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Tree stand safety - You can't be too careful

September 04, 2005|By BILL ANDERSON

Most deer hunters follow a number of rituals as the season approaches. Scouting is, of course, high on the list, as is checking out our equipment and making the many purchases of the latest "gotta have" equipment.

With a few exceptions, the forecasts for the upcoming deer season are very good: Lots of deer, and liberal seasons and bag limits.

One of the activities we have been busy with is hanging our tree stands and putting up the ladder stands we use. We like to get them in early, cut shooting lanes and travel lanes and then get out of the area to let the deer settle back down. Every year as we hang our stands, I think about the safety issues related to tree stand hunting.

Many deer hunters might be surprised to learn that one of the biggest safety issues for hunters is tree stand safety. We all know that tree stands can increase your effectiveness for a variety of reasons. You can see better, and you are above the line of sight for the deer.

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Most also believe that hunting above the deer can also make it harder for the deer to get your scent, although you still need to pay attention to wind direction.

But the simple facts are that hunting from a tree stand is inherently dangerous, and falls or accidents are very bad because of the type of injuries that happen. A fall from 15 feet or higher can leave a hunter with severe spinal injuries, broken limbs or can even result in death.

The manufacturing of tree stands has become a big industry, and the newest technologies are now being used to make stands better and safer than ever. It is important to always follow manufacturer recommendations, and to apply some basic safety techniques when using tree stands.

The following are some facts on tree stands and recommendations to make your hunting season safe and productive:

· Most hunters are aware of the basic issues associated with tree stands, but a relatively new study has found that the improper use of safety belts can be particularly dangerous.

The slip belts that you place around your waist can literally strangle a hunter if the belt is placed around the waist and tightens under the ribcage. The dangling hunter is unable to breathe.

This is why experts recommend keeping your safety strap to the tree as short as possible, and using a multi-point harness instead of a single safety belt around your middle. The best harness is the type that rock climbers use that has straps that go around your legs as well as around your waist and chest. If you fall wearing this type of harness, you will remain upright, and your weight will be supported at many points in the harness.

· Many accidental falls occur while going up or down from the stand. If possible, wear a safety belt at this time as well as while in the stand.

· Always tell a friend or family member where you will be hunting and when you plan to return. If something happens, they will know where to look for you.

· Never climb with a gun or bow in hand. Always use a pull rope.

· Never sleep in a tree stand. Many recent studies have shown that falling asleep is one of the most common causes of tree stand accidents. If you are sleepy, climb down and take a break.

I mention tree stand safety a lot. It's for good reason. I have had my own adventures while hunting above the ground, and I have a close friend who will always walk with a cane because of a misstep while coming down from his stand. Another acquaintance suffered a broken neck and died three days later after falling out of his stand. Every deer season you hear the news reports of hunters who are badly injured from tree stand accidents. You cannot be too careful.

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

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