Many hunters that enter the woods today use some form of a treestand, whether it is a climber, hang-on, or ladder stand. Each of these different types of stands elevates you within the woods to get you above the undergrowth, get your scent line above the deer, and of course improve your line of sight. Treestands are great things to use and give you a huge advantage. However, they are also the leading cause of hunting related accidents within North America.
Yes, that is right more accidents are caused by treestands than any other hunting related accident. If fact, a few years back they accounted for more accidents than all the other categories of hunting related accidents combined. You ask, why is this? Well, treestands surely are not something to play around with and you have to follow safety rules or you risk being seriously injured or worse. The reason that so many accidents happen are either true accidents, not following safety rules, or using them in the wrong way or poor upkeep. Treestands are like cars, you have to wear a seatbelt, you have to change the oil and check the tire pressure. Alright maybe not those things, but you do have to check the hardware, cables, chains, etc. to ensure they are in good shape before each use. Most importantly, YOU HAVE TO WEAR A SAFETY HARNESS. I will go more into detail at the bottom about the different kinds of safety harnesses and how to use them with different types of stands.
Before I go into more detail about treestand safety, safety harnesses, and all that good stuff, I wanted to take a minute and remind everyone about another danger here on the East Coast and really anywhere that could affect you while using a treestand. Over the past few weeks, the East Coast has experienced a lot of rain and localized flooding. With the large amount of rain that we have had, the ground water table is up and this makes trees’ root systems more susceptible to uprooting. The weight of a hunter and treestand coupled with the general movement you add to a tree could be enough for a tree to uproot and seriously injure you. Hunting in the wind or in areas that experienced flooding recently increases the risk. The other thing to keep in mind on this subject is the type of tree that you are hunting out of; some types of trees are far more likely to have this happen due to shallow root systems. The best example of a tree you might want to stay away from until the ground is more stable would be a pine tree within an area that has flooded recently or has high ground water content. Pine trees have a very shallow root base and are very susceptible to this sort of thing without the added weight and motion of a hunter, if you add them in, it is a recipe for disaster. So please be careful when choosing your hunting location and tree until the ground has dried out some and the ‘weak trees” all find their way to the ground without you in them.
On to a similar topic, remember, to check out your tree’s condition and what type of tree you are climbing before you start climbing. Depending on your area, some trees are better for climbing than others and the general straightness of a tree is important when using a climbing treestand. The other factor you need to consider based on your treestand selection is the girth of the tree. Some climbing stands have minimums and maximums for the girth of the tree you climb. Plus the general rule is that, big trees are harder to climb, and small trees can shake and feel unstable, so find that nice tree in the middle!
Now on to harnesses, harnesses are the most important thing to you when climbing any tree with any type of treestand. Harnesses can save your life and they can certainly make sure you enjoy your day in the woods and it doesn’t end badly.
When I first started hunting, the most common tree safety device was the tree belt like the
ScentBlocker Tree Spider Tree Strap pictured below. Tree belts did give you a level of safety and would prevent you from falling. However, tree belts have a lot of room for error and can cause you a lot of pain in the event of a fall. They are also not the most comfortable thing to wear and something that can hinder your shooting ability. Again, better than nothing but also not the preferred safety device.
Safety Harnesses (Vest Style)
The other widely used safety device used by those that climb trees is called the safety harness. Now there are a ton of different kinds of harnesses on the market today. Like anything, a lot of them are very similar in construction, but add things to make them more comfortable or user friendly to allow them to be better than the next. For the purpose of this article, we are mostly talking about safety, not comfort so I will not go into which has the best comfort or the coolest add-ons. There are a couple different types of harnesses that are produced, the vest style harness and the full body harness. The vest harness such as the Hunter Safety System Treestalker Safety Harnesses, Realtree, Large/X-Large pictured below, is a takeoff of the full body with comfort in mind. They are designed to make sure in the event of a fall that they distribute the shock when your harness catches you making the risk of bruises less. A hybrid between the vest and full body harness is becoming more and more common and they have almost become one in the same. However, these types of harnesses are great for youth hunters,such as the: Hunter Safety System Lil Treestalker Safety Vest Harness for Youth They are comfortable and they are made in youth sizes which allow them to insure safety without compromising comfort.
The other style harness is the full body, which is the most commonly used type. They are very simple to the point. They are there to insure in the event of a fall that you are not injured. They have straps that go over your shoulders, under both legs, and a belt around your waist. This is the style harnesses that I use and I highly recommend that you use one if you are still using a tree belt or none at all. They can keep a simple slip from ruining your trip because in many cases you can just climb back on your stand, best case scenario. Worst case scenario, in the event your treestand fails or falls to the ground they can save your life and keep you hanging until you can call for safety. (On that note, REMEMBER always tell someone where you will be hunting and if you have a cell phone take it with you!!!)
A safety harness may be more expensive than not using one or finding a cheap tree belt, but at the end of the day, it could save your life, or keep you from having a broken bone or multiple broken bones. What is that worth to you? If you are purchasing a new treestand, a lot of manufactures like Summit provide you with a free basic harness when you purchase your new treestand. Otherwise, a good harness will run between $50 - $150 depending on which manufacture and style you choose and is worth every dollar.
As I said in the beginning of this article, there are more treestand related accidents than all the other types of hunting related accidents combined. Therefore, this is something that we as hunters need to take seriously and as we teach others the sport we love, make sure you show them the safe way to hunt and use the equipment available to you.
Here is another resource to help you in learning all about treestand safety. Here is the link the Maryland DNR Hunter Safety Treestand Safety Tips.
So good luck this season, and remember to wear your safety device at all times while climbing up, down, and while on the stand waiting for that trophy of a lifetime!