There have been countless articles, blogs, and other types of warnings given to hunters for years. Many times we see these warnings and we push them to the side thinking this will not happen to us. You are wrong. Actually, you might be right – If you follow the basic safety principles.
Unfortunately, I am 1 of the 3 that became a statistic. In 2010 I took a chance and tried moving a ladder stand by myself, that stand broke off the tree and sent me flying to the ground. During the descent my wedding ring caught something on the stand and essentially skinned my ring finger, breaking it and clamping the ring to my bone. Thankfully I was able to keep my disfigured finger, and I didn’t injure myself in any other way.
In the last 6 years since the fall I been overly cautious about climbing trees, in some ways I feel over the top in my preparation and cautious behavior. No doubt it takes me much longer to get in the tree and situated with this new routine, and honestly I have grown tired of the process. When deer hunting from a treestand you want to be as stealth as possible, and ready as soon as possible. You don’t want to be fidgeting around with belts, and straps while potential deer are laying in their beds listening to you move around. But, this past weekend I received another wake-up call.
I was hunting in a Summit Viper climbing stand, and as I released the bottom half of the stand from the tree the cable pushed against the clip that secures it from slipping out, but the rivet holding the clipped snapped. There I was, suspended in the air and looking at the situation in disbelief- yet thankful. Thankful that I hadn’t fell, thankful I took the necessary precautions, but still left with the fact I had to get down. Thankfully my brother was nearby and rushed over with his climber to assist me getting out of the tree.
Now that we have established the need for you to be interested in this topic, let’s look at some ways you can enhance your safety while hunting.
Treestand safety: Situational awareness
One of the most memorable classes I took in the Marine Corps was on the topic of situational awareness. During those classes, you are taught that no matter where you are, you must take into account your surroundings. You are looking for possible exit routes, vantage points, anything that gives you an advantage if something bad were to go down. The main thought here is that you have a plan, no matter the circumstances.
The same should go for your safety in the woods, no matter if you are 20′ high, or chasing bears in Alaska – know your surroundings. One thing you should be doing is going over specific questions that pertain to your situation and safety. If you are hunting from a treestand understand that every situation is different because a climbing stand poses different problems than ladders or hang-on stands. Make sure you go through all the possible scenarios in your situation! Here are some examples:
1. Can you climb down, if you are hanging? This might be the last case scenario, but you need to know if this is an option if you are stuck in the tree. I know that some of you are not going to like this suggestion, but the truth is some people are capable of grabbing the tree and shimming down. But, you have to make this decision quickly, or you will lose the strength to get down.
2. Who can you call, or text that can get to you right away? Other than having a cell phone, see the bottom of the page for equipment you might need to make this a reality.
3. Where is the nearest home, farm, or place where you can find help? If you can crawl, or walk, go where you can to get help.
4. Do you have a screw in a step that you could place into the tree? Most harnesses come with a relief strap, but if you have a step to screw in the tree, that is even better. Being able to stand, and move will help the blood keep flowing through your legs giving you a better chance of survival.
The 10 commandments of treestand safety
To finish this article off let’s look at 10 ways you can increase your safety while in the stand. Feel free to leave other safety tips in the comments below this post.
- Always wear a full-body safety harness.
- When your feet leave the ground, you must be tethered to the tree.
- Always make sure someone knows where you are hunting.
- Never climb with a gun or bow on your body.
- Use a pull-up rope for guns, bows and any other miscellaneous gear.
- If using a permanent stand location – install a safety lifeline.
- Have a source of communication that can reach the outside world; Delorme, Spot, or a cell phone.
- Check your stands before leaving the ground. That means cables, straps, anything that could potentially give once you are in the air.
- When lowering your gun, make sure it is unloaded.
- If possible, hunt with a buddy nearby.
What to do next?
This article is not an end-all to the discussion. Hopefully, it is a reminder, or motivation for you to start taking treestand safety seriously. There is someone out there that is depending on you to make it home. While we cannot guarantee our safety, we can take all the necessary steps to be as safe as possible. The last option you might consider is watching this 20-minute video that will go into more detail about treestand safety and how to be more prepared in the woods.