According to statistics, nearly one out of every three hunters who hunt from an elevated stand will fall at some point during their hunting days. Too many hunters die every year, and many are injured as a result of a fall from a treestand. Reports indicate carelessness appears the main reason for treestand accidents, but even the safest hunters tell you accidents can and do happen. Learning what to do to survive may keep you from becoming another statistic.
One of the most critical aspects of keeping safe while hunting from an elevated shooting stand is the use of a full-body safety harness. A full-body harness is the type of harness that has straps which wrap around both legs, both shoulders, and secures at the waist.
If you’re still using a strap chest/waist type of harness, stop. An outdated chest or waist harness which offers one strap either around your chest or waist while the other end is tethered to a tree, may indeed keep you from hitting the ground should you fall out of your treestand. But statistics and gravity prove these types of harnesses are dangerous. Demonstrations have proven even the most physically fit of hunters are at risk of losing their lives in a matter of seconds if they choose to use these types of outdated harnesses. A strap around the waist will force the fallen hunter to flip upside down, while his entire weight puts tension on the strap, often so tight that severe injury or death occurs. One strap chest harnesses act the same way, however, the hunter may flip over after a sudden fall and quick jerk (all of which the body’s weight is used and multiplied) the chest strap instantly puts a choke hold around the hunter’s chest causing suffocation.
Wearing a full-body harness is a safer choice. Although full-body harnesses are the way to go there are still some issues you need to be aware of. Assuming you survived the initial shock of the fall your body may now be in serious jeopardy of a silent killer, Deep Vein Thrombosis, commonly known as blood clots as you dangle below your treestand. A blood clot can form in as little as 6 seconds. Even with the best safety harnesses you are still at serious risk if you have any type of pressure on your limbs.
To improve safety consider using additional climbing aids such as climbing ropes designed with special Prussic knots. These aids allow the hunter to tether themselves to the tree at all times and are becoming standard equipment at outfitters across the country. Research tells us nearly 75% of falls happen while the hunter is climbing the tree. Securing yourself to the tree and keeping at least three points of contact on the ladder or steps at all times are crucial.
Keeping safe while hunting from an elevated stand is much easier when you choose quality equipment which have the Treestand Manufacturers Association (TMA) stamp of approval. Executive Director, Marilyn Bentz of the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, “one size does not fit all when it comes to harnesses currently harness sizes are rated by weight, which is a good reference if you are honest about your weight. Hunters should put on the harness before they leave to hunt, just like you put on the rest of your clothes” recommends Bentz. Regardless, any safety system is only good as its user, so use the tools wisely and live to see another hunting season.
Things to think about BEFORE you head out on a hunt:
* Tell someone where you are going and when to expect you home.
* Always keep 3 points of contact when climbing.
* Don’t fall asleep while in an elevated stand.
* Practice and get comfortable using a climbing rope.
* Practice using a step rope/loop to help relieve pressure and help get you back in your stand if you fall.
* Have an escape plan in mind in case you fall.
* Never carry equipment while you climb, use a haul line instead.
* Keep a knife accessible at all times. Consider attaching a plastic box cutter type of safety knife to the outside of your vest. Attaching a whistle to your vest is also a good idea.
* Use the buddy system when hanging stands prior to season opener as this is a time when many accidents happen.