I hate writing on this subject. Still, this is the third time in the past five years that Ive done so and, if I must, Ill throw it out there every deer season until folks start to pay attention and wise up.
I was out of town this past weekend when I got word that one of my friends back here was at the hospital. He had settled into a treestand for an evening hunt, grown tired and nodded off.
The next thing he knew he was lying on the ground in excruciating pain after having fallen some 25 feet to the ground.
The end result? Fortunately for him, it wasnt as bad as it could have been. Still, he now lies at home with several fractured vertebrae, plenty of scratches, bumps and bruises and a bottle of pain pills by his side.
As one would expect, working is out of the question for a while and thats sure to hit him in the wallet, but, compared to most hunters involved in treestand accidents, its a small price to pay.
Officially, thats what they call an incident such as this one a treestand accident. If you ask me, thats a pretty stupid name for it considering that anyone who climbs high into a tree without bothering to use a safety harness is committing an intentional act. Theyre asking for it and theres nothing accidental about it.
As crazy as it is, a mind blowing 82 percent of hunters dont bother to use any safety equipment while in the stand. Does that really make any sense? Especially since the numbers prove that one in three hunters will fall at some point during their hunting career. With a harness thats no big deal.
I just cant imagine not wearing one. If you happen to fall into that majority who doesnt, there are a number of ways that I could describe you but the easiest is to probably just say that your elevator doesnt go all the way to the top!
Dont believe that? Well, just consider: Two years worth of statistics kept by the International Hunter Education Association show that 269 treestand accidents were reported.
Now, understand, there were many more that happened during that timeframe but tons of them dont get officially categorized as such. In all, 29 of those victims in the report died and a large portion suffered from permanent paralysis.
The aforementioned harnesses, or fall arrest systems as the outdoors industry likes to call them, are the one thing that is guaranteed to keep you safe when youre hanging out way up there so why not wear one? Its not like theyre bulky or cumbersome. They dont get in the way of anything and every stand thats sold these days comes with a free one. You dont even have to buy the thing!
Whatever your ridiculous reason for having not worn one in the past, I hope youll reconsider. Especially since, odds are, there are folks at home who expect you to come back in the very same condition you left.
The Treestand Manufacturer Association offers up the following guidelines for doing just that.
Stay safe, folks! Im quite sure that using your head is a whole lot better than landing on it.
• Always wear a fall-arrest system/full body harness meeting TMA standards, even during ascent and descent. Be aware that single strap belts and chest harnesses are no longer allowed, and that fall-arrest devices and should be used. Failure to use a FAS could result in serious injury or death.
Always read and understand the manufacturers warnings and instructions before using the treestand each season. Practice with the treestand at ground level prior to using at elevated positions. Maintain the warnings and instructions for later review as needed, for instructions on usage to anyone borrowing your stand, or to pass on when selling the treestand. Use all safety devices provided with your treestand.
• Always inspect the treestand and the Fall-Arrest System for signs of wear or damage before each use. Contact the manufacturer for replacement parts. Destroy all products that cannot be repaired by the manufacturer and/or exceed recommended expiration date, or if the manufacturer no longer exists. The FAS should be discarded and replaced after a fall has occurred.
• Always practice in your full body harness in the presence of a responsible adult before using it in an elevated hunting environment, learning what it feels like to hang suspended in it at ground level and how to properly use your suspension relief device.
• Always attach your Full Body Harness in the manner and method described by the manufacturer. Failure to do so may result in suspension without the ability to recover into your treestand. Be aware of the hazards associated with Full Body Harnesses and the fact that prolonged suspension in a harness may be fatal. Have in place a plan for rescue, including the use of cell phones or signal devices that may be easily reached and used while suspended. If rescue personnel cannot be notified you must have a plan for recover/escape. If you have to hang suspended for a period of time before help arrives, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree or doing any other form of continuous motion or use your suspension relief device. Failure to recover in a timely manner could result in serious injury or death. If you do not have the ability to recover/escape, hunt from the ground.
• Always hunt with a plan, and if possible, a buddy. Before you leave home, let others know your exact hunting location, when you plan to return and who is with you.
• Always carry emergency signal devices such as a cellphone, walkie-talkie, whistle, signal re, PLD (personal locator device) and flashlight on your person at all times and within reach even while you are suspended in your FAS. Watch for changing weather conditions. In the event of an accident, remain calm and seek help immediately.
• Always select the proper tree for use with your treestand. Select a live straight tree that is within the size limits recommended in your treestands instructions. Do not climb or place a treestand against a leaning tree. Never leave a treestand installed for more than two weeks since damage could result from changing weather conditions and/or from other factors not obvious with a visual inspection.
• Always use a haul line to pull up your gear and unloaded firearm or bow to your treestand once you have reached your desired hunting height. Never climb with anything in your hands or on your back. Prior to descending, lower your equipment on the opposite side of the tree.
• Always know your physical limitations. Dont take chances. Do not climb when using drugs, alcohol or if youre sick or tired un-rested. If you start thinking about how high you are, dont go any higher.
• Never use homemade or permanently elevated stands or make modifications to a purchased treestand without the manufacturers written permission. Only purchase and use treestands and Fall-Arrest Systems meeting or exceeding TMA standards. For a detailed list of certified products, contact the TMA office or refer to the TMA web site at www.tmastands.com.
• Never exceed the weight limit specified by the manufacturer. If you have any questions after reviewing the warnings and instructions, please contact the manufacturer.
• Never hurry!! With two piece, climbing treestands, make slow, even movements of no more than 10 to 12 ten to twelve inches at a time. Make sure you have proper contact with the tree and/or treestand every time you move. On ladder-type treestands, maintain three points of contact with each step.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter- @BHarveyOutdoors.