When we moved into our home about 10 years ago, one of the trees in our front yard had a fork in the trunk about five feet above the base so I stuck a rock in it.
I had fun showing the kids the rock and telling them about when I was their age and had done the same thing at my childhood home. Eventually, the tree grew around the rock. The tree at our current home has done the same thing, of course, and the fist-sized rock is no longer visible.
By Alan Clemons, Managing Editor
When I see the tree, I sometimes think about deer stands affixed with straps, chains, cables or 2x4s nailed into a tree. Like you, I’ve seen just about everything. And I’ve seen some that were stressed by the tree’s growth after obviously having been there for years without being replaced. Those were the stands I didn’t climb. I’m not a Nervous Nelly but age has given me a little more wisdom.
Now is a great time to do stand maintenance at home or your deer camp. Yeah, it’s hot and the snakes and spiders and ticks are out. They will be in September or October, too, depending on where you hunt, so it’s six of one and half-dozen of the other to get the work done now or then. Stand maintenance is simply a smart thing to do so you’ll be safer this season.
— Check all the nuts and bolts or connecting pieces. Are they secure? Do they tighten appropriately or is anything rusted or jammed up? Can you finger-tighten them if necessary? If they need replacement, do it. If they make you think twice, well, maybe it’s time to invest in a new stand.
— Apply new non-skid strips on the platform and boot straps on climbing platforms. Examine all the seams if you have a welded stand for cracks. Put the stand on a tree and push down on it, sit on it, stand on it or have someone else do that while you look. Stress it to check it.
— On the seat, look at any straps or webbing. If you’ve used the stand for several years make sure they’re not frayed or nicked. Having a strap or webbing pop under your butt wouldn’t be enjoyable.
— Check the locking chain or strap that goes around the tree. Make sure it fits appropriately into the stand and locks securely, and that any locking mechanisms work correctly. If the stand has 2x4s or other nailed wooden supports, give everything a good tug, pull and shake.
Wood can rot and be affected by rain, sun, snow and ice. Trees grow and can pull nails from support boards or platforms, stretch support straps and put undue pressure on chains and connection points. Floors in box blinds need to be checked for wear. You can return before the season to spray for wasps.
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— Get a safety harness and wear it. It’s inexpensive insurance to help protect you from injury or death. If you don’t think you’ll fall, just remember two things: a lot of hunters who have fallen thought the same thing, and you have family or friends who would hate to see you in a hospital or at a funeral service.
If your harness is more than five years old, get a new one. Today’s harnesses are lighter, have better materials, improved tether designs and some incorporate the harness into apparel. Do not ignore this affordable piece of life insurance.
Being unsafe is uncool. You’re going to spend money on ammo, camo, gas, food, travel, maybe a lease or club dues, a gun or tricked-out bow … and then not drop $100 or so for a reliable safety harness? C’mon. If nothing else, think of your wife and kids looking at you in a hospital bed with a halo brace screwed into your skull and trying to reassure you that everything will be OK when they’re terrified about you being paralyzed from the chest down. Or, worse, seeing you lying in a coffin while listening to the preacher talk about how you were a good father and friend who loved the outdoors.
Doing a good, thorough check of your stands and safety harness is something you can control. If you find anything amiss, get it repaired or replaced and be ready to hunt safely.