Tree stand safety

By Don Mallicoat –

Several weeks ago I taught a NC Hunter Safety Class. Most of the participants are young, under sixteen. I was going through the Hunter Safety chapter and asked for a show of hand on how many were already hunters. Then I asked how many hunted from a tree stand. Then I asked how many used a Fall Arrest System (safety harness). About half the hands went down. The reason given: they are uncomfortable and restrictive. So here’s the big question: Is it worth your life?

There have already been two fatalities related to tree stand use so far this season and we are only halfway through the split archery season and about to end muzzle loader. Gun season for deer doesn’t start until November. More people are hurt falling from tree stands than any other type of hunting accidents, yet tree stand-related injuries are almost always avoidable. Last deer hunting season, officers with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission investigated two fatalities and seven injuries that were related to tree stand use.

The Wildlife Commission’s Home From The Hunt™ safety campaign has made tree stand safety a top priority in North Carolina for the 2012-13 hunting season. Hunter Education Program instructors are emphasizing proper use of tree stands and elevated hunting platforms in workshops, programs and events across the state. “Following some basic guidelines can prevent injuries and won’t interfere with a successful hunt,” said Travis Casper, the state hunter education coordinator. “Maintain three points of contact when climbing up or down. Use a full body safety harness at all times. Check belts, chains and attachment cords before use. Follow manufacturer’s instructions. If you have a tree stand that has been in place for an extended length of time, take it down,” Casper said. “Inspect it. Replace rusted bolts, frayed straps or, if needed, buy a new tree stand. Your life could depend on it.”

Other recommendations include: Never carry anything as you climb – use a haul line to raise and lower an unloaded gun or other equipment after you are seated safely in the tree stand; Have an emergency signal, such as a cell phone on vibrate, whistle or flare, readily accessible; Let someone know where you plan to hunt and when you plan to return; Select a healthy, straight tree for your tree stand; Don’t exceed manufacturer’s maximum height settings.

Since we are talking hunting safety this is a good time to remind folks that in North Carolina hunters are required to wear a cap, hat or an outer garment in blaze orange that is visible from all sides when hunting bear, feral hogs, deer, rabbit, squirrel, grouse, pheasant or quail with a firearm. Hunters are also required to wear blaze orange while hunting with a bow on Sunday during the muzzleloader or gun season.

“Blaze orange, sometimes known as hunter orange, fluorescent orange or, by some old-timers, as 10-mile cloth, is instantly recognizable and signals caution to the viewer,” said Travis Casper, state hunter education coordinator. The Wildlife Commission recommends everyone wear blaze orange if they are going to be outdoors in areas shared with hunters. Blaze orange clothing stands out against an outdoor background and studies have proven it increases visibility of the wearer in low light situations. Blaze orange also can be helpful in locating someone lost or injured. “Throughout the various hunting seasons, the majority of folks are responsible and safe,” Casper said. “This state has an excellent hunting safety record, which improves every year. But it isn’t perfect and we want to eliminate preventable incidents.”

Tree stand safety and hunter orange requirements are key components taught in Hunter Education courses, required for all first-time hunting license buyers. All first-time hunting license buyers first must complete a hunter education course successfully. There are no minimum age requirements; however, classes are taught at an eighth-grade level and tests must be completed without assistance. Courses are a minimum of 10 hours. They are taught by wildlife officers, hunter education specialists and certified volunteer instructors. Hunter education certification is accepted in every state and province in North America.

As you read this we’ll be on our way back from the North Dakota duck and upland hunt. The weather forecast for the week is favorable so we are planning for a successful hunt. In fact they had a cold front with snow pass through just before our departure. Report when we return.

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