Next Sunday marks the opening of Missouri’s archery deer season, and with it, tens of thousands of sportsmen will be taking to the woods over the coming months.
Most will take advantage of elevated tree stands to stay out of a deer’s sightline, but, unfortunately, a few of those hunters may not make it home.
Tree stand accidents, while less common than in the past, still happen, and sadly, almost every one of them can be prevented.
The use of a safety harness simply is a no-brainer for tree stand hunters, but some folks still don’t wear them.
Worn properly, safety harnesses don’t hamper the drawing of a bow or aiming of a rifle, so there’s really no reason not to use one.
It’s also important to make sure your harness fits properly, so take a few minutes to get it right.
Most falls don’t actually occur while waiting patiently in the stand. Instead, they happen when hunters are climbing in or out at the beginning or end of their hunt, so don’t be in a rush. Take your time.
Before every use, it’s important to check your stands for potential issues like broken welds, bolts or rivets. Hey, things happen.
And, it’s always a good idea to stay far away from homemade wooden stands - they just don’t last.
Modern tree stands are extremely safe, but only if they’re used correctly. For your sake and that of your family, make sure you’re doing it right.
Those using fixed-position stands and steps should always ensure they have three points of contact - two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet - at all times when climbing or descending the tree.
Those with climbing stands should ensure they’re not trying to hunt from a tree with smooth bark - one slip and it’s a quick trip to the bottom.
Even those employing ladder stands sometimes get sloppy because they think it’s “just a ladder.”
Regardless of the style of the stand, hunters should use a lineman-style rope while both climbing up and down the tree, to keep from falling.
They also should use a rope to raise their gear into the stand. I’ve seen people try to climb into stands with loaded rifles and even bows on their back, but the chance of losing your balance is just too great with an off-balance load. Instead, tie your gear to a rope while you’re on the ground and lift it up once you’re safely in the stand and attached to the tree with your safety harness.