Though bow season has been in since the beginning of October, black powder season begins on Saturday. It is a requirement of our club that anyone using a black powder gun or a rifle must shoot from an elevated stand. In other words, many of us will climb tree stands. You may not remember, but in 2002 the ladder of a wooden tree stand broke away from the ground, dropping me about eight feet. I hit a stump with my left arm, breaking my collarbone. Though there are still a few wooden stands left, most of our stands are privately owned metal stands. The point of this article will be to remind everyone that will be climbing a tree stand to be mindful of the dangers.
If you are like me, all of us are getting older, making the climbing of tree stands a bit more dangerous. After my accident, my family bought me a full body harness. They do make harnesses with a descending system built into the harness in the event that a person falls, loading the system. If your harness becomes loaded, what will you do to get into your stand or to the ground before your harness cuts off your blood supply? It is vital that you put your safety harness in place as quickly as possible once you begin your climb or reach the platform of your stand.
Before you climb your stand, you need to check the stability of your stand. If you have not checked your stand prior to the season starting then you will have to check it in darkness. If the stand is loose or unstable, you must fix it before climbing the stand. If you are unable to fix the stand, then you will have to choose another place to hunt. Climbing an unstable stand could result in your injury or death.
Our club has a good accountability system. You must sign in a logbook, which is dated. You sign your name, the place where you will hunt, and the time that you leave for your stand. We then have magnetic tags with our names on them that we put on a map board of the farm, indicating again where we are hunting. Once we are done hunting, we sign out by putting the time that we leave the farm and we remove our tag from the map board. If someone shoots a deer and is tracking or dragging, or some other problem exists, those of us that come to sign out know about it. If you do not have this type of accountability, then you need to let a friend or family member know where you are going. Either you or your family member will be the one who makes a call for help if a problem exists.
Getting your gun into your elevated stand is something that takes pre-planning. The best way to do this is with a rope. Your gun should remain unloaded until you have the gun with you in the stand. You will tie your rope to the gun while you are on the ground. Once you are securely in your stand with safety harness in place, then you hoist your gun up to you. When your hunt is over or you have shot an animal, then you must safely lower your gun to the ground. Remember, while hoisting or lowering your weapon, it needs to be unloaded.
Getting out of your stand at the end of your hunt, or after you have shot an animal is an important piece of tree stand safety. You must be methodical, in descending your stand to the ground.
Unless you tie off your harness all the way to the ground, then the chances are that you are descending your stand without a safety harness to catch you if you slip or fall. You must be sure of your footing for every step that you take. If you have descended at the end of your hunt, the chances are that you may be leaving the woods in darkness. A good flashlight is vital to safely leaving the woods. Be safe and have a great season!