on a haul-line first.
Perform certain safety checks initially and throughout the season to stay injury free.
• Read the instructions: we are all guilty of tossing instruction manuals in the garbage. However, when it comes to a new tree stand and/or safety harness it is very important to read the manufacturer’s directions to ensure that it is properly assembled and that you are utilizing it correctly.
• Safety checks: inspect your stand, ladder, ropes, and harness periodically to make sure everything is intact and there are no obvious tears, rust, or missing parts (i.e. nuts, bolts, etc.).
Don’t go incognito! Get into the habit, should the worst happen, that someone will always be able to locate you.
• Tell someone exactly where you’ll be.
• If the above is not possible, leave a note at the house and on your vehicle’s windshield with directions to where you’ll be hunting.
• Although it’s good to have a cell phone (or walkie talkies in areas with poor service), don’t depend on this as your primary source of communication in case it drops during a fall.
• If you do have cell service, consider “dropping a pin” to map your exact location then sharing it with your hunting buddy or family member.
Don’t rush. Take your time to do it right every time.
• Choose the perfect tree: one that’s healthy and the proper size according to the stand manufacturer specifications.
• Make sure everything is attached securely including yourself. Make sure you’re clipped in. When hunting from a hang-on or fixed position stand confirm that ladder steps and attachments are tightly secured to the tree.
• Use your haul-line to send up and down gear.
• Climb slowly and less than 12” at a time. Be aware of any wet/slick surfaces. Keep three points of contact on the ladder at all times as you climb up or down. (Most tree stand injuries happen during the climb not from the platform.)
• Load your gun after you are secure in stand. Never before.
• Always stay strapped in and awake!
• If you’ve realized you’ve forgotten one of your safety mechanisms, go back and get it or sit on the ground. Don’t make the climb thinking “I don’t need it” or “I’ve never fallen before” because it only takes one fall to make this your last hunt.
Lindsay Schumacher is the marketing director for Great Southern Land. She is an Independent Marketing & Public Relations Consultant, Freelance Writer, and Outdoors Enthusiast. She can be reached at Lindsay@old.gr8land.net.