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I hate writing on this subject. Still, this is the third time in the past five years that I’ve done so and, if I must, I’ll 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. The story was that 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 wasn’t 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 that’s sure to hit him in the wallet, but, compared to most hunters involved in treestand accidents, it’s a small price to pay.
Officially, that’s what they call an incident such as this one- a “treestand accident.” If you ask me, that’s a pretty stupid name for it considering that anyone that climbs high into a tree without bothering to strap in with the aid of a safety harness is committing an intentional act. They’re plainly asking for it and there’s really nothing accidental about it.
As crazy as it is, a mind blowing 82 percent of hunters don’t 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 that’s no big deal.
I just can’t imagine not wearing one. If you happen to fall into that majority that doesn’t, there are a number of ways that I could describe you but the easiest is to probably just say that your elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top!
Don’t believe that? Well, just consider- Two years worth of recent statistics kept by the International Hunter Education Association show that 269 treestand accidents were reported during that time period. Now, understand, there were many more that happened over that timeframe but tons of them don’t 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 you’re hanging out way up there so why not wear one? It’s not like they’re bulky or cumbersome. They don’t get in the way of anything and every stand that’s sold these days comes with a free one. You don’t even have to buy the thing!
Whatever your ridiculous reason for having not worn one in the past, I hope you’ll reconsider. Especially since, odds are, there are folks at home that expect you to come back in the very same condition that you left.
The Treestand Manufacturer Association offers up the following guidelines for doing just that. It’s my hope that you’ll read them and make use of them each and every time you venture out.
Stay safe, folks! I’m quite sure that using your head is a whole lot better than landing on it.
Treestand Safety Guidelines
• 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 fall-arrest devices and should not be used. Failure to use a FAS could result in serious injury or death.
• Always read and understand the manufacturer’s 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.
• Never exceed the weight limit speciﬁed by the manufacturer. If you have any questions after reviewing the warnings and instructions, please contact the manufacturer.
• 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 prior to 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 cell phone, walkie-talkie, whistle, signal ﬂare, 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 ﬁts within the size limits recommended in your treestand’s 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. Don’t take chances. Do not climb when using drugs, alcohol or if you’re sick or un-rested. If you start thinking about how high you are, don’t go any higher.
• Never use homemade or permanently elevated stands or make modiﬁcations to a purchased treestand without the manufacturer’s 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 http://www.tmastands.com.
• Never hurry!! With two piece, climbing treestands, make slow, even movements of no more than 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.