November is a big month for hunters, and the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds hunters that safety is the most important part of a successful season. This especially applies to the use of tree stands.
Tree stands can be dangerous if they are used incorrectly or carelessly. Nationally, one in three hunting injuries involves a tree stand. Falls from tree stands can be caused by a variety of factors, including a weakness in the stand’s structure and incorrect installation. Hunters also may fall asleep while on their stands. Tree stands also can be a factor in other hunting incidents, including injury from accidental firing of a loaded firearm while the hunter is climbing to the stand.
“Because tree stand incidents have become the most common cause of hunter injuries, DNR has been emphasizing tree stand safety in the mandatory hunter education courses we schedule around the state,” said Col. Jerry Jenkins, chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Section.
To help prevent accidents, DNR recommends that hunters follow these safety precautions:
• Never carry equipment with you while climbing. Use a haul line to raise or lower your gear. Make sure guns are unloaded and broad heads are covered before raising or lowering firearms or bows with a haul line.
• Since most accidents occur when hunters are climbing up or down a tree, always use a climbing belt. Always use a safety belt or harness when hunting from elevated tree stands. Study manufacturer’s recommendations before using any equipment. Never use a rope to replace a safety belt.
• Check permanent tree stands every year before hunting from them, and replace any worn or weak lumber.
• Read, understand and follow the factory recommended practices and procedures when installing commercial stands. Inspect portable stands for loose nuts and bolts each time they are used.
• Choose only healthy, living trees when using climbing devices. Rough-barked trees such as oak are best. Do not use a tree that is rotten or has dead limbs.
• Never put all your weight on a single branch. Keep at least one hand and one foot on a secure place when reaching for the next hold.
• Climb higher than the stand and step down onto it. Climbing up onto it can dislodge it.
• Wear boots with non-skid soles, because steps or platforms can be slippery in rain, sleet or snow.
• Tell a dependable person where you’re hunting and when you plan on returning. Map your whereabouts and leave a note at camp, at home or in your car so that you can be found.
• Don’t fall asleep. This is a common cause of accidents. If you get drowsy, move your arms rapidly until you feel alert.
• Never wear a ring in any climbing situation. Rings can catch on tree limbs and equipment.
• As a precautionary measure, remove all logs, upturned and cutoff saplings, rocks and other obstructions on the ground below the tree stand.
• Use updated equipment. When used properly, newer tree stand equipment is solid, safe and secure. Older models of safety belts offer some protection, but newer safety harnesses offer more protection.
• Carry a whistle to call for help and carry a first-aid kit, flashlight and cellular telephone in a fanny pack.
All persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1975, must first successfully complete a certified hunter education course before purchasing a hunting license. The course is free and takes about 12 hours to complete. Information about the course and a schedule of classes can be found at http://wvdnr.gov/lenforce/education.shtm or by calling 304-558-2784. An online version of the course also is available, although the final test must be taken in person.
A video showing how to use tree stands safely, produced by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc-6o9GaHtY
• Also, the DNR says it’s easy to report hunting or fishing law violations in West Virginia, and those reports are helpful in protecting the state’s wildlife.
“Anyone who witnesses or is aware of hunting and fishing law violations can call the closest DNR district office, 911 or provide information on the DNR website,” said Col Jerry Jenkins, chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Section. “We are doing this to ensure a quicker response to the violations reported by the public.”
For non-emergency calls or questions, or to report questionable hunting or fishing activity, telephone calls should be made directly to the closest of six DNR district offices during working hours. Violations also may be reported on the DNR website at www.wvdnr.gov/LEnforce/Poachers.shtm.
For emergencies or to report game law violations in progress, calls should go to local 911 centers.
When calling, please provide the following information, if known, to a West Virginia Natural Resources Police Officer: the nature of the violation; the location of the violation; the name and/or description of the violator; a description of any vehicle and license number or boat involved in the violation; and any other important information which will assist in apprehending the violator.
WVDNR Law Enforcement District Offices:
District 1 – Farmington 304-825-6787 (Barbour, Brooke, Hancock, Harrison, Marshall, Marion, Monongalia, Ohio, Preston, Taylor, Tucker and Wetzel counties)
District 2 – Romney 304-822-3551 (Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, Morgan and Pendleton counties)
District 3 – Elkins 304-637-0245 (Braxton, Clay, Lewis, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Randolph, Upshur and Webster counties)
District 4 – Beckley 304-256-6945 (Fayette, Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Raleigh, Summers and Wyoming counties)
District 5 – Nitro 304-759-0703 (Boone, Cabell, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, Mingo, Putnam and Wayne counties)
District 6 – Parkersburg 304-420-4550 (Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, Jackson, Pleasants, Tyler, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood counties)
Reminder: Hunters should get their permanent DNR ID number before the hunting seasons at wvhunt.com, a DNR office or at any license agent, so they will be ready to check in their harvest with the new electronic game checking system.