Buckle up and come home

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We’ve all seen the advice posted on roadways throughout New York, “Click it or ticket.” It’s a proven fact seat belts save lives and law enforcement officials are trying to emphasize that issue tickets to reluctant drivers who still won’t buckle up.

Similarly, many hunters who hunt from elevated platforms still climb to their stands without wearing a safety harness. When it comes to hunting accidents or “incidents” as they are commonly called, New York has far more hunters injured in falls from treestands than are injured with firearms.

In 2017 New York, officials reported six fatalities involving treestand falls. A 1987-2006 Pennsylvania study of hunting accidents documented 499 treestand-fall victims which included seven fatalities. In 2020 the state Department of Environmental Conservation reported 13 tree-stand accidents that resulted in serious injuries during the 2020 fall hunting season. The report stated there was one death. On Nov. 24, 2020. a 50-year-old hunter fell 14 feet while descending from his ladder stand in Orange County. The hunter hit the ground, breaking his neck and several vertebrae.

It should be emphasized that in the DEC’s accident summary 11 of the 13 accidents last fall,– including the fatal, involved hunters who were not wearing safety harnesses. The DEC also noted that seven of the accidents involved ladder stands, four involved climbing tree stands and two occurred with hang-on tree stands.

Anyone taking a hunter safety course in New York is aware of the possible consequences of falling from a tree yet, some deer hunters still climb into a tree without a safety harness and lifeline. We’ve written about this before and so have many other outdoor writers in states across the country so, I doubt anyone could honestly say they never thought about the possibility of falling from a tree. In fact, I’m willing to bet most of us know someone who has fallen and who has suffered injuries in a treestand accident.

To me not wearing a seat belt while driving is unconscionable because every car sold in America comes equipped with them. It’s the same with a safety harness while hunting. As with automobile seat belts, every new treestand sold today comes with a safety harness. A safety harness isn’t an added expense it comes with the stand.

Hunters who climb without wearing a safety harness have what I consider an “it can’t happen to me,” mentality. Researchers who have interviewed fall victims say it is often the first thing they say. Some other hunters, those that don’t use a climbing or hang-on stand, say they do not need a safety harness because they hunt from a ladder stand. This is nonsense as well because many falls occur as a hunter is entering or exiting a stand and this includes ladder stands.

Anyone using a climbing stand should first attach their harness to the tree before they even begin to climb and simply move their point of attachment up the tree as they go. If you are using a ladder stand or hang-on, then be sure to use a product that keeps you attached to the tree the entire time you are off the ground. When first climbing to install a stand, I use a lineman’s belt which wraps around the tree and attaches to my safety harness. The belt allows me to safely use both hands when placing the stand rather than trying to hold on with one hand and manipulate the stand with the other.

Most bowhunters I talk to get it and they tell me they wear a safety harness when climbing but, I’m not sure if that’s true of gun hunters. I know several who hunt from elevated platforms and enclosed blinds but they tell me they don’t feel threatened by a fall because they use a ladder to get to their position. That’s false security because a fall can occur at any time and for a variety of reasons.

Firearms season is just around the corner here in New York and if you know someone who climbs without using a safety harness remind them of the consequences if the worst should happen. It’s a simple matter to buckle up and come home at the end of a hunt rather than lying in the woods awaiting rescue.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, New York – Mike Raykovicz, Whitetail Deer

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