Hunting from an elevated position has many benefits. But it also comes with a need for extra precautions. Each year hunters fall from elevated deer stands, and it is often some of the most experienced hunters who are injured or even killed. There are some basic tree stand safety measures that are recommended for all to use each time they are hunting in a stand as well as climbing into and out of the stand.
First, when climbing up into, or down out of, a tree stand, a hunter should always keep three points of contact on the ladder. This means moving only one and or one foot at a time, with the other three in contact with the ladder. It is one of the most basic rules of ascending or descending any ladder, but also one of the easiest to overlook in the excitement of hunting.
Hunters should also use a haul line to raise and lower their gun or bow into and out of the stand. This leaves hands free to hang on to the ladder and creates a much safer way to transport the weapon. The same haul line can be used to raise and lower gear and heavier equipment as well.
A fall arrest system is key for hunting from an elevated stand also. This system should be worn at any time a hunter risks falling from any height. Again, this is a basic safety precaution, but one that is often overlooked, especially with experienced hunters. The feeling that a hunter has “done thing 1,000 times” can often lead to apathy where safety is concerned. All it takes is one moment of being distracted or not paying full attention and a situation can turn dangerous. These full body harnesses should meet industry standard and be used properly every time a hunter is in an elevated position where there is a risk of falling. Safety equipment should be checked thoroughly before each season to ensure it is all in proper working order.
Hunters should closely inspect the tree in which they intend to place a stand. Trees should be solid with no signs of disease or stress. Trees such as ash should be avoided, as they may not show outward signs of weakness, but could have fallen victim to disease.
Before heading into the woods, a hunter should tell someone else where they will be hunting and when they expect to be back. Should something happen in the woods, this will allow family, friends and even rescuers to know where to start looking.
Carrying a fully charged cell phone can be important as well. This may allow a hunter to call for help, should something happen. However, hunters should be aware that cell phone coverage in many places in the rural Northwoods is not adequate to make a call. When hunting with a group, a two-way radio may be more effective in summoning help than a cell phone, depending on the area. Hunters should also be aware that batteries do not last as long in cold weather. This makes it especially important, as the season goes on, to have fully a fully charged cell phone and to bring along extra batteries for walkie-talkies and two-way radios.
For more information about tree stand safety, see the Department of Natural Resources website as dnr.wi.gov. To take the free Treestand Safety Course, head to the Hunter Course website huntercourse.com/treestandsafety.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at [email protected].