Most hunters think that an accident won’t happen to them, but anyone who has fallen from a tree stand thought the same thing. Those who have had the misfortune say that it happened so fast they had no time to react. At the end of the day, returning home safely should be every tree-stand hunter’s top priority.
Falls account for the vast majority of injuries and deaths that involve tree stands. Although modern tree stands are made better than ever before, accidents remain possibilities. Keep yourself, your family and friends safe this deer season by following a few simple guidelines.
- Inspect all equipment before the season. Check all welds, nuts, bolts, cables and straps to ensure everything is in good working condition.
- Most falls happen when climbing up or down the stand. Every time you leave the ground, use a life line and full-body harness. Installing a life line takes only minutes, and it can save lives. Always attach yourself to a tether at the top of the stand if not using a life line.
- Always have three points of contact when climbing up or down a stand: two hands and foot or two feet and one hand.
- Clear all debris at the bottom of the tree. Taking this precaution will provide a safe base for the bottom of a ladder stand and minimize injuries if a fall should occur.
- Know your personal limitations. If you are tired or, if weather conditions make climbing a tree stand unpredictable, hunt from the ground.
- Pull any gear up to you with a rope or haul line. Predetermine the length you need to safely pull a bow or rifle up to you once you’re tethered to the tree.
- Keep a light easily accessible, whether it’s a cap light or headlamp, to quickly illuminate your way when needed.
- Know and practice the 3 R’s: recover, relief and rescue. At a safe distance close to the ground, practice and attempt to recover and return to a stand by pushing off the tree or swinging back to the stand. Know how to use the suspension relief device on full-body harnesses.
- Leave a hunt plan with a spouse or friend. Hunt plans let family or friends know where you’re hunting and when you plan to return. Make a map of the area and mark where your stand is, which will make it easier for others to find you in case of an emergency.
- Keep a cellphone in a pocket close to your body, safely secured and easily accessible if a fall occurs.
- Finally, don’t take unnecessary chances and use common sense. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. ■