With deer season opening in the Lowcountry a few days ago and just a few weeks away from opening in the Upstate, August has been proclaimed as Treestand Safety Awareness Month by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
Earlier today, I was playing around on Facebook when a conversation that I had reminded me of the famous quote by the French philosopher Voltaire, “Common sense is not so common.”
Doing all that you can to stay safe in the woods while hunting may seem like a “no brainer” but, as crazy as it may sound, a mind-blowing 82 percent of all hunters don’t bother to use any safety equipment while perched in the tree.
Does that really make any sense? Especially since the numbers prove that one in three hunters will fall at some point during their hunting career. With a harness on, that fall becomes a very short one that’s no big deal.
Personally, I just can’t imagine not wearing one. If you happen to fall into that majority that doesn’t bother to, it’s pretty safe to say that, despite the fact that Voltaire died in 1778, not all that much has changed.
Two years worth of recent statistics kept by the International Hunter Education Association show that 269 tree-stand accidents were reported during that time period.
Now, understand, there were many more that happened over that time, but tons of them don’t get officially categorized as such.
In all, 29 of those victims that made into the report died and a large portion suffered from permanent paralysis.
The aforementioned harnesses, or “fall arrest systems” as the outdoors industry likes to call them, are the one thing that is guaranteed to keep you safe when you’re hanging out way up there, so why not wear one? It’s not like they’re bulky or cumbersome.
They don’t get in the way of anything and every stand that’s sold these days comes with a free one. You don’t even have to buy the thing.
Whatever your ridiculous reason for having not worn one in the past, I hope you’ll reconsider as you prepare to begin the new deer season.
Especially since there are folks at home that expect you to come back in the very same condition that you left.
Remember: Using your head is a whole heap better than landing on it.
The Treestand Manufacturer Association offers up the following guidelines for doing just that. It’s my hope that you’ll read them and make use of them each and every time you venture out.
TMA Treestand Safety Guidelines
• Always wear a fall-arrest system/full body harness meeting TMA Standards even during ascent and descent. Be aware that single strap belts and chest harnesses are no longer allowed fall-arrest devices and should not be used. Failure to use a device could result in serious injury or death.
• Always read and understand the manufacturer’s warnings and instructions before using the tree stand each season. Practice with the tree stand at ground level before using at elevated positions. Maintain the instructions for later as needed, for anyone borrowing your stand, or to pass on when selling the tree stand. Use all safety devices provided with your tree stand.
• Never exceed the weight limit specified by the manufacturer. If you have any questions after reviewing the instructions, please contact the manufacturer.
• Always inspect the tree stand and the fall-arrest system for signs of wear or damage before each use. Contact the manufacturer for replacement parts. Destroy all products that cannot be repaired by the manufacturer and/or exceed recommended expiration date, or if the manufacturer no longer exists. The fall-arrest system should be discarded and replaced after a fall has occurred.
• Always practice in your full body harness in the presence of a responsible adult prior to using it in an elevated hunting environment, learning what it feels like to hang suspended in it at ground level and how to properly use your suspension relief device.
• Always attach your full body harness in the manner described by the manufacturer. Failure to do so may result in suspension without the ability to recover into your tree stand. Be aware of the hazards associated with Full Body Harnesses and the fact that prolonged suspension in a harness may be fatal. Have in place a plan for rescue, including the use of cell phones or signal devices. If rescue personnel cannot be notified, you must have a plan for recover/escape. If you have to hang suspended before help arrives, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree or doing any other form of continuous motion or use your suspension relief device. Failure to recover in a timely manner could result in serious injury or death. If you do not have the ability to recover/escape, hunt from the ground.
• Always hunt with a plan and if possible a buddy. Before you leave home, let others know your exact hunting location, when you plan to return and who is with you.
• Always carry emergency signal devices such as a cell phone, walkie-talkie, whistle, signal flare, PLD (personal locator device) and flashlight on your person at all times and within reach even while you are suspended in your FAS. Watch for changing weather conditions. In the event of an accident, remain calm and seek help immediately.
• Always select the proper tree for use with your tree stand. Select a live straight tree that fits within the size limits recommended in your treestand’s instructions. Do not climb or place a tree stand against a leaning tree. Never leave a tree stand installed for more than two weeks since damage could result from changing weather conditions and/or from other factors not obvious with a visual inspection.
• Always use a haul line to pull up your gear and unloaded firearm or bow to your tree stand once you have reached your desired hunting height. Never climb with anything in your hands or on your back. Prior to descending, lower your equipment on the opposite side of the tree.
• Always know your physical limitations. Don’t take chances. Do not climb when using drugs, alcohol or if you’re sick or not rested. If you start thinking about how high above the ground you are, don’t go any higher.
• Never use homemade or permanently elevated stands or make modifications to a purchased tree stand without the manufacturer’s written permission. Only purchase and use tree stands and Fall-Arrest Systems meeting or exceeding TMA standards. For a detailed list of certified products, contact the TMA office or refer to the TMA web site at http://www.tmastands.com.
• Never hurry. With two-piece, climbing tree stands, make slow, even movements of no more than 10 to 12 inches at a time. Make sure you have proper contact with the tree and/or tree stand every time you move. On ladder-type tree stands, maintain three points of contact with each step.