Unfortunately, it seems to happen every year – sometimes to people you know, sometimes to people you don’t. Every archery deer season there is a report of a hunter who was injured or died from a fall from a treestand. Don’t think it can happen to you? Think again. It’s estimated that one out of every three deer hunters who hunt from elevated stands will likely experience a fall during some point while hunting. Here are ten tips to help keep you safe while hunting from your elevated stand:
1. Read the Instructions
Always read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions, guidelines, and warnings before using a treestand, a safety harness, or any other type of stand accessory or equipment. If you still have questions after reviewing the material, be sure to reach out to the manufacturer for more detailed information. Do not dispose of instruction manuals or DVD’s and do not remove any warning labels or stickers from the equipment, especially if you think someone may borrow the equipment from you or if you decide to sell the equipment down the road.
2. Always Wear A Full-Body Fall Arrest Harness System
Partial body harnesses, like those that only cover the chest or go around the waist, should NEVER be used as treestand safety harnesses because they are not designed to evenly distribute the arrest forces that result from the fall over the trunk of your body. Using a partial body harness can lead to serious injury or even death if you experience a fall. Always use a Treestand Manufacturer’s Association (TMA) approved Full-Body Fall Arrest Harness System (FBFAHS) to be confident that the harness has been designed and tested to meet the stringent industry manufacturing standards set forth by TMA. The FBFAHS works by distributing the arrest forces safely over your upper and lower body, and it allows you to be freer in your movement while using your hunting equipment.
3. Take Your Time
It’s never a good idea to try to rush into or out of your stand. When you rush, you may not be focusing completely on the task at hand, and you are opening yourself up to the possibility of an accident. While climbing, be sure that you are making slow, even movements and that you stay in proper contact with the tree or treestand with each movement. If you are hunting out of a ladder stand or an elevated blind with steps and a railing, always maintain three points of body contact with each step that you take. In other words, you should always have two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet in contact with the ladder or stairs and railing at all times.
4. Always Use A Hoist Rope
Always use a hoist rope to raise your crossbow, pack, and any other equipment you need into the stand after you have reached your desired height and after you have secured your FBFAHS to the tree. Never climb a tree with your stand or climb your ladder with objects in your hands or on your back. A heavy backpack can change your center of gravity and can make you unstable as you try to climb your tree. Prior to exiting your elevated stand, be sure to lower your equipment to a location on the ground that does not interfere with your exit route down the tree, ladder, or stairs.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
Practicing and perfecting your climbing routine prior to going into the field during hunting season will help to make you safer, especially if you are using a climber-style treestand. When practicing, it is best to climb just a few feet from the ground and to have a friend along who can assist you if you run into a problem. Educate yourself on the proper way of putting on your FBFAHS, how to properly secure the FBFAHS to the tree, and how to adjust the FBFAHS after the climb for sitting in your stand.
6. Select the Best Tree
Always choose a tree that best fits the recommended dimensions from your stand’s manufacturer. Avoid selecting trees that are dead, unhealthy, crooked, excessively knotted, or that lean. Pay close attention to the timeframe your stand’s manufacturer recommends for leaving a stand in the woods and closely adhere to these recommendations. Be sure to clear debris from around the base of the tree to minimize your injury from a fall and to ensure you have a clear exit path when you are leaving the tree.
7. Know Yourself
Always know your physical limitations and do not push yourself past them. If you are using a climber stand and you feel like you are high enough, stop climbing. If you do not feel that you have your full mental alertness to climb, like if you are excessively tired, or, if you ever feel unsure about a climb in any way, have a back-up hunting plan in place and consider a different hunting set up for that day.
8. Notify Someone When and Where You Hunt
If you are planning to hunt alone, notify a reliable person of your exact hunting location, providing an address or a map if help needs to find you quickly. Notify this person of when you are going to the woods and when you expect to leave the woods. When possible, hunt with a buddy who can assist if an emergency arises.
9. Carry A Communication or Signal Device
In the event of an accident, carrying a communication or emergency signal device like a cell phone, flashlight, flare, or whistle might mean the difference between life and death. Having the ability to draw attention to your location means that emergency workers may be able to pinpoint your exact location more quickly. Moreover, having a device that will emit a signal without your attention may be critical if you lose consciousness.
10. Have A Plan for the Worst Case Scenario
None of us want to think about the possible consequences of a fall from a treestand. However, failing to prepare for this scenario may leave you in a critical situation, even if your FBFAHS functions properly. Your FBFAHS is designed to keep you safe in the event of a fall, but, being in a hanging position for several hours can cause serious long-term physical problems or even death to any hunter, whether in bad or good physical condition and regardless of age. Always have a knife or cutting tool ready and available to you should you fall. After falling, first attempt to recover and return to your stand. If this is not possible, call for help immediately. If you must hang for an extended period, move your legs and arms by pushing against the tree or by some other method. This leg and arm movement helps to promote continuous blood flow throughout your body and helps to prevent possible cardiac arrest.
Take the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association’s free, 15-minute online Treestand Safety Course!