Tree stand safety


This past weekend, I decided to take the dog to work on some long water retrieves before it got dark.

It was one of those evenings where we were seeing deer out feeding just about every mile or so as we headed down the road on our way there. I didn’t check to see if the solunar tables had that evening listed as a major activity period or if the previous evening’s chill had them motivated to feed more before dark, but there were deer everywhere. Seeing that many got me thinking about the upcoming deer season.

Archery deer season is only a few weeks away, opening on Sept. 29 and running until early February. From what I have seen of the local population, the hunting opportunities should produce another good season. The Ohio Division of Wildlife estimates that over 300,000 hunters will climb into tree stands this fall to pursue our state’s largest and most popular game mammal. I wonder how many of those climbs will result in accidents?

Depending on what survey you read, it is predicted that between 30 to 40 percent of all deer hunters who use tree stands will fall during their lifetime. That is an outstanding number! According to a Deer & Deer Hunting magazine survey, 50 percent of the deer hunters who have fallen out of a tree are not injured but eight percent suffered long-term injuries and two percent suffered a permanent disability. Ohio had four treestand fatalities in the past two years alone.

I personally know of a hunter who fell out of a stand on top of his son who was below him several years ago. One suffered a broken back and the other had a broken jaw and lost several teeth over the ordeal. Neither one had a very good winter recovering from their accident. Another bow hunting crazed friend spent a long time nursing a serious leg injury because of a similar fall. Tree stands are great tools for archery and gun deer hunters, but they need to be respected as well.

According to the survey mentioned above: 21 percent of treestand falls were caused by slipping, missing a step, or a step pulling out of the tree; 13 percent of falls were caused by the hunter falling asleep, and eight percent were caused by a stand breaking or malfunctioning. The scariest statistic of all was that only 34 percent of deer hunters use a safety restraint while climbing up or down from a tree. A similar study conducted by the South Carolina Division of Wildlife suggests that as many as 80% of hunters do not use a safety system while climbing. That is pretty sad considering that the greatest majority of falls occur when a hunter is climbing the tree. With many tree stands as high as 15 to 20 feet, why take the chance of falling that far when a simple safety harness can be used to protect you?

If you are planning on using a treestand this fall, here are some safety guidelines to follow:

• Select the location of your treestand carefully. Make sure the tree is straight and healthy.

• Never use wooden steps or wooden treestands. Both can rot easily and nails or screws can rust quickly. There are enough quality treestands on the market today to make them affordable for even the savviest of hunters.

• Make sure your screw-ins are into the live portion of the tree and not just the bark.

• Do not reuse screw-in holes when resetting the steps. Always use new holes.

• Always use a full body fall restraint system. A single safety belt is not enough. Although a single safety belt may save you from a serious fall, you will only have a matter of a minute or two before you will lose consciousness hanging upside down. A full bodied system will not only protect you from falling better than a single belt, it will also add several valuable minutes to the time you can hang upside down before losing consciousness.

• Never climb up or down a tree with a weapon. Always use a rope to raise or lower the weapon.

• Sitting for hours in one position out in the elements of Mother Nature can make anyone drowsy especially after a long week of work. If you are starting to feel the eyelids sag and Mr. Sandman is trying to call, get out of the tree for a while a take a break. You can’t shoot a deer with your eyes shut anyways.

• Always tell someone where you are going so that you can be found if you don’t make it home. Cell phones are great to carry along but they don’t work to well if they fall out of your pocket while hanging upside down or your injuries are severe enough that you lose consciousness during the fall.

One of the greatest thrills of the fall season is to have that buck stop below your well-placed tree stand for the perfect shot. Make sure you are able to hunt as often as you wish by playing it safe each and every time you climb into that tree. Get outside and enjoy this beautiful fall weather!

Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!

Water and Wings by Ken Parrott

Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.

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