Tree stand safety can’t be stressed enough.
Each year, accidents happen and the results aren’t pretty. Falls from tree stands can cause serious injury, even death. Several online sources offer suggestions, so do instructions and disclaimers that come with every new climber, ladder stand, and strap-on stand.
Safety starts on the ground, well before the first day of deer season; or at least it ought to.
Stored after last year’s deer season, some stands need inspection and maintenance. Hunters need to examine their stands looking for broken components, cracked welds, rusty pins, bolts, and other fittings. Ladder sections should have already been cleaned of packed dirt but if not, they should be cleaned before use.
Make older ladders safer
Newer ladder stands use pins to fasten sections together, older stands can be made safer by connecting sections with bungees or parachute cord.
The sections may look tight and safe when first erected but they may not stay that way after several climbs. Straps and ratchets need to be examined for tears and rust. A few drops of oil can keep a ratchet working safely.
Many safety lists suggest hunter assemble and even mimic a complete set up near the ground. It’s a smart and effective way to check a stand’s readiness.
Use a safety harness or vest
Anyone who uses a tree stand of any sort without a full body safety harness or safety vest, is a fool. There’s no better word for it.
Hunters are injured and killed in falls from stands every year after convincing themselves that it won’t happen to them.
Fall asleep, lean out for a better shooting angle, reach for a tipped Thermos, and a million other wrong moves will send a person overboard.
But on the same topic, use it correctly. Read the instructions, watch the video, try it on and do it in the dark wearing hunting clothes. I’ve tried several full body harnesses and found some of them to be a challenge, especially in the dark. I’ve gone to a safety vest with harness built in. I like it.
Ready to go? Not yet. Think about this; you’re planning to climb, you are in the woods and at the base of your selected tree well before daylight. The wind is perfect and you know that big buck is going to be yours.
Ever so quietly, you wrap the cable around the tree. But you drop the pin that connects the climber cable to the frame. It’s black and it’s gone. You know it has to be right at your feet but you can’t find it. It happens and it can ruin a perfect plan.
Carry an extra pin
So carry an extra pin, and a bolt, and an extra this and one more that. My wife, a talented stitcher, created small flannel bags that I fasten to the frames of my climber and other stands. I carry extra items in the bag. A “possibles” bag is simple, quiet, and it has saved the day more than once.
Rules to remember! Now you’re ready. A couple rules here. Never explore an old wood ladder and elevated stand that someone built in the past. It’s probably weathered, located in an excellent area, and it appears to be a comfortable place to wait. It may be all that, but it may be rotten and a disaster waiting to happen.
Rule number two is to never set ladder or strap-on tree stands by yourself. Just don’t.
And rule three is to let someone know where you’ll be and when you’ll be back.
(Readers may contact this writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.)