This morning, I visited with a friend who had fallen from a tree stand. Due to the nature of the fall, he does not remember anything about the incident. One thing he said was that it all happened in a split second. His experience reminded me of when I fell from a tree stand in 2002. I can remember every detail as if it happened yesterday.
Hunting season has been in for a while, but better late than never on this safety message. I look at tree stands, trees and my actions when climbing tree stands differently since my accident.
The tree is the first thing that I look at, whether putting up a new stand or climbing in a stand that has been up for some time. If the tree is showing signs of dying, then the stand should not be climbed. Another thing that needs to be looked at are the branches above the stand. Especially on windy days, it is important to attempt to assess the branches that could possibly fall.
The next thing to look at is the condition of the tree stand. Does the stand have a strong connection to the tree? If the stand or ladder is loose, then it must be re-secured. Securing or re-securing a stand is as dangerous as actually climbing the ladder. If the stand is wooden, checking the condition is even harder. Deterioration of the wood may be difficult to see with the naked eye. If a problem is noted with a tree stand, the stand should be rendered unusable until repaired and every person who could potentially use the stand should be notified. It is preferable to determine issues with the stand while still on the ground. Whether metal or wood, the structural integrity of the stand is vital.
Climbing the stand is another important component. The type of tree stand will determine the safety measures that must be taken when climbing. A fall can occur from any height, so you must be intentional about every step. If climbing a ladder stand, then you should remain in contact with the ladder with both hands and feet. This means that you will have to hoist your gun and equipment into the stand.
Since my fall, I have used a full body harness. It is important to connect the harness to the tree before hoisting a gun or equipment. You should wear a harness and be tied in with every type of tree stand. If you have a two-piece climber, it is important to have the top tied to the bottom in some secure way. One other thing to keep in mind is what will you do if you are wearing a full body harness and fall from your stand?
Though this does not pertain to climbing the tree, it is important to make sure that your gun cannot be fired until you are ready to use the weapon. Whatever that means for your weapon, it must be considered. An accidental misfire could be lethal.
Another piece of the safety equation is to communicate your hunting plan with someone. Letting someone know your location is important, especially if something goes wrong. Some type of communication is necessary. Do not take for granted that if you take your phone off and set it down that you will be able to get to it, if something goes wrong. This could be the difference between life and death.
Hunting is something that many of us enjoy, but your life can be changed in a split second.
You must be intentional about every aspect of climbing a tree stand. It is when you least expect it or let your guard down that something could go wrong.
A safe hunting season is the most important part of any season. If you climb trees, then you have added a component of danger to your sport. Gravity is real and you will not bounce. Have a great season and stay safe!