… Don’t be the cause of such a headline in your local newspaper. Now that I’ve got your attention, hang in here for a second and hear me out.
If you’re a hunter, statistics repeatedly show that falls are the leading cause of injuries in our beloved sport. Don’t get busted up or dig your own grave. Treestand falls are easy to prevent.
If you hunt from a treestand of any sort, wear a safety harness. If you’ve never worn a harness, give it a shot and soon you’ll feel naked without it. I’ve been using the Summit Seat-O-The-Pants STS Deluxe and it’s great. A high-quality harness is super comfortable—so much that you can use it as a support mechanism to lean forward and snooze in your stand. When you’re hanging treestands, you’ll find that dangling from a harness can be super helpful at times. I haven’t personally mastered it, but you can even use the support of your harness to pull off otherwise impossible shots from awkward angles. And make sure your safety rope can reach all the way to the ground; you’ll want to hook up to your harness before you start climbing. In short, get a treestand safety harness and use it.
If you choose to build your own stands or if you come across a homemade stand where you want to spend some quality time, make sure it’s rock-solid. Test its strength by pulling on the steps, and make sure the standing platform is super sturdy. At all costs, don’t wait until you’re in the field and ready to hunt a stand for the first time. Get out and check your stands before deer season begins—maybe when you’re hunting birds or small game. This advice might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get caught in the moment or become overly confident in a treestand that you’ve been using for years. A treestand that’s trusty one day might not be the next.
Nearly 20 years ago, before I started carrying a gun or bow in the woods, I spent a weekend in a Wisconsin treestand with my uncle. He was bow hunting for pre-rut whitetails. When we returned from the woods the first evening, we received a phone call from a relative: “Gerald hasn’t come home from hunting yet and I’m starting to worry,” explained a concerned wife. Our search for Gerald began. Less than an hour later, we pulled into one of his honey-holes and honked the truck horn. We heard Gerald screaming “Help!” from some distance away, so we hurried to find him. Finally, there he was, lying in a heap on the ground below his treestand. He wasn’t wearing a safety harness and one of the wooden steps on his stand gave way when he was climbing down. The stubborn, tough old dude refused to let us call an ambulance or helicopter, and he insisted that we help him walk back to the pickup truck. He managed to limp his way to the truck. We then drove to his house where paramedics had no choice but to strategically remove Gerald from the truck. His back was broken. He was damn lucky to recover and escape paralysis.
Get a treestand safety harness and use it. If you have a favorite brand or model of harness, recommend it by sharing a comment below. If you have your own treestand horror story, you can share that below, too.