Treestand safety

Regular checks of gear can prevent many accidents and potential injuries in the field.

It’s as if hell itself opened and spewed forth the tornadic occurrence our communities recently experienced. The tornadoes of ’21 aftermath is nothing short of devastating. Loss of life is immeasurable, no matter the official count.

It’s a tragedy, and incredibly saddening. The stories of death and destruction stir and turn even the strongest of stomachs. Words are utterly useless in describing this terrible weather event.

But there were also stories of resilience, and of people coming together to help their fellow man. There are still a lot of good people after all. It’s just a shame it oftentimes takes a tragedy to show it. We must do better, even during the easy times, the good times.

As for the outdoors, while loss of life and home were the worst results, plenty of hunters lost or received structural damage to treestands and hunting blinds. While it’s generally a pre- and post-season concern, now is a good time to remind everyone of the importance of checking their gear. Whether you took a direct hit from the storm, or not, make sure you carefully inspect what items you have in the field. Even straight-line winds can cause damage.

Obviously, check treestand trees to ensure they still have completely intact trunks, treetops, limbs and root systems. If there are any visible damages, don’t even attempt to pull the stand.

It isn’t worth it. If the tree appears to be in a good, safe condition, inspect the treestand to ensure it’s still structurally sound, too. Any damaged treestands should be discarded – not repaired.

The same goes for ground and elevated hunting blinds. Start from the bottom and work upward. If you get to the point where something is damaged, don’t hunt from them. Never climb into or hunt from a damaged blind, especially at an elevated position.

Regardless of what you’re checking, be sure to do so with extreme caution. There are damaged and downed trees everywhere, and you can get hurt merely inspecting and tending to storm damage. It isn’t without risk. And if something appears dangerous, immediately withdraw and leave it as you found it.

Treestand and blind inspections aside, it’s also a good time to remind hunters of general treestand safety. It’s good to check for rusty and damaged platforms, cables, bolts, straps, etc. Even minor damage can result in a major malfunction, leading to injury or death.

Falls from treestands remain the No. 1 cause of injury and death in deer hunting. According to the Treestand Safety Awareness Foundation, 35% of falls involved inspection elements, 85% of fall victims didn’t wear a harness, and 99% of fall victims injured were not attached to a lifeline or tree.

No matter the reason, you should wear a harness and be tied in with a lineman’s rope or lifeline from the moment your feet leave the ground until you reach it again. Always be tied in when hanging, inspecting, pulling or hunting from treestands.

It’s also good to ensure steps, sticks and ladders are spaced together closely. This prevents you from having to make large leaps between steps. Trying to pull your leg way up to reach a step greatly increases the risk of a fall.

Next, keep the trunk clean of debris. Dead limbs are very dangerous, but even living ones can break if you try to grab or step on them. The mere presence of limbs can impede your climbing abilities.

Also, make sure stands have pull-up ropes. Climbing with weapons and gear in your hands is very dangerous. If your stands don’t already have ropes on them, take this opportunity to install some.

Another good thing to do is to check the existing straps, and put extra ratchet straps on there, too. This is one thing overkill is good for. A stand can never be too secure.

There are plenty other treestand safety factors to remember, too, including taking a hunter’s safety education course, reading the treestand manufacturer’s instructions, knowing your equipment, only using straight, living trees, avoiding smooth-barked and overly scaly trees, wearing proper boots, keeping three points of contact while climbing, not getting in a hurry, keeping a knife in an easy-to-reach pocket, not leaving stands in the field for extending periods, not hunting from dilapidated stands and more.

And finally, even though it was already mentioned, always wear a safety harness. Not doing so is the leading cause of injury and death in deer hunting. That’s a statistic you want no part of.

– Josh Honeycutt is a Barren County native and an avid outdoorsman, but hunts all over North America. He’s published media content in more than 80 hunting magazines, websites and newspapers. He also runs a content marketing agency called Honeycutt Creative LLC. Follow him on Instagram @josh__honeycutt, and view his hunts on Midwest Whitetail and Chasing November.

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