October 25, 2012

Simple precautions can prevent tragic injuries

PRATT—The deer archery season is in full swing, and as the rut approaches, increased deer activity has bowhunters anticipating the best hunting of the fall. But it is important they remember a few simple treestand safety rules.

Because most bow shots are less than 20 yards, many hunters utilize treestands. Deer rarely look up for danger, and the elevated position can allow a bowhunter to draw the bow undetected. Treestands are also popular with firearm hunters, providing similar advantages and a commanding view of the area. Unfortunately, a surprising number of treestand hunters fall from treestands each fall, some suffering serious injury or death.

According to Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) assistant Hunter Education Program coordinator Monica Bickerstaff, it is estimated that every year there are 1,400-1,500 treestand incidents nationally. Treestand incidents aren’t required to be reported the way firearm-related hunting incidents are, but when they are reported and investigated, a common theme appears: the hunter was not wearing a fall-restraint system.

Call it whatever you want, a fall-arrest system, restraint harness, or safety belt, wearing a harness that connects the hunter to the tree is the single most important thing a treestand hunter can do to stay safe. Here are some recommendations to make hunting from a treestand safer:

• Wear a full-body harness approved by the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association (TMA) attached to the tree. Don’t wear single-strap waist or chest belts.

• Never carry equipment while climbing. Use a haul line to raise gear, including bow (with broadheads covered) or unloaded gun.

• Use a climbing belt.

• Avoid using homemade stands. Wood quickly weakens and nails work loose.

• Hunt from healthy, living trees and never put all your weight on a single branch.

• Follow the three-point rule – always have three points of contact to the steps or ladder while climbing up or down.

• Always tell someone where you plan to hunt and when you plan to return.

• Carry a cell phone.

“The few minutes it takes to strap on a fall arrest system and become connected to the tree are inconsequential when you consider the total number of hours spent hunting during a lifetime,” Bickerstaff said. “Taking the time to be safe can literally be the difference between life, debilitating injury or death.”