Outdoors: Tree stand safety is an important part of hunting
by Charles Johnson
Special to The Star
Oct 08, 2013 | 2404 views |  0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A proper tree-stand safety harness will prevent you from hitting the ground after a fall. (Photo by Charles Johnson/The Anniston Star)
A proper tree-stand safety harness will prevent you from hitting the ground after a fall. (Photo by Charles Johnson/The Anniston Star)
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Each year, many deer hunters across Alabama use some type of tree stand. Climbers, lock-on style and ladder stands encompass the majority of elevated platforms used by hunters

Also, each hunters are injured, some seriously, from a fall out of a stand. These falls can be prevented. Sadly, tree stand safety is the furthest thing from their minds.

One slip, one fall can not only ruin a hunt but also your life. Responsible hunters owe it to themselves and their families to use proper safety when hunting from tree stands. With the modern climbing harnesses and safety restraint vests, there is no excuse for hunters to leave the ground without a fall-restraining device.

Pre-season safety

Deer hunters often will place and erect stands before opening day. Safety is just as important during this time as if hunting. It is wise to bring along a partner to help out or at least someone to be present during stand placement.

“Anytime you leave the ground, you should be wearing a safety harness,” said Ray Metlzer, Hunting Education Coordinator with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Always attach your tether to the tree when you are climbing or descending.”

Some safety vests and harnesses have a climbing belt option. This device is handy when setting lock-on style stands where tree steps or climbing sticks are used. The climbing belt or strap can help you in place allowing both hands to be free for hanging the stand.

Hunters should become familiar with any type of stand before placing it on tree. Read and understand the mounting instructions before attempting to set a stand. Some stand may use straps, chains or a special bracket to hold the stand on the tree.

Also, hunters should choose the proper tree for the stand. Most climbing stands need a rough bark type tree for a better grip. Make certain the tree is straight and with no large knots that could cause the stand to lean or twist. Never place a stand in a dead tree.

Ladder stand are generally safe, but can be a little tricky to erect. It is a good idea to have one or more persons assist when setting up a ladder stand. Use a rope or strap attached to the platform to guide the stand into position. Another rope or strap attached to the ladder and tightened around the tree will help hold the stand until the primary winch strap or chain can be affixed.

Before the season thoroughly inspect the cables, chains, straps and hardware on every stand you plan to use. It is wise to replace nylon straps each season with new ones. Don’t skimp on cheap straps, your life is worth more than a few bucks.

Fall causes

Most climbing style stands are designed with built-in safety factors. However, instances can occur where the stand is not affixed properly to the tree and slips or turns unexpectedly. Lock-on style stands can be secure on the tree, but a wet surface or misstep will send the hunter straight to the ground. Screw-in steps and strap-on ladders can cause sudden mishaps if not installed properly.

“Most falls from tree stands occur when the hunter is either climbing or descending the tree,” said Michael Wydner, director of sales for Hunter Safety Systems in Danville.

Hunters allow their attention to wander or either the stand itself slips causing the hunter to tumble out to the ground. A hurried climb to get in the stand is another reason for falls. Even a fall from a few feet can result in serious injury.

Tree stands left attached to trees from the previous season can suffer damage or straps can become fatigued from storms and high winds. Bolts, cables or straps can loosen over time rendering the stand unsafe. Also, dew or rain on the steps or stand can be slippery in the early morning darkness.

Fall out prevention

Metlzer recommends hunters use some type of full body harness when hunting from elevated stands. Not only do these devices help prevent a hunter from hitting the ground they can keep the hunter upright after a fall. You may not hit the ground, but if you are upside-down it is only a matter of minutes before you lose consciousness.

Hunter Safety System, Tree Spider and other companies offer various types of safety harnesses and vests for tree stand hunters. These vests are lightweight and easy to put on. They buckle across the chest and around the legs to provide comfort and security in the stand.

“The safety system is designed to absorb some of the shock of the fall and keep the hunter upright,” Wydner said.

Many companies now offer vests or safety harnesses that are easy and comfortable to wear while hunting. Most tree stand manufactures include a full safety harness with each tree stand. Metlzer advises hunters take some time before hunting and become familiar with their harness.

Tree stand hunters should never use a rope, strap or belt around the waist. These may prevent you from hitting the ground, but the internal damage and shock on the body can be just as bad. After a fall, these types of devices can restrict blood flow to lower body extremities, causing tissue damage.

Hunters should carry an extraction strap or rope with their fall restraint device. If you should fall and are hanging by your tether, an extraction strap can help you descend safely to the ground. Hunter safety courses are focusing more on self-extraction in case of a safe fall.

Tree Spider has a Live Wire device that can lower a hunter safely to the ground if he falls. Hunter Safety System provides a specially sewn tether that will cushion the force from a sudden stop during a fall. Also, many of the harness systems can be used as a deer drag.

Some hunters may think a harness or safety vest is too expensive. Also, hunters may feel they interfere with their movement. Modern tree stand safety vests and harnesses are easy and comfortable to wear. Top quality safety harnesses or vests can range from $69 to $199. What is your life worth?

Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at ChrJohn7@aol.com.
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Outdoors: Tree stand safety is an important part of hunting by Charles Johnson
Special to The Star

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