Believe it or not, treestand accidents, rather than hunting weapons, are the leading cause of hunting injuries. Trauma resulting from a fall from a treestand can lead to serious injury, permanent disability, and even death. Fortunately, most of these injuries are preventable if you take the proper safety precautions.
Before you get in your treestand, make sure you are doing everything you can to ensure your safety. These tips will help you avoid treestand injuries.
1. Wear a full-body harness.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries recommends that you wear a Full Body Fall Arrest Harness System (FBFAHS) while hunting in a treestand. This is one of the most important factors in preventing a fall. Full-body harnesses can help to prevent most falls from treestands. Avoid using single-strap belts or chest harnesses; these devices are dangerous. Most new treestands will come with a full-body harness, but you can also purchase one separately if needed.
2. Always inspect your stand and equipment before using it.
Equipment wears out over time, especially if it’s left outside. Always check your stand and harness for wear before using them. Even if your stand or harness straps look fine, they can weaken from exposure to the weather and sunlight. If your harness straps have been left outside since last season, it’s best to replace them before you get in your treestand.
3. Choose a safe tree and stand.
You should only use treestands that meet the standards of the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association (TMA). This nonprofit trade association has a list of products that comply with safety standards and also offers educational materials on hunting safety. Do not use a homemade tree stand. Once you have your treestand ready to go, you need to make sure you select a tree that can support the stand and your weight. Do not use a tree that is rotting or leaning.
4. Never climb into your stand while carrying equipment.
While many injuries occur because hunters are not wearing full-body harnesses, other injuries occur while climbing into and out of the treestand. This is why it is important not to carry equipment while climbing. You should always maintain three points of contact with the ladder when climbing--either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. This is not possible if you are carrying your equipment. Use a haul line to lift your equipment up to the stand once you have settled into it.
5. Know how to recover if you do fall.
Harnesses do have a suspension line to prevent you from falling to the ground, but you can still experience suspension trauma due to blood pooling in the legs if you are suspended from your harness for a long period of time. Ideally, you should hunt with a buddy so help will be nearby if you happen to fall and are suspended from your harness. If you plan on hunting alone, you can purchase self-recovery devices that will safely lower you to the ground in the event of a fall.
Don’t let your hunting trip get ruined by a preventable injury! If you take the proper precautions, you can have a safe and fun time hunting. After recently treating a fellow orthopaedic surgeon after he shattered his ankle falling from a deer stand, I asked him if he is back at hunting. He replied, "Yes, but I only hunt from ground blinds. I've still never seen a deer in a tree. They are always on the ground."