Safety first in the treestand
Statistics show hunting ranks among the safest of outdoor sports, and hunting related injuries have dropped considerably in the past dozen years. However, these figures don’t tell the whole story because it’s difficult for game agencies to keep track of the injuries sustained in falls from tree stands. As a result, they aren’t included in these statistics.
According to the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, more than 90 percent of bowhunters use some type of treestand for hunting. Since many of these bowhunters also hunt with a firearm, it’s easy to see why it’s estimated one in every three hunters who hunt from an elevated platform will likely suffer a treestand-related injury at some point in their hunting career.
The most common injuries sustained in treestand falls are fractures, lacerations, abrasions and bruises of the body and limbs. Injuries to the head and spine are quite likely and are the most serious because of the long-term consequences for both the victim and their families. Of course, preventing such injuries in the first place is preferable to having to deal with the aftermath, and the first step is to use a full-body harness attached to a safety line while ascending or descending trees. However, if a fall should occur even while wearing a full-body harness, hunters must be aware they are still in grave, but less obvious danger.
For decades, the Treestand Manufacturers Association has been working to promote and improve hunter safety through improved treestand designs and by the inclusion of a full-body harness with every TMA-certified treestand sold. Part of their mission is to instruct hunters on the proper use of treestands, while promoting the use of a fall arrest system to prevent serious injuries in the event of a fall. As a result of their efforts, more than 18.5 million hunters have been provided with a fall restraint system as an accessory to their treestand purchase. More importantly, hunters are being educated as to the dangers associated with climbing trees and many are realizing the importance of using a fall arrest system when they do so.
A full-body harness is an excellent first step in preventing serious injury but hunters should be aware that if a fall should occur they are still in serious danger if they hang suspended from their harness for even a short period of time. According to John Louk, executive director of the Treestand Manufacturers Association, 95 percent of all serious treestand-related injuries are the direct result of hunters not wearing a full-body harness. He went on to say even though a full-body harness can prevent many serious injuries, 10 percent of those who fell while wearing one still suffered serious aftereffects because they were not able self rescue.
Falling out of a treestand is traumatic enough, but even if a hunter is saved from hitting the ground by his fall arrest system, the ordeal is far from over. Louck explained several things can happen to the human body while hanging suspended from a harness, and none of them are good. The most serious of these is suspension trauma and it can lead to death if the hunter doesn’t get to the ground in a short period of time. Climbing trees has become safer, but only if you wear a safety harness and know how to safely reach the ground if a fall should occur.