Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tree Stand Safety

Trees.  If one thinks of nature, trees are the first vision one has.  They provide oxygen for most other living things, filtering out other gases such as carbon dioxide.  Their roots enhance the stability of the ground beneath.
Trees help us in visualizing our ancestral lineage.  The ‘family tree’ can start with an ancestor and blossom to our current extended family or it may start with the newly married couple and expand back generations.
Trees represent the changing of the seasons.  They also represent how to provide strength to a situation; without a strong root system even the mighty will fall.
When deer season approaches, one of the steps in scouting comes in the form of searching for a good straight tree.  Without that tree, the hunting style changes drastically.
Many hunters use a variety of stands.  Ladder stands, both home-built or store purchased, lock on style stands, and climbing stands are the most popular choices.  Regardless of the type, they provide a secure and stable platform in order to wait and then fire upon the intended target.
Just as it is often quoted how safe airplanes are, the statistic that always matters is when one crashes is the number of injuries and fatalities involved.  Between the 2008-2009 season and the 2010-2011 season, a span of three seasons, North Carolina reported 132 total hunting incidents resulting in 13 fatalities.  Of those incidents, 57 were related to stands and of the 13 fatalities, 8 were from a stand.  If you speak to any long time hunter, most will tell you at some point they fell from a tree or stand.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) began the Home from the Hunt safety campaign last year in an attempt to minimize the incidents.  During this same time, we are experiencing a growth in the number of hunting licenses sold, meaning there are likely more people in the field.  I spoke with Geoff Cantrell of the NCWRC about the Home from the Hunt campaign recently.  Geoff shared that hunter education instructors are encouraged to cover elevated stand safety to a greater extent.  He also shared a few tips.
-Never carry anything when climbing.  Use a haul line to raise and lower unloaded firearms and equipment once seated safely.
-Have an emergency signal device readily available.  A whistle, flare, or cell phone on vibrate works well.
-Let someone know where you are hunting and when you plan to return.
-Select a healthy straight tree and do not exceed height recommendations.
Cantrell also stresses the importance of keeping three points of contact with the stand while climbing up or down and wearing a full body harness.
If you have ever used, or attempted to use a safety harness, especially one that comes with a store bought stand, you will quickly realize unless you are accustomed to putting one on, it can be difficult.  It is even more difficult if you are going in for a morning hunt and it is still dark while trying to slide it on.  Just as you do with your bow or firearm, practice makes perfect.  If you are going in early, put it on before getting into the vehicle and wear it to the hunting land.
I have also come across people who mention they do not have one and just don’t have the funds to spend on a $50 - $100 safety vest.  We will not get into what is more important between ammunition, firearms, or a safety device; it is self explanatory.  But, I do have an alternative.  Will Jenkins, a blogger located in Virginia began a program last year for those who do not have harnesses.  Harnesses for Hunters became a success, and soon Will had gathered many harnesses and vests donated by hunters who had extras from stands they had purchased.  Will became a holding partner, accepting harnesses from the donations, and shipping, for free, to those hunters who requested vests but felt like they did not have the money to purchase one.  While the vests were free to Will, he did incur costs for shipping and feared he would have to halt the program.
Earlier this year, he gathered a few sponsors that assisted in the shipping costs.  He also began taking monetary donations to help with shipping as well.
If you would like to donate either a harness or vest to Will, or would like to request a vest, you can go to Will’s site, and follow the links there.
If you get a harness, or if you hunt from a stand, just remember to use it.  North Carolina, your family, and I would like to see you return Home from the Hunt.


  1. Nationwide it's the #1 cause of hunting accidents. I'm 38 and have used a harness (of some kind) my whole "hunting life" (20 years). Why? Because I'm a tree stand napper, and many times I've started leaning/falling just as I was waking up...

    Great article, Bill!

  2. Tree Climbing and taking part in nature is the most blissful thing one could do in life during these days... When technology will soon consume entertainment for many. Hiking is the ultimate past time.

    -Tony Salmeron

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