You hear about it every year. A hunter falls from a tree stand and is either killed or seriously injured. Most of the time, these accidents could have been avoided if the proper steps had been taken before the hunter approached the tree. Mississippi State University Extension professor, Dr. John Long, offers for great tips for safe hunting.

Whether the stand is new or old, it needs to be inspected periodically. Check for parts that may be loose and straps and cables that need to be replaced. Stands that have been left outside since the previous season pose a significant danger. Always check welds and connection points (screws, pins, etc.) to make sure they are not broken or loose. If you have a wooden stand, shake it and inspect it for signs of deterioration due to rot or insect damage. Steps on the ladder could have become loose and fallen out. Platforms can have the same issues. Rodents sometimes chew on nylon straps and seats left out over the year, so check for damage. Be sure to check the tree you intend to climb to be sure it is healthy and not at risk of falling once you add your weight to it.

Safety belts were once unheard-of in deer stands, but now they are as common and varied as the stands themselves. Most tree stand manufacturers include a safety belt with their stands. These safety belts are called full-body harnesses because they attach at the shoulders and legs. In the case of a fall, you are then suspended upright and not looking down at the ground.

Some full-body harnesses even include a suspension relief strap. If you are suspended out of the stand and can’t get back in, you can place this strap on your foot and attach it to the harness. You can then put weight on the strap to avoid tissue damage in your legs.

Now that you have checked your gear, you are ready to climb into the tree. Remember to allow enough time to make your way to your desired height slowly. Getting into a hurry to try to climb 20 feet can make you careless. Putting a pin in your stand cable only halfway can result in disaster that you can avoid by checking and rechecking. Proper use of the safety equipment means that it fits according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and that you use it correctly. The harness will do you no good if you have it on backward.

If you hunt out of a ladder-type stand, you can use a piece of climbing rope with a Prusik knot tied in it. You connect the harness to the knot and then climb up the ladder, sliding the knot up as you go. If you fall, this knot seizes tight and keeps you from hitting the ground.

You may also want to practice climbing in and out of your stand and going up and down trees before hunting season begins. We practice with our bows and guns, so why not with our other equipment? It can be a little scary trying to climb 20 feet in pitch-black dark on those first few hunts of the season. So practice during the off season; by the time hunting season rolls around, you will be ready to get connected and hunt safely.

In the Short Rows

Remember as your planning your hunt trips, always leave details of your location and expected time of return. Your family will appreciate this in the event of an accident, and so will you.

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