Contributors to this thread:
Safety Harness Saves
I got to thinking about all the horror stories of people that have suffered falls that ended in injury or death from not using safety harnesses when hunting from a tree stand. It seems statistically there would an equal amount of falls that were saved by the equipment. I would like to hear about these "saves". Did you impact the tree or your steps during the fall? Were there minor injuries? What did you do after the fall to recover or get back into the stand or to the ground. Instructions say after a fall the harness should be replaced due to the stresses, just like motorcycle helmets that have been impacted should be replaced. Did you replace your equipment?
Wouldn’t surprise me if the ones who are wearing harnesses are the ones also being more careful and less likely to have a fall.
I used to teach bow ed. in one of the classes we had a rock face climbing expert taking the class. at one point he stated that if a person was to fall the prussic knot rope should be replaced. also the manufacturers of these harnesses have expiration dates on the straps and are rated for a one time use as well. as for having a fall and the harness saving me, I've had one experience. I was using the safety line setup from the ground up. I was leaving for the day and had stepped from the lockon stand to the ladder. when I reached the length of my tether strap, I reached up, grabbed the prussic knot, slid it down to face level. the instant the step my other hand was on broke and I fell backwards. when I realize I was falling I just folded my arms across my chest, the slack came out of the tether and I swung/slammed back into the tree. I was bruised but I don't think I hit a step. but my ear was buzzing, my glasses were hanging on one ear . turned out the buzzing in my ear was my hearing was barely in my ear. the impact had knocked the HA out of my ear and I was lucking it wasn't lost in the leaves. I was able to get back on the ladder and get down to the ground. the stand platform was at 15 ft , my head as level with the platform when the step broke. the first thing I did was text my buddies to let them know what happened in case for some reason I passed out. 1/4 mile walk back to the truck and it hurt the whole way. the next day I was stiff and bruised. my thigh was bruised bad enough that my chiropractor started checking me for blood clots in my leg the second he saw it.
Eddie C, you are the only "save" that anyone replied with. People can make their own conclusions, but it indicates to me that their are far more people not using harness than those that do. It would seem that there would be an equal number of saves as the number of horror stories we hear of people falling without the protection. It's also my guess that the individuals that frequent Bowsite are a cross section of some of the best in the sport. Most here seem obsessive about equipment, technique, and safety in general, in a good way. So actual saves from falling are more rare because we don't fall or have equipment fail. Maybe it's Karma for not wearing safety equipment making you more likely to fall?
I've never used a harness. I have been injured jumping around climbing like a monkey putting stands up installing them though.
Really do not see a point on a climbing stand.
I suspect it is because the "saves" seem so minimal that its not worth commenting on. I recall once in the past 2 years with wearing my RC harness being "unbalanced" and felt the safety rope tighten but no actual "fall". BUT if I didn't have the harness on I would have likely fallen. IMO.
I've not had a fall while wearing a harness, but have grabbed the rope to stabilize myself when a little off balance. I sometimes hold onto the caribeener when standing for a little extra security
This past Nov, on our diy trip to Kansas, I hunted a stand that we had left up the yr before. Before climbing in I inspected the straps. As soon as I got in stand I strapped myself in, hunted a few hours and climbed out with no problems.
My buddy (same size as me) hunted it the next evening. He climbed in, attached safety strap, pulled up his bow, got his Ozonics set up etc etc... 5 minutes later both straps on stand let loose and there he hung 20 ft up.
He would of had, at the least, 2 broken legs. Plus he had the truck and I was 4 miles from him. Who knows how long it would have taken for me to get to him. That was a huge reality check because we both, on occasion hadn't worn safety harnesses. Never again!
Continued from above^^:
My buddy didn't sustain any injuries of any sort. When he hit the end of his tether, and recovered from momentary shock, he just spun himself around to the climbing stick, climbed up, gathered his gear and climbed down. Headed to the truck for some fresh drawers.
We were both very lucky that the straps didn't break when either of us 1st got in the stand. Neither of us has used a rope while climbing but that may change very soon!
"really do not see the point in a climbing stand" Well my friend this is my story, and what saved me, was my experience with ropes, my life experience from service and work at a police office, not to panic............................
I hooked up a SOP, and climbed with my API to about 35 feet for the day. I failed to check my bottom section, and the tether,,,, it was too long, and I lost it, and could not reach it. somehow it let loose and fell to the ground........
So now it is 5pm and dark. sitting up a popple at 35 feet with only my seat section, and the feeling was not good,,,,,,, I carried extra life line, in my pack that was on my SOP. after I resecured myself, I took off the strap to the tree, from my harness, and got out from under the seat section . I dropped that section, and used my line belt to shim down that tree,,,,,,,,, I was lucky, but would have been screwed without my harness in the beginning of this fiasco......
Sure failure to check equipment, and such, was my fault,,,, but having the extra line belt, a head lamp, and my SOP to begin with, saved my rear end....
last week, I had purchased a "MOBILE" set up (lone wolf alpha 2 with the lone wolf sticks). Never used either before. Had a tree picked out on about 4 trails and thought I would try it for an afternoon hunt. well number 1 the tree was too big around but I "made it work". Thank the Lord I had purchased a lineman's belt because half way up that sucker the tree bark I was gripping gave way and I fell straight backwards probably 12' from grade as the tree was on a hillside. I had forgot all about that lineman's belt I had on and it saved me from who knows how bad a fall.
A few years ago I fell asleep and toppled sideways off my Loc On stand. My SOP tether caught me before my feet left the stand and I ended up hanging parallel to the ground. I was able to quickly pull my self back up, shaken but unhurt except for a few small bruises where I hit the ends of some tree limbs I had sawed off. I really haven't considered replacing my tether as the impact on it did not seem that significant but maybe I should. I have fallen before without a harness and was lucky not to have a broken neck. I always wear a harness now regardless of the type of stand I hunt on, and I insist that to hunt on my farm on a stand you must wear a harness or don't hunt.
A friend of mine just last week climbed up and tied in his harness and had been sitting on stand for about a hour when the bracket that hooks to the chain on his hang on stand broke, the stand fell and he was left hanging. He got on the screw in steps and got down. He has safety lines on most of his stands but did not have one on this stand, he was lucky, the stand could have broken before he secured his safety harness to the tree. Needless to say he plans on using a safety line on all his stands.
I have only been using one the past 3 seasons, and I probably still wouldn’t be if I didn’t tell my wife about how I fell out backwards when the holding bolt on my swing away bar of my summit climber snapped off. My fault, it was several years old and I never checked them. It was only 3ft into soft leaves and ground, but it was a scary ride. So I’ve used it every time I go up now and never needed it until a couple weeks ago. I’m still not 100% sure how it happened. I was using LW climbing sticks and I put my stand about level with the bottom of the fourth stick. I normally sit it about mid way up or more. I just hooked on my fall rope and took off my lineman’s belt, then went to step onto my platform from the bottom step of the stick, and it kicked out and I didn’t have a good enough grip on anything so down I went. The rope caught me and I rehung the stick and tried it again knowing that just saved me from a 20ft fall. Would it of killed me? I’m just glad I didn’t have to find out! I never could make the step kick out again so I don’t know if some bark broke or I didn’t pull it down hard enough.
forge screw in steps, I know a guy, who was severely injured, saved by his belt, but the step imbedded into him, in that special place
October 2011, I was climbing sticks up to my hang-on, when my right bicep distal tendon ruptured off the radius bone (forearm).
. . .
It was so instantaneously painful, that I let go of the climbing sticks and fell. My 4 point harness and prussic rope system arrested my fall.
I got scratched up on my face from the tree trunk, a bruised knee from climbing stick impact, and sore groin muscles from the harness.
My take on my fall, was that it may not be the stand or climbing apparatus that fails, it could be our bodies that fail us.
The Orthopaedic Surgeon told me that a bicep rupture is quite common in men. My arm never gave me any kind of warning that the bicep was about to rupture. Never an ache or pain, until the day it failed.
I had a hang-on stand go straight to the ground the moment I put my weight on it at about 15 feet up a tree. Fortunately, unlike many hunts in the past, I was wearing my 'rock climbers' harness and my tether was tied to the tree when I stepped onto the stand. Only injuries included scraped finger tips from trying to sink them into the tree the moment it happened. The nylon strap that holds the stand to the tree came loose from the stand due to rotten threading that holds the strap together. Simply stupid on my part for using an old stand without replacing the nylon strap due to its age. The thread was the weak link, as well as my lack of common sense. Chain is a far better choice. I had used that climbing harness for at least 10 years, but replaced it soon thereafter when I started thinking about the thread that holds the harness straps together, and how old they were. Then I started thinking about the threads that hold the straps together on my old 'rapid steps', or whatever they are called. I have gone more and more toward using climbers and ladder stands, but will still hang a stand when the situation is ideal for it. But I will be tied in all the way up and all the way down, including when I am using a climber.
Lady Bowhunter and I taught Bowhunter Ed for many years while we lived in TX and prior to moving to TN. We got took the TMA's Treestand Safety Course in 2011 and incorporated that training into our classes afterwards.
Several things from the TMA course stick with us today, the main ones being:
1- Have the leg straps secured as snugly to the crotch as possible and DON'T cross or twist the straps. "The Boys" will thank you if you ever unintentionally do a gravity check. 2- Learn how to 'self-rescue' or recover - meaning regain our position in the treestand (whether it's a lock on, climber or ladder type stand). 3- Understand how to deploy and use the suspension relief line to prevent suspension trauma.
Before we got our Instructor Certifications we actually had to step (or slide) off a stand and hang in our vests and perform a self-recovery. It was a real eye-opener for me and the other folks in our group (especially the people who forgot or ignored the ‘tight crotch straps’ rule. Having said that, and IF you're new to using Safety Vests and Harnesses you consider practicing recovering before heading out to hunt. Simply set up a single section of your ladder plus the seat and foot rest, or lock-on stand about 5 or 6 feet off the ground (high enough so you can’t touch the ground) and slowly slide off the side and hang there. Once you’re hanging, deploy the suspension relief strap and get yourself back onto the stand.
(NOTE: You might want to have a buddy or family member AND a step ladder close by to help out if needed).
I have been saved twice by a harness. Back in the late 80's and through the 90's I never wore a harness. My daughters were born in 1999 and 2001. Some time around I would guess to be about 2002 or so, the thought occurred to me that I was not bullet proof and I really wanted to be there for my daughters. So I bought a harness. I didn't like it after a year or two so I bought another one ... this time a Summit SOP. I remember I paid $125 for it at the time and about choked at the price. I wore it religiously, more so to justify the price that I paid for it ... LOL. But in doing so it became a habit.
Fast forward to 2005, opening weekend of the Indiana gun season. I made a dumb move. I ran my open faced climber up a small diameter, slick barked tree, just over 20 feet off the ground (I know this because my pull up rope was 20 feet). A doe came through that evening and skirted behind me. I twisted around in a goofy position and then touched off my muzzleloader. Between my position, the recoil of the gun, and the slick bark ... the base of my stand shifted. In the blink of an eye I was hanging some 18+ feet over the ground. Thankfully the base of the climber was tethered to the top section of the stand. My muzzleloader was on the ground below me and I had a dead deer 50 yards from me. At the time I was 36 years old and not in the best physical condition ... but I will tell you this ... adrenaline is a POWERFUL drug! Somehow I managed to bear hug the tree, grab the base of the stand, square the base back to the tree, and then pull my way back up onto the base section. After getting my bearings and gathering my composure, I was able to run the climber down the tree. When I got to the base of the tree, I remember collapsing on the ground and actually crying, thanking the Good Lord above. I'm man enough to admit that it still gets me a bit choked up when I tell the story and think that my kids might have been going to my funeral later that week rather than their first trip to Disney World that we were already scheduled to take in a few days. I escaped that incident with a some sore muscles and a few scrapes on one of my hands from where I swung into the tree.
The second time was the fall of 2015. This time I was hanging a double set of stands in a tree for my daughters and I to hunt together. I was tied off securely as I always do and wearing a rock climbing harness (now my go to harness for hunting). I had both stands ratcheted to the tree (or so I thought). I decided that I wanted to adjust one of the stands while standing on the other stand. The one that I wanted to adjust was actually pulling on the one that I was standing on, making the ratchet connection come undone, which I had not noticed. When I popped the ratchet on the one that I wanted to adjust, the stand that I was standing on lunged off of the tree and tipped down at about a 45 degree angle. Just like that I was hanging. Thankfully, safe practices of tying off meant that I only dropped a foot or so and easily fixed the situation without any other incident. But had I not been safely tied off and using a quality harness, I would have been laying at the base of the tree some 17 or so feet below me.
I teach Hunter Ed classes and treestand safety is always a topic that a beat to death with students. I use my own experiences as an example. I am always amazed at the number of adults in the groups who still don't wear a harness or practice safe treestand use, and they let their kids hunt unsafely from trees. It is so easy to be safe with today's harnesses, tie off methods, and static life lines.
I was sitting 20 ft up on a limestone ,oak ridge. I had just hung my bow and pack and sit down . I leaned as far forward and down to stretch my back muscles when the bolt that levels the seat broke throwing me forward. The only way to describe it was you leaned over a cliff to look down and you went 1 inch past the point of no return ,you can hang for a bit but your still 1 inch to far. When I lost the balancing act and started the nose dive the only thing that kept me from a head first dive to the rocks was I use a safety rope from the ground to about 5 ft above my stand. I run the prussic as high as I can so the tether on the safety vest is above me so if I ever had a stand failure it would be a short drop. In this case when I hit the end of the tether it bumped me back just enough to get my balance. When my son and I where getting ready at the truck that evening I had forgot my vest, he was going to a ladder stand and insisted I take his vest feeling the set I was going to I would need it more than him ,after a argument telling him I would be allright this one time I gave in and put his vest on .I truly fill without the vest that day i would be dead or ruined for life.
Here's mine. Posted this on the PA forum back in early November.
You've heard it a thousand times......
Well, you're gonna hear it a thousand and one times. Use a harness and life-line. Stay attached from ground to stand. My son and I decided to hunt this afternoon in spite of the lousy weather. We got to our stands around 2pm and started to get ready to climb. The tree my stand is in is not the straightest and my climbing sticks follow the contour. Any how, I'm climbing and up to my third stick, next thing I know I'm swinging around the tree. My foot slipped off the step causing me to drop maybe 8-10". My right hand had already gripped the next step of my Muddy Sticks, but it wasn't near strong enough to stop me. The life-line did it's job, prusic knot tightened right up. I was able to turn around and face the tree and get my foot on one of the steps. I feared what my right hand looked like as the steps on the Muddy Sticks are really aggressive. My son came running over as I worked my way down the sticks. Blood was running from the base of the fingers on my right hand. After some clean-up with water and some paper towels I could see that I removed a lot of skin and lacerated the joints. Not deep, but hurts like hell to bend my fingers. Pulled some muscles in my arm as well. I was up about 12'. Needless to say, it was a sobering experience. And it happened so quick. No time at all to react.
Some take aways...
1. Use a lifeline. I do have several stands that have the shorter line at stand level to hook up to once up. They will be replaced with 30' lifelines I ordered on Amazon. 3-pak $77
2. Check how your sticks are positioned relative to the tree and ground level. When I looked closer it was evident the step was not parallel to the ground or perpendicular to the tree, but actually sloping down. Add in wet boots and it was an accident waiting to happen.
3. This goes without saying, wear a harness.
Fortunately this had a "good" ending. My hand is sore, arm hurt, oh yeah, forgot about the nice bruise on my stomach from steps. But, I should be ready for Friday and Saturday. Temps are supposed to drop considerably and I'm excited. Wiser as well.
Stay safe all.
Like many I've hunted for years without fall protection. I'm 57 and not as nimble as I once was. Started getting uncomfortable in the stand in my early 50's and started wearing a harness religiously and using a lineman's belt most of the time when hanging stands. Was hunting the evening of Christmas day in -11 degree temps out of a climber. I shot a deer and climbed down to about 2' above the ground and removed my line to step off of the stand. Somehow I hooked a heel and went right off backwards. Did the "Nestea plunge" right on to my back and dug both elbows into the frozen ground. I guess I've been fortunate in my thousands of trips up and down trees over the years. Never had any incidents other than steps pulling out a couple of times. From here on out I will be connected "all" the way to the ground. The impact of even such a short fall was tough enough on these old bones. Fortunately nothing more than a sore shoulder and injured pride. If you think your luck or cat like reflexes will save you think again. Was the oddest sensation of "oh shit I'm falling" and not even having time to grab for the tree.
I bought and a tree stand a few years back , but preferred to hunt from the ground so I sold it. The guy who bought it already had a harness. I was putting siding on my house this fall up by the peak and it was really windy. I had staging but still decided to use the harness I got with that tree stand. I had the peak vent cover off so I looped the safety rope around a 4 foot 4×4 and put it through the vent opening and let the rope dangle to the ground. I was standing on the top of the staging reaching out to screw on a batten when I lost my balance. I was suspended there in front of that batten so I put in the remaining screws and grabbecd the scaffolding and got back on. Safety harnesses work. I have to do the other side next summer so first thing I will do is put that safety rope through the top vent. A friend of mine is a steeplejack and hunts up in trees. He won't climb without a harness.
To all those who do not for what ever reason use both a fall arrest system as well as a safety line while climbing and descending from your tree stand may I respectfully suggest you try this to simulate becoming paralyzed and otherwise incapable of performing the most basic acts of personal hygiene as would be a VERY, VERY likely result of a fall from a treestand as a result of failing to use a 100% tie-off fall arrest system. Go and buy yourself the correct size of "Depends" adult diapers and take a bowl movement in one. Then if you are married ask your wife to change it for you and repeat the process if you have children old enough to be able to. If you are single try doing so enlisting the help of who you consider is your closest and most loved family member or "significant other" and then lastly if possible your closest and most trusted friend. Then based on what I believe will be less than a "positive" and "willing response from all those you ask, and lets not forget how completely humiliating the experience will be from this single simulated experience let alone if it needs doing for months if not permanently, tell yourself you STILL don't need to utilize a 100% tie off policy while hunting from a tree stand.
For those of you like myself who's employment weekly involves a risk of a life threatening fall and wearing a full body harness then you should be aware of the facts I am about to share. OSHA put out a study of the forces and trauma involved in falling. Granted the data was based on falling on to surfaces likely harder than the forest floor, but once the forest floor becomes frozen I'm guessing it's not that much more forgiving than hard packed earth like you encounter in the city or even concrete. I was utterly blown away how low your chances of surviving a fall above 10'. But what scared me even more was how dramatically your odds of survival decrease for EVERY FOOT of added fall height up to 15' and once above 15' your odds drop to lower double digits of percent, and lastly at the 18-20'+ height, the height most of us place our stands at, your odds of survival are IIRC drop to 10% or less depending on factors of how you hit and the relative hardness of the ground.
Wear a harness or per the odds if you fall you will end up after a very short time suffering mental anguish so extreme in intensity it simply can not be imagined only experienced, fallowed very quickly by yourself or your family suffering complete financial ruin all because you refused to spend less than the cost of a dozen BH tipped arrows on the equipment needed to keep you safe. It utterly flabbergasts me the same guys who wont blink an eye on dropping $1000 on a new bow then another $3-400 on a rest and sight for it, balk at spending $200 on keeping themselves out of a wheel chair for the rest of their lives.
Great post Darton....I don't have much to add here because I hope I never have a story like this to tell. I am very lucky just like some of you guys have mentioned. We used to hunt out of old baker stands, half rotted wood stands, put hang on stands in the dark with no safety harness, and wear those old belt straps. Thankfully I have never fallen and I hope to never fall even while wearing a harness. I always wear a harness, my wife and kids deserve that.
I cant believe the number of you tube video's I watch were someone is in a tree stand and not connected to the tree. It amazes me in this day and age that still happens.
Only saves if you attach it ....
My brother's best friend fell 8 feet. Paralyzed from the waist down. He landed on grass. Forty five years ago I spent a summer doing iron work building a bridge. We had no safety harnesses. Very scarey until you get used to walking on a beam 260 feet over the water. Saw 6 bridge painters fall 60 feet on to rip wrap when their scaffolding let go. Four died instantly while two lived for a few minutes screaming in pain. Bosses ordered us all back to work. After that we we put up safety nets. That turned out to be my job. Saw one net catch a guy when he slipped on a wet beam. He took a chance as when it rains, you get off the steel pronto. We used to say that the first drop that hits you is God's fault. The second drop is your fault. Things are a lot safer now, thankfully.
Lawdy, that had to be quite some time ago. I started working in the skilled building trades back in 1986 and the safety was pretty good then about tying off and by about 1990-92 was when IIRC waist harnesses were completely outlawed and FBH were mandated, the iron workers were the last to submit, we electricians as long as I can remember always used FBH's. I am now a maintenance electrician in the steel making industry and FBH with S/R straps are mandatory if a fall greater than 4' is present with retractable lanyards, above 20' standard fall arresting lanyards are ok. last year had a guy tragically fall and get fatally impaled after a fall of only 3-5' because his retractable lanyard failed. And yes they had him (as well as his coworkers) inspecting the lanyards and harnesses on camera prior to use. So even when you fallow all the safety rules your number can still come up.
I've had a screw in step break is all.
I didn't hear anyone mention it but always "3 points of contact" while climbing was some good advice from a rancher buddy 30 years ago.
Now not only do I stay tied in...but I don't leave a lot of slack in my safety line. That slack can kill you or cause serious ortho issues.