Treestand safety is something bowhunters don’t think about much unless they have a treestand accident. Almost all serious bowhunters know someone who has had a treestand accident. I know several individuals who have fallen from treestands. One gentleman I know had an accident in 2007. He is in his twenties and is now confined to a wheelchair.
Most treestand accidents can be prevented if hunters follow a few safety rules. First, hunters should never leave the ground without putting a full body harness on. Many companies including Hunter Safety Systems and Summit Treestands make great full body safety harnesses. These harnesses are not the safety belt you and your grandfather have used for decades. Full body safety harnesses fit snug to the body so they aren’t in your way when you are shooting. They actually work! Studies show that a safety belt doesn’t really help hunters. In fact, if you fall when wearing a safety belt that wraps around your waist, you only have a few minutes before you could lose consciousness and possibly die because blood flow gets restricted and blood cannot get to your vital organs. Wearing a full body harness is very important. It is possible to have blood flow problems with a full body harness, but it won’t happen as quickly. Experts recommend that hunters carry a screw-in step with them when hunting. If a hunter falls and is suspended and unable to get to the ground or back up to their stand, he can screw a step into the tree and step up on it several times a minute to relieve the pressure around his groin area which will allow blood to flow. Carrying a cell phone is also important so hunters can call for help. Without a screw-in step and phone, hunters can pass out.
When using a full body safety harness, hang the strap that the safety harness hooks into a few feet above your head when sitting in your stand. Many hunters don’t attach the strap high enough in the tree. If they fall out of the stand, they are hanging too far below the platform to climb back in so they are left hanging there. Placing the strap a few feet above their head while sitting down ensures that if they fall off the platform, they will only fall a foot or so below the platform. Hunters will be able to get back in without much trouble.
Many hunters refuse to wear a full body harness because they believe it takes lots of extra time to use one. Many of the full body harnesses on the market can be purchased with different ropes that can be used in conjunction with the full body harness. The ropes are often tied to the tree the hunter is hunting in and as he climbs down, he simply needs to slide the prussic knot up the rope as he climbs. If hunters fall on the climb up or down, the prussic know tightens and prevents a fall. Studies show that using the rope and prussic knot system only adds an extra minute or two to the climb.
Studies also reveal what hunters are doing when they have an accident and which treestands most accidents occur in. By not making these mistakes, you stand less of a chance of having an accident. Below are a few of the mistakes hunters make.
Treestand accidents occur in every style of treestand on the market, but more accidents happen to hunters who use climbing treestands. Climbing treestands are safe if used properly, but many hunters do a few things wrong. When climbing a tree, they take large strides up the tree. Large fast strides often result in not getting a good bite on the tree. It also causes hunters to lose the bottom half of the treestand which leaves them hanging several feet off the ground with no way down.
Most climbing treestands come with some type of rope that attaches the lower half of the treestand to the upper half. Many hunters remove this rope. If your treestand doesn’t come with this type of attachment, purchase a climbing rope and attach the two units. I’ve heard lots of stories about hunters who were left hanging in a tree when the bottom half of their stand gets dislodged from the tree and falls to the ground. An inexpensive rope will prevent this from happening.
Ladders and climbing sticks are very popular because they can be attached to a tree quite easily and make getting into a treestand simple. Unfortunately, many hunters purchase a ladder or climbing stick that is 15 feet long and hang their stand 18 feet in the tree. Every time they get in and out of the stand, they are reaching up or down trying to reach the platform or trying to reach the rungs on the ladder or climbing stick. It’s easy to see how hunters could slip and fall. When stretching out, try to firmly plant your feet on something solid. It is recommended that your climbing sticks go beyond the height of your platform so you can easily step down onto the platform when climbing up and easily reach the steps when climbing down.
Ladder stands are one of the most popular styles of treestands on the market. They are easy to get into and can be easy to hang if they are hung properly. Many hunters try to hang their ladder stands by themselves. Often as a hunter climbs up the ladder to attach the top of the platform to the tree, the ladder slips from the tree and falls backwards. To properly hang a ladder stand, bring a few buddies with you. Two people can hold onto the ladder while the third person climbs up to attach the platform to the tree.
I have seen lots of hunters hunt from homemade stands that they made ten years ago out of scrap wood. Homemade stands are a death trap. Nails rust, wood rots, and trees grow. The combination of these factors spells disaster for a permanent stand and the hunter who is using it. On a recent hung in Canada, I was told to hunt from a stand that was made from pine limbs and old plywood. I used a hang-on stand instead. Never trust a homemade stand. They are a ticking time bomb!
Many people wish they could turn back the hand of time and wear a full body safety harness when they climbed into their treestand. Unfortunately, many hunters don’t realize the value of a full body safety harness or the value of taking their time as they climb into their stand until they are lying on their back on the ground or sitting in a hospital bed.
Remember to replace your full body safety harness if you fall from an elevated stand while it is on. They are only meant to withstand one fall before being replaced.