Hunting: Check now to make sure tree stands are safe

Anyone with an unfilled archery tag from last year has four days (Sept. 27-30) to try and fill it in

Anyone with an unfilled archery tag from last year has four days (Sept. 27-30) to try and fill it in the Northern Zone. After that date, archery hunting in the Northern Zone requires a current license.

I didn’t fill my tag last year in spite of sitting in a tree stand for perhaps 50-60 hours and being too fussy about what I wanted to shoot. Right now, I’m excited about these four days because of what I saw in the area I’m going to hunt. Several weeks ago, I got a photo from the landowner of not one, but four young bucks in velvet, feeding on the edge of his field. The photo showed a spike, two four-pointers and what looks like a six-pointer. Now, if Irene and the continuous downpours we’ve been getting hasn’t changed their habits, my tree stand will be about 15 yards from where they enter and feed in that field.

And speaking of tree stands, now’s the time many of us will be out there hanging our climbers or putting up our ladder stands, so this is a good time for a few reminders about tree stand safety.

Unfortunately, too many of us ignore some of the basics of tree stand safety, and I hear a lot of, “I’m not afraid of height” and “it’s only 12 feet or so off the ground.” I’m not afraid of height, either, but I know that should I slip/fall that 12 feet, my 195 pounds hitting the ground is going to ruin my day.

Not checking a stand you left up all year can lead to a tree stand acc­ident. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a climber, ladder or permanent wood stand, in those 10 or more months that stand was out there, things have changed, especially with the wrath of Irene and the tropical storm that followed. Even if the tree was not damaged, the wind and rain could have easily loosened the chains, straps or nails. So don’t wait until opening day when you climb up in it in the dark to find out there’s a problem. Check it now, and when you do, visually check it out before climbing in it.

As a reminder, it’s illegal to place nails or other hardware into trees, or to build permanent structures, such as tree stands, platforms and blinds on state land.

I found some interesting statistics on tree stand accidents published by the National Bowhunters Foundation’s Project Stand, which was established to stop tree stand accidents and deaths. They stated that 10-30 percent of those who hunt from an elevated stand will have an “incident” sometime in their hunting careers. I know someone who has had two — me. Fortunately, my physical bruises were minor, but my self-image was really shattered. That evening however, I purchased a safety belt which I wore “most” of the time. Project Stand’s survey says that one-in-two stand users do not use any form of fall-arrest device.

My second unexpected exit from my climbing stand was about eight years ago, when I slipped on a branch climbing down after I had removed my belt. That evening, I purchased my first ladder stand and gave away my climber to a young hunter, and I’m still using the harness that came with the stand. It’s unfortunate that despite the major emphasis given to the importance of wearing a safety harness in an elevated stand, so many choose not to buy one or forget to wear one.


I know many tree stand manufacturers are including a safety harness system with their tree stands, but in my opinion, if I’m sitting 12-15 feet off the ground and happen to slip and fall out of my stand, I definitely would want the best safety harness money can buy. With this in mind, I did some research to find what I want to wrap around me in my tree stand this season. Cabela’s catalog had more than 20 from which to choose, but I found one that really impressed me, the Mountaineer Sports Rescue One CDS II.

This safety harness was designed by Dr. Norman Wood, who fell out of a tree stand years ago and he broke just about everything but his spirit and desire to hunt. The Rescue One CDS II is a full-body harness system to prevent serious or fatal injuries if you fall, and will prevent suspension trauma, also called harness-hang syndrome. It does this with a strong lightweight harness with legs, waist and chest straps, with metal dual-lock safety buckles on the leg straps and flat buckles for the waist and chest straps.

What impressed me the most with this full-body harness is its built-in, easy-to-use controlled des­cent to the ground system. When you’re hanging there, unable to get back to your stand or steps, this system allows you to easily lower yourself to the ground by pulling down a break strap. The Mountaineer Sports Rescue One CDS II retails for $180. Check out their demonstration video at You’ll be impressed.

One last reminder on tree stand safety — never try to carry guns/bows, backpacks, while climbing up/down or to/from your tree stand. Use a rope to hoist them up and obviously, neither guns nor bows should be loaded until you are settled into the stand.

Categories: Sports

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