Big-game hunting season is just around the corner and now is the time to start checking your hunting gear to get it ready for that special time of year. At the top of the list for archery fanatics (and more and more for gun hunters, too) has to be your treestand – checking existing ones, purchasing new ones and figuring out where they should go if they are not already erected. While New York set a record for the least amount of hunting accidents in the field ever last year, this does not include accidents from treestands. Every year there are unfortunate mishaps involving these hunting platforms, many of which could have been prevented.
I asked archery experts Joe Famiglietti of Lancaster (formerly with Pro Archery) and Jeff Pippard of North Tonawanda (with Niagara Outdoors) for some tips on tree stand safety and here’s a few they came up with:
- Installing a hang-on treestand can be dangerous. It’s a good idea to have a friend assist. Famiglietti prefers stands like Lone Wolf or Millenium because both have straps or chains that are installed on the tree first. Hooks are attached that allow you to put the tree stand in position, giving you hands-free access to secure the stand properly. If you are using an old stand, check for loose fasteners and cable wear. He replaces cables every two seasons. Before he puts a stand into the air, he’ll attached the stand at ground level first to make sure there are no defects or problems – rather than finding out 20 feet in the air.
- Pippard changes nylon straps every year. “A growing tree, weather and sunlight can damage the strap material,” says the Niagara Outdoors owner. “Animals could gnaw the straps, too, so give your stand a thorough check every time you are climbing in your stand.” Read your stand instructions.
- When installing a stand, use a full body fall arrest harness system certified to Treestand Manufacturers Association (TMA) standards. Attach yourself to the tree during installation. Joe prefers a climbing strap that attaches to his safety harness and wraps around the tree at waist level. Again, it keeps both of his hands free for attaching the treestand. The tether of the vest or safety harness must be attached to a strap or rope device that is slightly above you and is moving up the tree as you climb. Be sure the tether is attached above you and do not rely solely on the climbing strap. Never climb carrying the stand. Follow manufacturer instructions. Joe also adds a ratchet strap, even if it’s not recommended by the maker.
- Before you buy a treestand, check the expiration date according to Pippard. Stands are now coming with a five-year expiration date and if that stand has been sitting on a shelf for a year (or more), you just lost some of the value of this important piece of equipment.
- Don’t place stands on dead trees or rely on tree branches for support. Don’t step on tree branches – they can break. Don’t climb up a homemade ladder or steps.
- Several companies now offer a rope device that can be installed from the treestand down to the ground. Hunter Safety System (huntersafetysystem.com) is a company that offers such a device which they call the Lifeline System. This rope has a positive-stop slip knot that slides up and down the rope. This allows you to attach the tether to the slip knot, offering protection from ground level until you get into the tree. When leaving the stand, the tether is attached to the slip knot to assure a safe climb down to ground level. Statistics show the majority of treestand accidents occur while getting into or getting out of the treestand, as opposed to falling from the stand while hunting.
- In the event of a fall and you find yourself suspended by your safety harness, do not panic. You must have an escape plan to get yourself out of the harness and safely to the ground. It is recommended you have a suspension relief device on your person which helps to relieve the load on the lower extremities if suspended. This will permit proper circulation in the legs, while you figure out how to get out of this situation and back onto the ground. Some hunters carry an extra tree step with them which can be attached to the tree allowing the suspended hunter to step onto it, rather than hanging suspended. Practice falling with a buddy close to the ground, know how it feels and what you can do to get back to your seat or out of the predicament.
- Carry a cell phone with you but keep it accessible. It’s not going to help you though if you are knocked out or out of cell service range. Pippard insists that you inform someone of your hunting location at all times, every time. Consider carrying a signal device such as a loud whistle.
Aug. 30, 2017
- Avoid getting into a treestand under adverse weather conditions where ice and snow may accumulate, creating unsafe climbing conditions. Never use alcohol or drugs prior to or during hunting. Use a rope to pull your bow or gun up rather than holding onto your hunting implement while climbing. Be sure guns (or crossbows) are not loaded when pulling them up or down from the stand.
- Treestand hunting is not for everyone and consideration should be given to use of a ground blind. Joe has taken many deer in a well concealed pop-up blind, and also finds them more comfortable and relaxing to hunt out of.
There are several companies offering treestand safety tips on their internet sites. Hunter Safety Systems at www.huntersafetysystems.com offers free instructional videos for viewing on the safe use of safety harnesses, climbing straps other climbing devices. There is also a free online course at www.huntercourse.com/treestandsafety that lasts about 20 minutes long. Like Pippard says, “A deer in the freezer is better than a hunter in the hospital.” Stay safe out there and don’t become a treestand statistic.