Treestand Safety is Essential for Safe Hunting
Dr. John Woods 11.11.13
Scenario 1: The young man violated the first principle of hunting alone: he failed to leave a note at home telling his parents exactly where he would be hunting and what time to expect him home. They found him late the next day suspended upside down from what was left of a climbing tree stand that gave away. The waist-only “safety” belt had cinched him so tight that he was unable to get upright or get loose before it strangled him to death.
Scenario 2: The hunter climbed up the old wooden tree stand ladder without any inspection of the stand whatsoever. He just took the other hunter’s word about where it was located and what condition it was in. Just as he reached the top rung of the ladder the whole thing broke loose from the tree and fell back toward the ground. He was able to jump free but landed on his back in a field of cypress knees. Had he hit one, he probably at best would be paralyzed for life. He was lucky to get away with only a sprained back and not a broken one.
Scenario 3: The emergency room physician on call that weekend had never seen anything like it before. A deer hunter using archery equipment drove himself to the hospital with an arrow through his upper thigh. It just missed the major artery in his leg. The hunter leaned out too far on his hunting stand platform and fell out of the stand. He was not wearing a safety harness, and as he dropped his bow, the arrow pierced his leg. He was lucky, too. He still walks with a limp.
All of these hunting related accidents are true stories. Tree stand safety is a critical aspect of hunter safety for anyone opting to hunt from an elevated stand of any kind. They can all be dangerous if the right precautions and safety procedures are not used every time a hunter climbs into one of them.
First, make sure any hunting tree stand is safe to use. Forget any stand made of wood. Buy stands that are welded or assembled with heavy duty steel bolts and nuts. If you have to assemble the stand yourself, read the instructions thoroughly, tighten everything down, and double check it all before using the stand.
If you have existing stands still in the woods or stored in the garage, be sure to give them a complete inspection before use. Oil the moving parts, tighten all bolts, check tie down straps, buckles, and ratchet lever locks. Inspect the tree the stand is on to make sure no off season damage has occurred. Clear out vines, overgrown limbs, and debris at the base of the stand and on the seat. Cinch down straps on climbing sticks, and check that lock-on before climbing into the seat.
The same goes for a safety strap. If you don’t have one, then get a whole upper torso support system that will allow you to remain upright in the case of a fall. Some newer models even have car-type safety belt reel systems to let the person down to the ground slowly. These are not cheap, but they cost a lot less than a funeral and are a lot easier to use than a wheelchair.
When climbing up, leave all your gear on the ground to be pulled up later. It should be tied to a rope, string, or cable reel designed for this purpose. Once you are seated and set, then pull up your stuff. It works the same going down.
It is smart to hook up your torso safety harness before you climb, especially with a climbing stand, which is most likely to slip its bite on the tree and fold up. Ladder stands and lock-on stands use ladder rungs, so climbing just has to be done carefully and deliberately. Once you are in the seat, connect your safety harness. Be especially careful when you reach the top of climbing sticks to step up into the lock-on platform.
You have to adjust the length of slack on your harness between you and the tree to know how far out you can lean, which is often done when archery hunting. Just be sure not to exceed your lean.
Tree stands are great for deer hunting, but they have to be respected when used. Slipping and falling from one is easier to do than you might think. Every deer season, somebody gets hurt or worse in a fall from a tree stand. Just be careful out there.