Editor's Note: Today, a feature originally published in our companion service, The Archery Wire and was provided by Marilyn Bentz, executive director of the National Bowhunter Education Foundation (NBEF). Marilyn's is good advice that each of us should follow if we ever use tree stands.
It's a fact: 82% of the people who have a treestand accident are not wearing a harness or any form of fall arrest. With that in mind, the solution seems pretty simple, right? Why don't hunters using elevated stands wear a harness? Every manufactured treestand since 2004 has been sold with a full body harness ... and who hasn't purchased a new stand since then? There are more that a million sold every year!
The truth is, most elevated stand users - hunters like you and me - think an accident just won't happen to them. They are willing to play roulette with their lives. Treestand accidents (unlike firearm-related accidents) are not required to be reported to any clearinghouse or Federal or State entity. So who knows the actual statistics? No one! And if we did know, what would the magic number be to make you wear your harness ... 10%, 25%, 50%?
At what percentage would you say, "Whoa...I better wear that harness because everyone is falling?" The point is, ANY number is too high when it comes to human life. And that doesn't take into account the negative impact to hunting when accidents are mentioned in the news. Especially when we know how to prevent the largest percentage of these accidents. Now, let's concentrate on that statistic.
Wearing a harness won't by itself keep you safe, but it certainly is one of the most important steps you can take along the way. Here are a few additional strategies:
- Stay attached to the tree from the time you leave the ground until you get back down. This may involve changing how you currently ascend and descend a tree. But I can tell you, once you use this technique you will feel so safe, you won't ever hunt from an elevated stand without doing it.
- Your harness probably came with a lineman's belt. If it didn't, you need to purchase one. A lineman's belt helps you maintain three points of contact when you are hanging a stand and when you are ascending or descending your stand. Also, there is a technique with the lineman's belt that allows you to be doubly attached when getting into and out of your stand (which is when a significant number of accidents occur each year). You can also use your lineman's belt as a suspension trauma relief strap if you do happen to fall. Handy, yet simple gizmo that once you use it, you will wonder how you ever hunted without it. Who knows, you might also need it to help you drag that deer out of the woods!
- When you are out setting stands, do yourself a favor by selecting a couple sites for ground blinds. There are times you just don't need to be climbing, like frosty mornings, days when there is a sheet of ice on everything, mornings when you are exceedingly tired or maybe times when you are groggy from medication. By already having a ground blind set up or at least a spot in mind, you are giving yourself permission to not climb that tree when you really shouldn't be.
In bowhunter education one of our lessons is to "plan for the hunt and hunt with a plan." That doesn't just mean arranging the plane ticket or making sure you have the right camo! That also means you have to plan to be safe; safety isn't an accident.
Let someone know where you are going, what time to expect your return, take along emergency notification devices (cell phone, PLB, radios) in case you encounter have a problem. Plan a "practice" day with your buddies where you get out the type of stands you will be hunting from. With assistance close by, practice at ground level all the techniques you will be using in the woods including putting on that harness! This way there won't be any surprises when you are 12 feet in the air not wearing your harness or you discover the top and bottom of your climber isn't attached to one another!
Being an elevated stand accident statistic is not cool. All accidents reflect poorly on our sport as well as on your better judgment. Do yourself, your sport and your buddies a favor this year: Hunt Smart and Hunt Safe.
Marilyn Bentz is the Executive Director for the National Bowhunter Education Foundation (NBEF). The NBEF has a popular initiative called ProjectSTAND, which focuses on treestand safety. The NBEF also produces the DVD that is the recognized standard in treestand safety: "Safe Treestand Hunting Strategies." For more information call 605-716-0596 or www.nbef.org or www.projectstand.net. Mention this article and get the DVD for $5 plus shipping and handling instead of the usual $10 cost.