Be safe in those trees

August 15, 2004|by BILL ANDERSON

As we get closer to the opening of the bow seasons, a number of organizations are reminding hunters about the safety aspects of tree-stand hunting. Tree-stand accidents have been on the increase over the past decade as more and more hunters take to the trees for a number of reasons.

In years past, it was primarily bow hunters who used tree stands. But now it's more common for gun hunters to hunt from a tree stand. In certain regions (eastern North Carolina for one), hunters are required to hunt from an elevated stand as a safety precaution. Hunting from an elevated stand means you will be above the deer and the angle of any shot will hopefully mean that any stray shot will bury into the dirt.

A number of studies have shown that most accidents occur when climbing up to or down from the stand. It is important to be particularly careful at these times. A climbing belt is highly recommended. Ladders and tree steps should be positioned to allow you to climb higher than the stand and step over into the stand.


Another sobering fact to remember is that the injuries suffered by hunters using tree stands often are very severe. Falls often result in very serious back, leg or spinal injuries, and each season hunters are killed from the falls.

The Trees and Manufacturers Association is a group of companies in the outdoors recreation industry that has developed safety standards for commercial tree stands. They are also active in promoting tree-stand safety awareness. If you have purchased a commercial tree stand, the odds are that it has been certified by this organization.

The following is a list of tree-stand safety tips provided by the TMA, state agencies and bowhunting associations:

  • The wearing of a safety harness is the most basic safety recommendation, and most experts now recommend wearing a full body or multi-point harness, like the ones worn by rock climbers. If you use a single belt, snug it under your arms and around your upper torso. A cinch-type belt around your midsection can be more dangerous than the fall.

  • Choose a tree that is straight and healthy, even if it may not be in the best possible place to see game.

  • Portable ladders are preferred to screw-in steps. Be sure to scrape away any loose or excess bark from the tree before inserting screw-in steps. Insert screw-in steps only into the solid, live portion of wood of a tree. If a step is very easy to screw-in, it may also easily strip out when you step on it. It should require moderate physical exertion to insert a screw-in step properly.

  • Climb up and remove small (and dead) branches to ready your selected site for safe use of your stand.

  • Read and follow the instructions provided with commercial stands. Failure to do so could cause injury or death if improperly used and could also negate any legal claims you may have against the manufacturer.

  • Never climb with your bow or rifle - always use a pull rope. Place the bow or gun on the ground on the backside of the tree before climbing and when descending.

  • If using a climbing-style stand, tie both the climber and platform together to assure that the platform cannot slip away out of your reach. Use a TMA certified tree stand. The TMA conducts independent testing and certification of stands manufactured by companies that belong to that institution.

    Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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