Tree Stand Safety Tips: Part 2

Here are more tree stand safety tips to take with you to the woods. They will help make your next outing a safer one.

You’re going to use a rope to raise and lower your bow or firearm, why not use it for backpacks and fanny packs as well? The belt of a fanny pack is in a prime location for snagging on steps, and wearing a loaded backpack can affect your balance.

Heading in for an afternoon hunt, I often wear my release, just in case I get a chance on the way. And then, for some pig-headed reason, I used to leave it on for the climb up the steps. Did I really think I could somehow reach my bow rope, get the bow, and shoot from the steps? Now all I wear on my hands is a pair of gripper-style gloves.

Use A Safety Belt/Harness Whenever Leaving The Ground

“Since my incident I have acquired a climbing belt, which I always use when hanging stands,” said cameraman Devine. “I wish I hadn’t been so stubborn in my early years since it actually aids the hanging of stands because it leaves both hands free — too bad it took a fall to get a clue.”

Did you know — and this is also from the “Deer & Deer Hunting” tree stand safety surveys — that 70 percent of falls from tree stands happen while the hunter is climbing up or down, and stepping to or from the stand?

“The worst mistake made by people in tree stands is failing to strap themselves in,” said “Bowhunter” magazine’s former editor James. “The next is failing to realize how vulnerable they are before they secure their belt or harness and after they take it off to climb down.”

The author says she has had many close calls with falls from her tree stand while hunting.

What can we do about this? It’s easy to use a climbing belt with a climbing stand. But I think we’d all agree that it’s a royal pain in the butt to go up a set of climbing steps while hoisting a safety belt up ahead of our progress, loosening its base to get around the steps, tightening it on the tree. But which pain in the butt do you want? The extra hassle one, or the landing hard on it one?

Full-body harnesses have D-rings so that they can be used lineman-style while climbing; and Ol’ Man has a chest harness, which has the D-rings. Although climbing like a lineman may feel cumbersome at first, it can become a habit quickly.

“In my opinion, convenience is very important when it comes to safety equipment, however, compromising is never correct,” said John Louk of Ol’ Man. “Practice using the safety devices before the hunt, which is the most effective way to build confidence and develop good habits.”

Practice Pays

I have a fixed-position stand hanging over my yard so that I can practice shooting at targets. Yes, it’s hot in the summer and yes, it feels like overkill when I put my body harness on over my T-shirt and shorts and then inch its “tail” over the step sections. The first time bordered on ridiculous. But it is now ridiculously easy.

Belts versus chest harnesses or full-body harness?

“I’ve used both extensively, and now favor a harness over a belt,” James said. “I know several bowhunters who have been injured by belts — bruised midsections, broken ribs — when they fell.”

But any belt is better than nothing. If you use a belt, wear it cinched tightly just below your arms, rather than around your waist, with very little slack in the piece from you to the tree, according to John Louk.

Don’t forego using a chest or body harness because you feel they take too much fumbling in the dark, or that there are too many straps interfering with movement. Use the type with the lanyard accessible high on the shoulders, and put the harness on under your outer layer of clothes before heading out. Still, in the tree, keep your tether short.

We also can lessen the climbing and descending dangers by warming up first, and making sure our hands are free. Just being aware that this is a dangerous part of the process is a help. Plus, we can easily take steps to lessen the danger of that move from steps to the tree.

Hand Hold

“A common mistake is depending on a branch for support during that move,” said Dave Samuel. “A screw-in step gives you a lot more stability, especially if the bark of the tree is damp.”

Level Step

Never hang a stand leaving the last step below it; make it so it’s a step across or step down. Screw-in or strap-on single steps are inexpensive to add, or you can just run an extra section of steps up past the stand.

Extra “Tails”

You can buy extra ends of safety belts or harnesses, and leave them attached to the tree above your stand. There is still a critical moment when you must unhook and re-hook, but that movement is a lot safer if it doesn’t involve wrapping the tail of the safety belt around the tree first.

“I attach my safety line before stepping in and don’t take it off until I step out,” said Dave Samuel. “If the safety line won’t reach for me to step off the stand when I depart, then I re-attach it to something else – another step or even the stand itself.”

Example D — Be Aware Of Conditions And Adapt

Ray Miller, a registered Maine guide, runs a bear and deer hunting business in Jackman, a town just a dozen miles from the Quebec border. He knows that as early as October, he can expect snow and freezing rain.

“Safety belts are installed when we put up the tree stand and left there for clients,” Miller said. “We also put non-skid material on the steps and platform.”

Choosing the right type of tree also is very important. Smooth-barked trees, such as maple and aspen, are terrible choices for those using climbing stands, according to Fred Gaumnitz of API.

“Many people go in and choose a tree in the dark, which is not wise,” Gaumnitz said. “Whether you’re using a climber or a fixed stand, you have to be extra careful when there’s moisture, or freezing conditions.”

Extra Steps Eliminate Mis-Steps

Raise your hand if you’ve ever jumped on a tree stand to see if it’s secure, or to “set” it. Were you wearing a safety belt or harness at the time? Now put your hand behind your back, or both hands, and imagine you can’t use them anymore.

We’ve all read and heard all the talk about tree stand safety. We’ve all heard all the talk about seat belt safety while driving, too, although we sometimes don’t use them because “we’re just running to the store,” or “they’re too uncomfortable.”

“People neglect to wear their safety harness because they don’t think they’re going to fall in that period of time,” Gaumnitz said. “Whether it’s while they’re using steps or hanging a stand.”

Gaumnitz was unpleasantly surprised while giving a tree stand seminar in Corinth, Miss., last year.

“There were 500 people at the seminar, and when I asked how many had fallen out of a tree, about 100 held up their hands,” Gaumnitz recalled. “Thirty-seven of them were in wheelchairs.”

That informal survey mirrors the figures from the “Deer & Deer Hunting” surveys. And in both cases, remember: Only the survivors have contributed those numbers.

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One Response to “Tree Stand Safety Tips: Part 2”

  1. thomas kelley

    This is a great article!