Tree Stand Safety
Belive it or not, the above picture is an actual stand
used at one time on a ranch in South Texas. What's even more amazing is that
the users of this stand had another similar one in a tree across from this one.
And only one ladder between them ! The picture below is an old wooden stand
someone finished with and left. I have no idea how old it was but would guess
"safe" wasn't one of its strong points.
In 2006 I took one of
the first classes on treestand safety given by the Treestand Manufacturers
Association (TMA). Most all commercial treestands are now certified thru them.
The class was held for Hunter Education Instructors so we could begin to get
the word out on safety. The knowledge I took from that class and from
experiences since then go directly into my classes.
I have been wanting to do a page on treestands and safety
for a while. I have heard countless stories of avoidable mishaps that include
serious injury and sometimes even death. Anyone using or planning to use a
treestand needs to know the dangers involved. It all begins with the right
mindset. Being safe is choice. A choice that can follow you to the woods and
back home after the hunt. Not caring about safety or paying attention to it is
making the choice not to be safe. Reading this page does not make you a safe
user of treestands. YOUR ACTIONS WILL !
Treestands come in many styles and variations. Those include
ladder stands, climbing stands and hang on stands. Several companies make these
stands and only by trying them out and talking to others that have tried them
can you make a decision on which to use. Remember, if you buy one and are not
comfortable using it, DON'T! Some people may not like the physical aspects of a
climber. Others may not like a ladder stand for it's lack of mobility. Once you
do make a decision though learn how to use the stand properly and safely.
All TMA certified
stands come with a Fall Arrest System (FAS) or safety harness. I encourage
everyone who uses a treestand to learn how to use one of these. If you don't
like the type included with the stand, look into purchasing a vest type
harness. There are now several makers of these and they are easier to use than
the simple harnesses that may come with your stand. Keep in mind however that
using these harnesses don't mean you are 100% safe. Learn the proper way to use
one. Practice wearing one and hanging from one near the ground. This will give
you and idea of what it might feel like to hang from one 20 feet off the
ground. Also make sure the FAS has a suspension relief device. This is
basically a loop that hangs down behind you. Suspension trauma can occur
quickly and can be deadly. Using a relief device can safe your life.
I personally use
Safety System® Pro Series Mesh Vest. Bowhunting season in
Texas is usually on the warm side so I like the mesh much better than the
reversable, which can be rather warm during our bow season. Though all TMA
approved stands now come with a harness, I prefer this over them. They tend to
be straps with cumbersome fasteners. The mesh vest is quick and easy to put on
and take off. I do plan to move up to a
Safety System Ultra Lite Safety Harnesses this season. I think it
will be even easier to use. Watch for reviews on this one later in the
Along with your practice with the FAS, you can also
practice with your stand. know what it takes to use it properly. If you are
using a climber, practice strapping onto a tree and walking it up and down the
tree. Remember to mount it at an angle as shown above as it will level out as
you climb. Make sure you have the top and bottom tethered together. Having the
bottom fall away while you are 20 feet up a tree is no fun. Keeping your feet
in the stirrups may take some practice also so don't wait til the day of the
hunt to try it out. If you choose a ladder stand, have at least 3 people to
stand it up and take it down. Clean away all dead leaves and debris from the
area where the feet will be. Be very careful climbing up it to secure the top
strap. Using a hanging stand requires some way to access it. Attaching ladder
sticks or other devices requires use of your hands so use a linesman belt with
your FAS as you attach the ladder/sticks. Also, as shown below, have enough
height on your sticks to be above your hang on stand. That way you will be
stepping down onto the platform, not pushing it away from you as you would do
by simply stepping straight across onto it.
The bottom line is "THINK SAFETY" ! Once you
stop thinking about it, once your actions become second nature, one you ignore
even the simplest safety rules, you open yourself up to the dangers of
treestand use. Have a successful and SAFE hunting season this year !
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