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Hunters shouldn’t ignore importance of tree-stand safety

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Deer hunters give significant attention to their tree-stand hunting strategies, and rightfully so, as a properly placed tree stand can be a key factor in filling one’s tag. These same hunters, however, may be lax in the attention they give to the safety aspects of tree-stand hunting even though “safety first” should be the theme of all outdoors ventures.

Several years ago, “Deer and Deer Hunting” magazine conducted a comprehensive study that revealed one-third of tree-stand hunters reported having fallen at least once. Admittedly, I am among that number.

Marshall University surgeons conducted a study that showed 45 percent of tree-stand falls resulted in broken limbs, 35 percent in broken backs, 19 percent in head injuries, 12 percent in broken ribs, 10 percent in broken hips, and eight percent in death. Some states actually report higher fatality rates from tree stand falls than from firearm incidents. The Marshall University study also revealed that two-thirds of falls resulted from hunters using homemade stands. The bottom line is that tree-stand safety is a serious issue.

Here’s a look at the principles of tree-stand safety:

When constructing homemade ladder stands or homemade platforms, be sure to use treated lumber. A better choice is to use a commercial stand approved by the Treestand Manufacturers Association. No matter what style of tree stand being used, be sure to carefully inspect all aspects of the stand prior to use, especially at the beginning of each season. Also, carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Familiarize yourself with the stand prior to taking to the woods. A recommended procedure for climbing or hang-on stands is to practice installing and removing the stand near ground level. Taking a friend along when installing and removing stands is also sound safety advice.

Most falls occur during one of four activities: climbing the tree, setting the stand, removing the stand, or descending the tree. As a result, hunters should take their time and use care when performing these tasks. It is also wise to go slowly when maneuvering to a standing position once in the stand. Be certain to wear a safety belt or harness at all times. A variety of easy-to-use, full body harnesses are available today, and purchasing and wearing a quality harness are perhaps the most important safety aspects of tree-stand hunting. Again, familiarize yourself with the harness while near ground level.

When climbing a tree, avoid using tree limbs unless they are obviously sound. Always have a two-hand grab before moving to the next step. Use enough steps so you don’t have to make long-leg reaches to the next one. Placing steps above stand level allows the hunter to more safely access a stand. Avoid placing steps directly under the stand as this angle makes it difficult to climb into the stand. Remember that climbing devices can be especially dangerous when they are snow-covered or during freezing conditions. Dead trees or those with a smooth, slippery bark should be avoided. Be sure to select an appropriate size tree to properly match the stand, and avoid using stands on days with strong winds.

Once a hunter is in a tree stand, the length of safety strap between the hunter and the tree should be reduced to a foot or so. Bows or firearms should be unloaded and lifted by rope up to the stand, and they should be lowered back to the ground using the same procedure. Hunters frequently debate the height at which tree stands should be placed. A simple rule is to place a stand at a height at which you feel comfortable. Hunters are advised to maintain a reasonable level of fitness and to get a good night’s rest before climbing into a tree stand. Finally, the following principle of safety is a sound one for not only tree-stand hunters but for all outdoor enthusiasts. Be sure to tell someone where you will be going, what you plan on doing, and when you expect to return.

Outdoors Calendar

Friday: Fall Turkey Season closes in Northern Zone.

Saturday: Muzzleloader Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 26: Regular Deer Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 26: Second portion of Waterfowl Season opens in Northeast Zone.

Nov. 1: Deer hunters may apply for leftover DMPs.

Nov. 1-May 1: Everyone must wear PFD when under way on vessels less than 21 feet.

Nov. 16: Regular Deer Season opens in Southern Zone.

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