Rod Slings, is Founder/CEO of Hunting and Shooting Related Consultants LLC and retired Iowa Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Supervisor.
Over the years of investigating tree stand falls and interviewing the victims, their families and evaluating the scenes, a number of quotes come to mind. These are quotes to remember, but never follow. Please learn from these with the “Note” of explanation:
- He always said, “Those safety harnesses are way too restrictive. I like my freedom to move around.”
Note: Over one million tree stands are sold each year. Each stand includes a safety harness; look for only stands that are Tree Stand Manufacturer's Association approved, with the logo on it. Do not alter the harness. The harness provided or purchased separately is designed to save you from falling to the ground. Read all manufacturer's instructions before use. Your goal is to get back on to your stand as quickly as possible if you fall. See: Dr. Norman Woods’s study on suspension trauma:
- “I looked at the tree stands in the store and I knew I could build one almost as good.”
Note: Homemade stands come in all shapes and sizes, everything from old shipping pallets to untreated plywood that are nailed into the tree to hold it up. Your best safety investment is a manufactured stand that will provide you with a safe and secure platform when manufacturer's guidelines are followed. Don’t take a chance with your safety! Your life is worth more than a pile a lumber.
- “I don't know who put this stand here or when; I was just checking it out to see if it was still safe.”
Note: Never trust a stand that you have not helped hang or made yourself familiar with each detail of how it has been secured. The longer a stand is exposed to the elements, the more risks you are taking. The worst thing you could do is climb into an unknown stand in the predawn hours and put yourself at risk, based on someone else’s carelessness.
- “I didn't unload my gun before I pulled it up to my tree stand because the noise might have spooked a deer.”
Note: Never hoist or lower a loaded firearm from your tree stand. Always check and double check your firearm to make sure it’s unloaded. When using a muzzleloader, make sure the cap or ignition system is removed. Use a haul line to raise and lower your hunting implement, including bows, crossbows and all firearms and equipment. Never allow the muzzle of a firearm to be lowered into the dirt, snow or mud. Remember, attempting to raise or lower any type of equipment in hand or attached to your body may cause risk, which may result in injury or worse.
- “I was wearing my harness, but I guess I had a little too much slack in my tether.”
Note: Make sure you always follow the manufacturer's recommendations when ascending, perched in your stand or descending. When you allow too much slack in your tether, you risk not being able to self-rescue yourself back into your tree stand. Your primary focus must be to get back onto your stand as quickly as possible. Your anchor point that you attach your tether to must be above your head when sitting in your stand.
- “It just takes too much time to use all that safety stuff; I just wanted to get in my tree quick I as I can.”
Note: If you plan to hunt again, and return home safely after each and every hunt, you will follow all of the safety guidelines and utilize the equipment needed to stay safe in the woods. Planning your hunt means allowing enough time to not only get to your stand, but also secure yourself safely. Use three points of contact when using a ladder. Use a lineman’s belt, a line that you hook your harness into when ascending and descending. Always stay connected to a safety anchor. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones. One slip and you will change not only your life, but put a great amount of stress and burden on those around you.
- “I can’t believe I fell asleep and fell out of my stand.”
Note: It has been said that a hunter in a stand becomes “one” with the woods when hunting from a tree stand. There is an almost a hypnotic state of mind that takes place when surrounded by the natural beauty hovering above the forest floor. As this relaxed transition takes place, it is imperative that all safety equipment is in use. Don’t become a statistic!
- “I laid on the ground all night after I fell out of my stand. My legs wouldn’t work, my phone was in my backpack up in the tree, so I couldn’t call for help.”
Note: Always carry a communications device on your person. Make sure you always have service from the location you are hunting. Carry it in a chest pocket, so you can get to it when you need it. File a “hunt plan” with your family or friends, so they know exactly where you are hunting and when you expect to get home. That way, rescue and law enforcement have a much better chance to find you, if you need help.
- “I unhooked for just a second, lost my balance and fell.”
Note: Always stay connected. Maintaining the same sequence of events each time creates a routine.
“I always do it this way” is a very good method to maintain good safety practices. That one second of disconnect could cost you a lifetime of suffering. Always staying connected to an anchor point protects and insures you and will help you defy a thing called gravity.
- “I heard there were two kinds of tree stand hunters, those that have and those that will.”
Note: Falls from elevated devices result in significantly more injuries than hunting-related shootings. The safety equipment available to keep hunters that hunt from elevated devices safe has increased greatly over the past years. If you talk to those who “have” fallen, you will hear them say, “I didn’t think it would happen to me!” Learn from the tragedies of others, don’t become a statistic!
Please hunt safe this fall. Remember to acquire the necessary equipment to keep your hunt safe.
You owe it to yourself and your family.