With the archery deer hunting season in high gear and with the firearms seasons upcoming, treestand safety can’t be stressed enough.
Interestingly, statistics have it that one in every three hunters who hunt from a treestand will fall at some point in their hunting career. And of those, 75 to 80 percent occur while ascending or descending the tree, and a smaller percentage while falling after falling asleep in the stand and not being harnessed in.
Nationally, 300-500 hunters are killed annually in treestand accidents and another 6,000 will have treestand related injuries.
These numbers are believable since I have had some hairy experiences over the years, although fortunately I never fell.
Back when I was younger I would use a Loggy Bayou climbing stand that had a metal band that would circle the tree for attachment. It came with an aluminum climbing aid, which was nothing more than a rectangular bar that also attached to the tree. But instead of that cumbersome rig that took time to install, especially in the dark I opted for a climbing strap with four hand loops wherein I would hoist myself upward while pulling the treestand up with my feet.
On a couple occasions the stand didn’t bite into the tree and the stand gave out causing me to slip and hang from the climbing strap while I frantically tried to pull up the stand for another attempt. Same situation when I descended a tree.
Then there was the heavy metal Screaming Eagle hanging stand I bought (the company was sued so many times they went out of business as did Baker climbing treestands) for which the company would advertise it by showing a VW bug hanging from it. Well it was strong but getting it installed was something else.
Climbing up a three-piece ladder, I would fasten a belt around the tree to hold me in place, then hoist the stand in place with a rope while trying to grab the swaying attachment chain that - unlike stands today that use a nylon strap – needed to be hooked onto one side of the stand. Then the stand bottom had to be lifted up somewhat to set it at an angle for tightening.
While that worked up a sweat, the next part was really scary. I would step onto the unstable stand while hugging the tree (with my simple waist safety belt attached), then placing my feet in the inner middle of the stand, I would jump up and down three or four times to insure the stand was set per the manufacturer's suggestion. To this day I can’t believe I never fell.
When in place it was an extremely stable, sturdy stand, and one I arrowed my largest buck from. But getting it installed took a few years off my life. Towards the end of its use, I would take my wife along in case I fell while installing it.
Back then full body harnesses - like tree cutters use - were not available. So hunters had to improvise like I did.
Today the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association offers these safety tips while installing and using a treestand.
* Always wear a full body harness when climbing and in a treestand. Harnesses have an expiration date and should be replaced when they expire and/or a fall occurs.
* A safety strap should be attached to the tree to prevent falling more than 12 inches.
* Always inspect the safety harness for wear or damage before each use.
* Follow the 3-point rule whereupon there’s three points of contact to the steps or ladder before moving. Be cautious that rain, frost, ice or snow can cause steps to become extremely slippery. And check the security of the step before placing your weight on it.
* Try to hunt with a plan and if possible a buddy. Let someone know your exact hunting location and when you plan to return and who, if anyone, is with you.
* Always carry emergency signal devices such as a cell phone, walkie-talkie, whistle, signal flare, personal locator or flashlight. Something that can reached even while you’re suspended.
* Always select a proper tree. Select a live straight tree that fits within the limits of your treestand. Do not place a stand against a leaning tree.
* Never leave a portable stand installed for more than two weeks since damage could result from changing weather or from other factors not obvious with a visual inspection.
* Always use a haul line when pulling up gear, unloaded guns and crossbows. Don’t climb with anything in your hands or on your back.
You may never have heard about this before, but, be aware of suspension trauma. A rear attached full body harness is intended to prevent falls, not to be suspended in for any length of time. Suspension trauma can happen in less than 20 minutes and can be fatal. Hunters should attach an additional foot strap to the body harness to take the pressure off their upper legs. And carry a pocketknife to cut away the harness if the situation turns critical.
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