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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Use Treestands Safely

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, November 24, 2012.)

Do you use a treestand? Do you use one safely? Did you know that 50% of treestand hunters don’t use a fall-arrest device? Did you know that deaths due to falling from treestands exceed accidental shootings while hunting?

Broken bones and heads aren’t the only danger, 
and maybe not even the most serious.

According to a 1993 study by Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, almost 90% of hunters hunt from elevated stands. Whether the number is higher or lower today, it’s still a lot.

The first climbing treestands were unbelievably unsafe. Hunters used them because they understood the lethal advantage they offered while hunting deer. However, they were also lethal to hunters. Since then, the industry has come a long way with safer designs and better education, but risks still exist.

A number of years ago a friend of mine suffered a severely broken ankle while on a Canadian bear hunt, caused by a design flaw in the treestand he was using. Most design flaws have been corrected over the years, and design flaws can seldom be blamed. That’s why every treestand manufacturer does its best to train hunters how to use treestands safely.

Also, the many fall-arrest devices on the market are easier to use. The assumption is that the easier they are to use the more likely hunters will use them. But accidents still happen. A few weeks ago fellow hunter at a camp in Ohio suffered a fall due his own mistake. He was trying to make an adjustment in the stand while halfway up the tree. He ended up hanging upside down from the stand before falling. He spent two nights in a Columbus, Ohio hospital with broken vertebrae, broken ribs, and a broken wrist.

Most of us think about broken bones and head injuries as a result of treestand falls, but broken bones and heads aren’t the only danger, and maybe not even the most serious.

People say it’s not the fall that kills you; it’s the sudden stop at the end. That’s meant to be funny, but it’s true. That sudden stop has the potential to tear internal organs loose and cause sudden and severe internal hemorrhage. If that happens, your time is up.

Maybe you’re one of the 37% who has fallen from a treestand. Or maybe you know someone who has had a serious fall from a tree stand. For sure, you know someone who knows someone for whom a fall was a life-changing – or life-ending – event.

Here’s my advice: Respect treestands like you do a deer rifle. Research them for safety features. Make sure the one you use is well designed, in good condition, and you know how to use it. Be afraid of home-made stands. Research fall-arrest devices and safety harnesses, and know how to use them. Treat every move you make off the ground with absolute safety. Take a few minutes each year to review safety practices – a quick Internet search will lead you to instructional videos worth watching.

I sometimes use treestands, so I’m certainly not against them. But I am against falling, and virtually all falls from treestands can be prevented by taking advantage of of today’s well-designed treestands, a quality fall-arrest device, and easy to find training materials.

These 600 words serve only as a warning, and are not a replacement for educating yourself on treestands safety. If you don’t take the warning, you’re increasing the odds that you’ll spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair. You don’t want that. Your family doesn’t want that either. Nor do they want you to spend the last few seconds of your life lying on the ground below the treestand you fell from.


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