Discipline and Complacency in the Deer Woods

In the military, we are drilled from day 1 to “do the right thing when no one is looking, ” and follow regulations, checklists and manuals in order to see that our work is done correctly.  Failure to adhere to the rules and regulations, especially as pertains to safety, can lead to catastrophic equipment failure, costly time lost or even death in extreme cases.  The same principals can be applied to hunting…

This past weekend I had the good fortune to get permission to hunt a new property in Northeast Kansas.  Being already tagged out on bucks, I was really just doing some in-season scouting and considered taking a doe if the situation presented itself.  I got an early jump to the stand after work on Friday, selecting a tree on a prominent oak ridge with a commanding view of the bedding areas and feeding areas below.  Having no intention of hunting that day, I rushed out to the field, climbing sticks and stand in hand.

It takes a bit of discipline to ensure safety when in pursuit of game.


I moved to the bottom of the tree and began to strap the sticks on the trunk as I had tens or even hundreds of times before.  I was strapping on the third stick, about 10′ off the ground, when I heard a pop and suddenly felt helpless.  I was free falling backward, with my climbing stick and strap still in hand. 

I sat dumbfounded as I felt for any permanent damage.  I couldn’t figure out what happened.  Until I looked up.  The step that I had shifted my weight onto had suddenly broken off as I was reaching around the tree to secure the strap for the next step.  No explanation, it just broke.  It didn’t appear to have been damaged in any way, it must have just been some kind of structural defect.  The fact that I fell was completely my fault. I shook my head, wondering what would have happened had another tree step, a limb or even a broadhead would have been below, waiting for me to fall on it–would’ve been curtains, I thought to myself.  Even worse, my 13 month old boy would’ve been fatherless for a stupid accident, despite having survived 5 combat tours overseas before he was even born

A structural defect initiated my 10′ fall from a tree, but my complacency in following appropriate safety steps completed it.


I was wearing my Hunter’s Safety System, but had neglected to actually tie myself into the tree. I seldom cut corners when it comes to treestand safety.  I know the statistics.  I know the danger. Of thousands of hours in treestands, I can only recall 3 different incidents, but this was no excuse.

How many stand sets have you hung this year?  How many times have you waited to hook yourself in until you’re actually in the tree?  Statistically, you’re more likely to fall when climbing up or down the tree.  Do you do the right thing when no one is looking?

We’re in the home stretch for the season.  The rut is for the most part, over and done.  A “last stab period” at taking monster late-season whitetails is upon us.  Hunter’s Safety Systems makes several products to augment your safety while climbing trees and hanging stands.  You owe it to yourself and your family to take a few extra minutes, maybe make a little bit of extra noise in order to make it home when the hunt is complete.

Work'n Class Whitetails

About Ryan Welch

I'm an Active Duty Army Officer who takes every chance available to get after whitetails. I've been bow hunting for 25 years and filming for 5 of those. I'm a current pro-staff member for Work'n Class Whitetails and hunt mainly in KS/MO and back home in NH/VT whenever I can. I also have experience hunting in TN, AL, WY, ID and TX.

One thought on “Discipline and Complacency in the Deer Woods

  1. Don Mayer

    Ryan, glad you are OK! A great product I use is the HSS Lifeline. It is simply a 30 ft version of the typical rope/prussic knot many hunters use to tie in once they are in their stand. For a semi-permanent stand, you would leave this rope installed in the tree with the stand. You can then hook-in at the bottom and move the prussic knot up as you climb. I have one installed on my stand with the most difficult climb, and plan to purchase more.

Comments are closed.