Take a Stand Safely
By Steve Hall
Nationally, one in three hunting injuries involve a tree stand. Here’s how to not become a statistic.
Hunting from an elevated stand is a popular technique because it offers a larger field of view, keeps human scent above ground level and raises body movements above the prey’s normal field of vision. A recent study of Vermont and North Carolina hunters reported that falls from tree stands occur frequently enough that they remain a top concern of hunter education and safety officials.
According to the study data, one out of every 14 hunters hunting from a tree stand has fallen, with most of the accidents occurring while climbing up to or down from the elevated platform. In three quarters of the incidents, poor judgment or carelessness was the cause, with four out of every five victims thinking, “It won’t happen to me.”
In Texas, the same concerns exist for those hunting from free-standing, elevated platforms such as tripods and box stands, as with tree stands. The most common accidents are falls taken while climbing, sometimes with a loaded firearm — a violation of a primary rule of hunting safety.
Taking the necessary precautions when hunting from tree stands greatly improves your chances of avoiding one of the most common types of hunting and outdoor incidents — a fall from an elevated position.
The most necessary precautions include:
- Using a fall restraint device or safety harness when hunting from tree stands
- Using a hauling line to raise and lower firearm or bow to and from the stand
- Following the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the stand, climbing system or safety harness
- Using two hands while climbing and being careful with every step taken.
A fall restraint device is used to secure oneself to a tree both while climbing and while sitting on the platform. The best type is the five-point or full-body harness that secures both shoulders, both thighs and the torso during a fall. This kind of device is similar to gear used in rappelling or mountain climbing. Secured properly to the tree above the hunter’s head, a fall restraint device prevents a hunter from falling more than 6 to 12 inches. After a fall or slip, the hunter remains on the platform or can step back easily onto the platform or a nearby limb.
Know the proper procedures for installing or securing the climbing system and for wearing and using the proper fall restraint device. Always attach yourself to the tree from the moment you start up the tree until you are back on the ground.
Always use a haul or hoist line long enough to reach the ground. Tie the line to your belt, leaving both hands free for climbing. Tie the line to the bow or firearm in a manner that prevents it from being caught in tree branches on the way up or down. Cover the muzzle of the (unloaded) firearm with a balloon or similar protection to keep out dirt.
Thoroughly inspect elevated stands for defects, missing parts or weaknesses well before the season begins. When climbing or descending, stay alert and proceed in a safe, deliberate manner. Always check or test a step or platform before placing your full weight on it.