By Richard Hines
With deer season well underway for archery hunters and many more hunters anticipating a day afield this coming rifle season, it might be time to think about your tree stand or, more importantly, tree stand safety.
First on the agenda is inspecting every stand.
A-Always remove and inspect your equipment-Before using straps, inspect or preferably replace them as they are not made to leave in the woods all year. The sun’s UV rays are the greatest enemy of nylon and the reason straps holding tree stands are breaking has become the leading reason for this category of tree stand accidents. Nylon straps are also regularly sampled by squirrels and other rodents. Trees also grow each year and will stress the nylon to the point of breaking. Make sure the seat is still good and replace if needed.
These simple inspections will save you not just time, but may save your life as well. As an example, I remember the morning the cloth seat in one of my old ladder stands ripped out. The only reason I caught myself was because I had the rifle across my lap. The barrel and the stock caught on each side of the stand, prevented me from falling through the seat. Had my rifle not been in that position, the fall would have flipped me over, sending me headfirst to the ground. Yes, I check the seat and straps each year!
Just checking and replacing these components of a stand have shown that if hunters took this into consideration, 35% of all falls would be eliminated.
B-Buckle your full-body harness on before you leave the ground, even when working on your stand prior to season get in the habit of using a safety harness such as one made by Hunter Safety System. Even in a good quality stand, I now use a harness as a safety measure. I buckle a seatbelt every time I get in a car and this safety measure is no different.
C-Connect-connect your equipment and to your lifeline before your feet leave the ground!
In a recent interview with Glen Mayhew, President of the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation (TSSA) Mayhew said, “Anytime you are in a stand and not attached to a safety device you are at risk.”
TSSA has gathered some statistics which are showing several trends. One of these indicates that the average height of a fatal fall is 19-feet while the average fall is 16-feet.
- 23% of falls occur while going up into the tree stand
- 22% of falls occur while coming down
- 15% of falls occur while transitioning such as turning and getting up or down from the seat
- 40% of falls occur while sitting on the stand
Mayhew said most people assume it’s the high-risk takers, teenagers and twenty-year old’s who are injured but that’s not the case “it’s the 47-year old male” who makes the most falls. Mayhew added; “it now appears that individuals who take hunter education classes are most likely to wear a harness 100% of time more than any other part of the population.”
There is good news though. Over the past two years, the number of people falling from tree stands is declining because hunters are beginning to understand the importance of clipping in.
Mayhew said, “In 2018 we hit the lowest estimated number of falls nationally (that required emergency department care) since 2010.” TSSA had set a goal of decreasing falls by 50% by 2023 and 2018 numbers reflects a 46.5% decrease putting the organization within reach of obtaining this goal.
But the concerning fact of the data shows that approximately 1 in 5 fall victims have a harness on, or with them but the harness was not attached. Mayhew said, “This means we could reduce the number of falls by approximately 20% just by getting people to connect before they leave the ground and stay connected until they reach the ground again. That is a significant # of people that would be not injured or become a fatality.”
Another eye-opener, most hunters may assume ladder stands are safe, but remember, you are off the ground and because of this you still need to follow the same safety procedures.
Ladder stands account for 20% or 1 in 5 falls.
34% of ladder stand fall result from loss of grip or slip. This would be eliminated if hunters would wear a full-body harness and stay attached 100% of the time while in the stand. One of these harnesses is made by Hunter Safety System (www.huntersafetysystem.com)
I heard someone say, “If I fall, I’ll grab a limb” but think again. Gravity takes everything down at the same rate and as you are falling you are continually building speed. Within a moment you will reach 25 miles per hour. Mayhew told about hunters who think they can catch themselves but added, “It would be like reaching out the truck window and grabbing a road sign going 25 miles per hour.”
Today, hunters should only be using stands manufactured and approved by the Tree Stand Safety Manufacturers Association. Your best buddy might be the best welder around but if I am sitting 15-20 feet off the ground, I prefer to be sitting on a manufactured stand that meets National Standards!
Just following these ABCs of tree stand safety would eliminate most accidents. Mayhew added, “If hunters are wearing a harness and are connected to a lifeline device it’s amazing how much more comfortable you feel.”
Tree stands are a safe way to hunt if you follow manufacturer’s recommendations. Danger only starts when people don’t do what they are supposed to and no matter, if you are a novice or a hunter with fifty years of experience, learning the A, B, Cs of tree stand safety is worthwhile.
If you want to know more about TSSA check out their Facebook page.