A treestand safety reminder
It came without warning. All I heard was what sounded like the
crack of a .22 rifle and I was falling. In less than a second I hit
the ground and fell head over heels down a slight slope. The
unthinkable had happened. I was the victim of a treestand accident
and at first I was frightened; frightened because nothing hurt.
It’s funny how fast your brain can react in a crisis and all I
could think of as I fell was that I was going to break something –
hopefully not my back or neck.
Hitting the ground, I fell head over heels downhill and found
myself lying in the snow on my back. The lack of pain almost caused
me to panic because I felt I might have been paralyzed from the
fall. Lying in the snow, I calmed myself and began to assess the
damage. I could lift my head and move my fingers; that was good
news. Then I tried moving my toes and found I could. I lifted my
right leg and then my left and realized somehow I was unhurt. The
foot of snow, my heavy down jacket and thick wool hunting pants
somehow worked in harmony and kept me safe.
This event happened about eight years ago during the shotgun
season here in the Southern Tier. That late afternoon I decided the
crust on the snow made quiet walking impossible, so I did something
I have never done with snow on the ground. I climbed a tree using
the wooden steps my friend had nailed to the tree when he
constructed the treestand on his farm.
I was rattled but unhurt, and for that I am grateful. The next
day I went back to the spot and discovered although the oak board
he used as a step was intact, the nail holding it to the tree
snapped, sending me plunging to the ground. As an experienced
bowhunter, I never climb with something in my hand, and was happy I
first lowered my unloaded gun to the ground before I started to
climb down. Had I not done so the outcome may have been worse.
As a result of that experience and since that time, I never, but
never, climb or descend a tree without wearing a full safety
harness attached to a safety line. Every fall, there are hunters
all across New York and across the U.S who are hurt in a treestand
accident, some seriously. Last year a hunter in Pennsylvania was
found dead at the bottom of the tree from which he was hunting; his
safety harness lay unused at the base of the tree. In another case,
a hunter was found hanging upside down from his safety belt, the
life choked out of him by the very belt he thought would save him.
Last month, my daughter-in law, an optometrist in North Carolina,
had a 16-year-old patient tell her she had just lost her father.
When asked how, the youngster said he fell out of a tree while
bowhunting and was killed.
A safety harness is so important that just about every treestand
manufacturer includes one with every new treestand they sell. I
have a harness system made by Hunter Safety Systems and it’s
extremely easy to put on. The harness itself is sewn into a vest
and all I have to do is to slip on the vest, snap together the two
leg straps and then snap the waist buckle secure. The whole process
takes less than 15 seconds and I can do it in the dark.
Hunting season is here and gun season means there will be tens
of thousands of hunters in the woods. Most bowhunters I know hunt
deer from trees and there are a good number of gun hunters who do
so as well. Having learned my lesson, it doesn’t make any sense to
me to climb a tree without a safety system in place. A good harness
system like the one I use costs a little over $100 but I’ve heard
some guys say they don’t use one because they cost too much. My
question to them is, “What’s a broken back, neck, arm or leg worth?
Do you really want to take a chance on possibly of being killed or
spending weeks in a hospital or missing months of work because of a
fall from a treestand?”
Can’t happen to you? Think again. I have a friend who was out of
work for two years because the ankle he broke while bowhunting
didn’t heal properly. The guy was an electrician who worked for
years installing electric transmission towers and he was not afraid
of heights. His experience did him little good when the limb he was
using to climb out of the tree from which he was hunting suddenly
snapped, sending him plunging to the ground. I found him that night
and his ankle looked like a snapped chicken bone. It was not a
pleasant sight. Before heading to the woods again this season,
consider using a good fall restraint system when climbing a tree.
You won’t regret it.