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Tree-stand safety still an issue

OUTDOORS --

September 07, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

The bow season for deer opens in Maryland on Sept. 15 and will be followed closely by opening dates in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The situation could not be much better for hunters, as there are plenty of deer, liberal seasons and liberal bag limits.

The last thing a hunter wants to worry about when heading to the field is safety. The overall safety situation for deer hunters during firearms season has improved with mandatory safety classes and the mandatory wearing of fluorescent orange.

Most hunters are surprised to hear that in recent years, one of the biggest issues is tree-stand safety. If you hunt deer, you are probably well aware of the advantages of an elevated stand. You can see better and farther, and you are above the line of sight for the deer. Getting above the deer can also make it harder for the deer to get your scent.

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But perhaps the most compelling fact about tree-stand accidents is the severity of the injuries. A fall from a tree stand can leave a hunter with severe spinal injuries, broken limbs and can even result in death.

Tree stands come in many variations, from the so called self-climbers to the type you attach to a tree and then use steps or a ladder to climb up to. Over the years, the use of new technologies has made the stands lighter and safer than ever before, assuming they are used correctly.

The following are some recommendations from the state agencies to make your hunting season safe and productive.

It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of falls occur while climbing up to or down from the stand. Be extra careful and, if possible, wear a safety belt at this time as well as when you are in the stand.

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

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

Never trim small trees under your stand at an angle. Falling on a sapling cut a foot above the ground could be fatal. Try to trim as close to the ground as possible.

Experts recommend the use of tie-on ladders instead of screw-in steps to access your tree stand. If you do use screw-in steps, make sure the step is into the tree to its maximum depth. If the tree has deep bark, scrape off the bark and then screw in the step.

Studies have shown that falling asleep is a very common cause of treestand accidents. If you are sleepy, climb down and take a break, and always were a safety harness while in the stand.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by e-mail at bill@weekend-sportsman.com

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