How Not to Become a Treestand Hunting Statistic This Season

HHS Lady Pro1

Fall restraint systems today are more comfortable, allowing hunters to secure themselves to a tree and move freely with a tether system that will break a fall. (Photo: Hunter Safety Systems)

Talk with any bow hunter older than 40 or 50 and ask about safety harnesses, climbing trees in the “olden days” and whether they ever had an accident or close call that made their liver quiver.

Chances are good you’ll get an affirmative. Hunters a smidge older than 50ish kind of shake their heads when you mention the Baker stands. Some cringe and wonder how more accidents didn’t happen. They likely did and we just didn’t know about them.

By Alan Clemons, Southern Managing Editor

I remember my father’s old climber from the 1970s and am damn glad he’s still with us today. It was basically a platform and his “climber” was a chain with two welded steel handles and studs in the chain to grip the tree as he climbed. Sheesh.

Until accidents started being compiled by state wildlife agencies we had no clue other than hearsay or a newspaper report. Today’s treestand accident reports are maintained, documented and presented as part of hunter education courses along with “Hey, be smart and don’t be a statistic” encouragement from state agencies.

Better tether systems, rope lifelines, Prussic knots and other improvements have been a benefit to hunters. (Photo: Seat o' the Pants)

Better tether systems, rope lifelines, Prussic knots and other improvements have been a benefit to hunters. (Photo: Seat o’ the Pants)

That’s good. Until the last few years, treestand manufacturers didn’t like to talk about accidents. It was like taking with a NASCAR driver about accidents, or an NFL running back about a knee injurty. “La la la la can’t hear you can’t hear you na na na na na!”

But the reality is that hunters have accidents and talking about them — how to prevent them, what to do if you have one — is a necessary. If no one wanted to discuss what you should do after falling from a climbing or ladder stand while wearing a harness safety system, how would you know what hunters do to get back in the stand? Or get down the tree?

When you fall, even with a restraint system like the Hunter Safety System vests, your vest and the tether are going to jack you up a bit. You’re going to be in a bit of shock, have the straps around your legs digging into your man bits, and it’s not going to feel too good, even if you don’t have the straps cinched up too tightly.

What to do? Well, I’ve heard from more than one hunter and some harness manufacturers about carrying a spare screw-in step in a pants pocket. After you fall and then regain your wits, screw in the step and take the pressure off your legs by putting a leg up. If you carry two steps, screw in both of ’em if you can. You also can use a lifeline for a continuous hookup from ground to stand and back down again. They’re easy to use.

Today’s safety harnesses are designed better than the first strap harnesses, which worked quite well. But getting them on could be like wrestling an octopus, especially in the dark. I had one of the first Seat of the Pants harnesses, with the straps that go into the pouch, and it was pretty simple. Quite effective. It saved me about a dozen or more years ago.

Harnesses are cheap insurance. It just blows my damn mind how a guy will spend a thousand bucks (or more) on a rifle and scope or a bow and complete setup, more money on gas and food and lease fees, pay out the nose for camo and uber-stink killer and whatever other gizmos for the iPhone app and rangefinders … and then bitch about a safety harness being $100 or whatever.

Seriously? C’mon, man. Don’t do the “they’re uncomfortable” routine because they’re not. Don’t give us the “Aw, I don’t need one, I’ve never had a problem” bullhockey. Just because you haven’t fallen doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t.

I didn’t think I would fall, and for about 10 scary minutes I hung like a trussed chicken in a tree while trying to get the bottom platform somewhat stable. I finally did and was able to get down safely. I have a pal, a game warden, who fell three years ago (and survived), but sustained some bad injuries.

Vest-style harness systems are popular today because the straps are enclosed, the vest is easy to wear and they fit under shirts or jackets. (Photo: Tree Spider)

Vest-style harness systems are popular today because the straps are enclosed, the vest is easy to wear and they fit under shirts or jackets. (Photo: Tree Spider)

I know other guys who have fallen, survived and are in wheelchairs. They’re alive but their lives were altered forever.

I know of families that still grieve when hunting season arrives because their beloved fell and died. They got a call, then had to wait until rescue teams could extract the lifeless body. Friends found their buddy at the base of a tree, dead or dying, and could do nothing.

Listen, I don’t care if you wear a harness from Hunter Safety Systems, Seat of the Pants, Tree Spider, Gorilla, Muddy or someone else. I could write that Company A’s is the greatest and bestest, and Company B’s is the most best whatever, but I’m not going to. You have to choose which one is right for you. They all have their good points, their comfort points, their accessories and “cool” factors. You also should not forget about your children and teenagers, either. Harnesses are designed to keep them safe.

But the most important thing is the harness should make you feel totally secure. Cool camo, nifty vests, pockets, uber-fabric or whatever gizmo hanger pocket thingy doesn’t mean squat in the bottom line. Sorry, but they don’t. A fall restraint system’s main A-1 top goal is that you feel secure and safe when you’re up in that lock-on, climber or ladder stand.

Invest in a harness. It’s a life investment, not just a hunting investment.

Want to learn more about treestand safety and placement? Check out this download from Deer & Deer Hunting TV and also this one for great information.