It is that time of year. With archery season barely a month away it is time for all of us hunters to start getting ready for the season. For most outdoorsmen (and women) this means breaking out the bows, and this year the crossbows, and practicing in the back yard.
It also means hitting the woods scouting, and checking tree stands and all our favorite hunting spots. It seems that almost every hunter you talk to these days can’t wait to get back in their tree stand.
Now that isn’t saying that you can’t be successful from the ground, but even in the historic battles of great armies it was always an advantage to take the high ground. Why would hunting be any different?
Everything comes at a price, so as we leave solid ground to get the upper hand on a wily whitetail or that trophy bruin, we put ourselves in a precarious position. Humans as a whole weren’t meant to dwell in trees, and gravity is a fickle partner in crime.
Sir Isaac Newton had it right when he said, “what goes up must come down.” That goes for everything, even the cagey hunter who climbs a tree like a squirrel in the wee hours before dawn to await his next trophy.
It is the manner and the speed at which he comes down wherein the danger lies. As long as things go as planned, everything is great, but when you are stepping onto an icy metal platform in the dark perched 20 plus feet in the air one little thing can spell a whole lot of disaster.
This is the whole point behind tree stand safety. August is a perfect month for it because that is generally when everyone starts gearing up to get back in the woods, and safety should be foremost on their minds as they do.
Statistics show that 300-500 hunters are killed each year in tree stand accidents. That is way too many, especially when most of those deaths could have been prevented by practicing tree stand safety.
According to WVDNR Law Enforcement last year there were 4 incidents of serious injuries or death involving falls from a tree stand. That is just over half of what was reported the year before, which is a great sign. Keep in mind though that these are just the fatal or near fatal accidents that were reported.
There are plenty more accidents that happen each year, but don’t cause fatal injuries, that go unreported. Still one accident is too many. So if each hunter will just practice a few safety steps each time they prepare to hunt from any type of elevated stand, hopefully we can get those serious incidents down to zero.
Most accidents occur when stepping into or out of tree stands. This is the time to take the most precautions. The best tree stand safety tip is to always wear a full-body harness every time you are in a tree.
The safest harness systems are the ones where you are connected to a safety line from the ground up. Several companies are promoting the slogan, “Hook up, from the ground up!”
This means you are connected to your safety line from the minute your feet leave the ground. A safety line might be a little cumbersome to get used to, but it sure beats a 20 foot fall to the ground any day.
Nowadays almost every new tree stand you buy will come with a full body harness safety vest. There are tons of better, faster, lighter vests on the market as well. There are several places online that you can get one for free if you can’t afford a full body harness. So there is really no excuse not to have one.
You want to make sure you always use a haul line to get your gear in the tree. NEVER try to climb into a tree stand while carrying your gun or bow. Leave it on the ground and then use a small rope or cord to bring it and the rest of your gear up once you are safely in your stand.
A few other things to remember while hunting from an elevated stand, if you are feeling sick or tired, it is best to climb out of the tree than to risk the chance of passing out or falling asleep and falling out.
Inspect your stand for damage every time before you climb in, this goes for portable stands and homemade stands. Things can change quickly when exposed to the weather. Just because the strap was good yesterday, doesn’t mean it will still be good tomorrow.
And possibly the most important piece of safety advice, any time you are hunting, make sure someone knows where you are hunting and what time to expect you back. This goes for hunting from the ground as well as a tree stand.
In the event of an injury or illness, time is important and if someone knows right where to look and when to start to look, it can mean the difference between life and death. Safety is every hunter’s responsibility, not only for yourself, but those in your hunting party.
If there are any of those he-man types that aren’t afraid of heights, not scared of anything, “I don’t wear a safety harness”, out there… then don’t do it for yourself. Do it for the family you leave at home every time you take to the woods. They are the ones who will hurt the most if you should ever be one of those tree stand accident statistics.