Hunter safety was not a priority until I had a family member that was seriously injured in a tree-stand accident. This injury made me acutely aware of the danger of some tree stands. There are anywhere between 23 million and 43.7 million hunters in the United States. Based on those numbers, there are probably a lot of hunters using tree stands that may be defective or used improperly.
Most states require some form of hunter education. In Alabama, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries present hunter safety classes in all 67 counties. Hunter Education is helping to reduce hunter injuries, and as a result, firearm injuries are also on the decline. However, the number of tree-stand accidents is rising. Falls from tree-stands are a leading cause of injuries for Alabama hunters. Every year 36% of all reported hunting injuries and 20% of hunting-related deaths are the result of the use of tree stands. Each time a hunter climbs a stand, they face certain risks and need to take precautions. My family member was one of the lucky ones. Although he was severely injured, he survived.
Listed are a few of the things that can be done to help improve hunting safety when using a tree stand:
- Always inspect the stand before using it. Metal fatigue, wood rot, poor construction, rust, cracks, cuts, and loose nuts and bolts can cause a stand to fail. If you doubt a tree stand’s safety – do not use it.
- Avoid leaning. Many self-climbing stands can flip to the side if the weight is unevenly distributed.
- Use a safety harness – one that you will actually wear. Safety belts should be tied off and harnesses secured as you get in and out of your stand.
- Read, understand, and follow factory recommendations when installing commercial stands. Not doing so could cause injury or death. It could also prevent you from being able to recover for a legal claim against the company.
- Do not climb higher than you feel secure.
- Never climb or use a stand on a dead tree.
- Do not fall asleep in the tree stand.
- Take a phone, radio, or a loud whistle with you.
- Let someone dependable know where you will be and when you will be returning.
- Carry a flashlight and a first aid kit.
- Make sure guns are unloaded when raising or lowering them.
- Wear boots with non-skid soles because steps on platforms can be slippery in the rain.
- As a precautionary measure, remove all upturned logs and sharp rocks below the stand
Good hunting. Be safe!