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Help, I've fallen and Can't Get Up
For the last couple of years at the beginning of a new season I’ve written to remind folks about tree stand safety. On November 25, 2016, the 4,000 lbs ratchet strap holding my lock-on type stand to the tree broke as I was stepping off the ladder and getting into the stand. I was just inches and a second away from hooking up my harness to the installed I-bolt. I typically hooked up as I was getting off the ladder and into the stand thinking that I was being prudent and careful. I fell 25 feet. I won’t go into details about my injuries. You can find and read my prior posts. My recovery took 4 ½ years and began with 5 surgeries and 3 ½ months in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. I’m one of the lucky ones, I survived and, for the most part, fully recovered without disabilities. I still have some stiffness and occasional aches and pains that will probably never go away. That fall had 101 different possible outcomes, none of them good.
This not meant to garner sympathy, but rather to focus you on the notion that climbing trees is dangerous. If you lose focus and fall, the fall could kill or cripple you. Year after year we hear tragic stories about fallen hunters. Tree stand falls and the resulting deaths and injuries are largely preventable with the proper use of safety equipment, routine safety checks, and common sense. It may be a hassle and add a few minutes to get set up, but that pales in comparison to the consequences of a fall.
Tree stand safety basically consists of 3 parts. First, a fall restraint system with a harness and life line is an absolute necessity. You should be hooked up from the moment you leave the ground. Falls from as little as 8 feet can be fatal. 1 in 5 falls from heights from 15 to 20 feet are fatal, the remainder are often crippling. Our best defense is not falling in the first place. Never compromise or get complacent with your safety.
Second, inspect your stands and equipment every time you use them. Look for rusted or worn cables, broken or weak welds, and straps that have been damaged by sun, weather, or animals. These checks are especially important on stands that remain in place though out a season whether they are your own or someone else’s. Don’t gamble that they remain safe from the last time you used them regardless of the time frame.
Finally, there is common sense. Exercise it. I survived because I had my phone and thankfully service. I kept my head and was able to get help. I now use an InReach in addition to my phone. I also prefer to hunt from the ground when I can, but I will use a ladder stand when I can’t. I usually hunt alone and all day. An all day sit in my ground blind is much more comfortable than one in my ladder stand or any other stand for that matter.
Tree stand falls are easily avoided. And, if you do fall, a quality fall restraint system prevents serious injuries. The statistics are that 1 in 3 hunters will fall at some point. I didn’t think I’d ever be one of them. Be safe out there.
Good reminder glad you made out well. Thanks for bringing it up.
Thanks for posting the reminder again Blake. Glad your outcome wasn’t worse.
Good reminder glad you made out well. Thanks for bringing it up.
Always a good reminder to be careful.
A couple of days ago I was walking down the gate to my utility trailer after a rain. It was wet. Yup.....I slipped backwards but somehow ended up going face first towards the driveway. My ninja quickness kicked in. My right wrist and both knees stopped the fast approaching face plant. I jammed my wrist trying to brake the fall. I thought I broke my right wrist the next day....it's still a little stiff. Be careful even on the day-to-day, routine things ya take for granted.....
Great Post. Thankyou for the reminder.
Thanks for the reminder. I fell from 20’ about 15 years ago. Fortunately I was wearing a linesman belt as I finished setting a stand. The belt caught me, slammed me into the tree trunk. I was bruised and knocked the wind out of me. Could have been much fatal, or crippling without that strap and harness.
If not mentioned, please keep your cell phone on your person. It does no good sitting in your pack hanging on a tree when you are on the ground. I recommend a cell phone harness like an over-shoulder side arm holster. Safety is number one folks.
Thanks OP for this thread.
good tip on the cell phone thing. My buddy got a life flight out after his stand broke. Shattered both his ankles. I always keep my phone and PLB on my person while hunting solo.
A few things I'm more aware of as I get older. 1) I use a climber more often than not. I purchased a Treestand Wingman awhile ago...used in conjunction with my harness. If I happen to slip I'd rather be lowered to the ground than dangling. A bit bulky...yes. However, beats the alternative. 2) Have your cell phone handy if you have service. Won't do you any good if you're dangling but can't get at it...think as in your front pocket but the tightened harness makes it unreachable. 3) I give my wife the coordinates of my hunting spot(s) for the day. If I have cell service I'll text her a couple times a day...particularly if I relocate. If I know there's no cell service where I'm hunting I let her know beforehand...but she still has those coordinates.
A couple of years ago I was on stand in Dec. last time out. While in the process of removing the stand the strap was stuck at the buckle and it was not all the way off of the tree. While using both arms to get it free a tree step broke. Stand went down and I hung there on my harness and one foot on a step. Owh. After few moments tried to each the next step, nope couldn't do it. OK I'll just drive in one of the spare folding steps I have in my pocket. Just adust the head lamp-then it falls apart. Its now dark and leg is getting tired. Pull out the phone and find the light, put in the step and finish the job. Never using screw ins again , except as a back up. Used strap on steps and sticks both had failures. About the only way I will climb now is leg irons. I keep them on my feet and safety harness, lineman's belt(s), etc. is always connected to the tree. So moral of the story have a few extra steps , flashlight, cell phone on you. At all times.
Thanks for the timely reminder. Several years ago while putting up a stick ladder, the cam buckle on the strap I was tightening broke. Luckily I was wearing my lineman's belt and was only 4-5 feet off the ground. The belt kept me from falling backwards off the ladder. I was very glad that I wasn't a lot higher off the ground. A fall from 4-5 feet is plenty high enough to cause a significant injury. I'm going to check out the Treestand Wingman, as I often hunt alone. Thanks to Cornpone for the suggestion.
Good Hunting to all and Stay Safe!
This year will be the 9 th anniversary of my hunter buddys death. October 7th 5 am light drizzle and he slipped of his stand reaching for his quiver. The stand shifted and he fell 15 ft and broke pine branches with his head. Rested at the bottom of his tree dead from Friday morning til Sunday 7 pm. The police showed up and knocked on his home to tell his wife he wouldn't be coming home. She and his 4 yr old and 7 year old daughters would never see daddy again. We argued all the time on safety harnesses and he was always against it, said he could just grab a branch but the reality is different. If you climb do your family and friends a favor and wear a harness so they don't have to go through the painful act of your funeral . Nobody will think any less of you as a hunter if you wear one and it WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE!!!
I mainly hunt from the ground now days. I used to add new straps around the top of my ladder stands every year. I have one two man ladder stand that is still in excellent condition after about 15 years. Kept it painted and checked the bolts. No need to add straps anymore, it has grown into the tree at the top. Last year was the first year I didn't climb a tree. Killed all the deer I wanted from the ground. Now that I am old as the hills I have a really nice swivel chair, propane heater, small stove and ammo boxes for snacks I can leave in the ground blind. I live in the woods I own so I can leave everything set up. Don't even drag any more, just walk to the house and get my Gator. I know the exact yardage to most trees near deer trails.
Man, scary stories and results.
I get razzed for spot-n-stalking my Whitetail tag's over the years but I don't like the experiences I've had in a tree stand so I don't use one.
Thanks for this thread EMB/Blake
Good luck, Robb
Checking loc on straps a few years ago ,about 4 feet off ground.had it break rolled my ankle hard,replaced all straps was very nervous to step on stand for a good while.
Friend who fell has permanent limp.
Friend who fell has permanent limp.
Climbing sticks with only one strap are dangerous. Surprised companies still sell them with one strap. Sun, rain, snow and time will eat the strap and poof.
I view my treestand hunting as a two fold matter, survival and hunting. Equipment failure is often listed as a reason for failure to take game. Inspect your stand/harness/means of climbing to avoid equipment failure from taking your life.
Thank you EMB for the reminder.
Glad you are ok and alive. I only use ladder stands these days and replace straps every 2 years. I always keep a new strap with me incase an animal eats through one in the off season. Thanks for posting
Good ideas. My phone was in my pack, but I hadn't had the chance to take it off before I fell. Got lucky. Would have been a real b---h looking up at it. As it was I had to thread the pack around by broken arm/shoulder to get to the phone. I now keep my phone on me in a belt case. My Inreach works through my phone and vice versa. My ladder stand is an old Warren and Sweat portable aluminum stand. I'm only about 12 feet, but I look like the OSHA poster child:). I primarily hunt in a swamp. Too many snakes to use a blind, but that's another story.