My first deer hunt came in my 27th year of life. One of my favorite uncles took me to a farm he had permission to hunt, put a gun in my hand and pointed me in the direction of a cut pasture. I made my way through the fog and dark to the open field and had a seat on the ground. Once the sun came up and the woods were fully awake, I noticed what looked like a chair or seat chained to a tree about 30 feet in the air above me. Clearly, it wasn’t anything I was interested in, but I did ask my uncle about it. He told me it was a tree stand that someone had left in the tree. He told me how much better I could see from up in a tree. He said it was the way most guys hunted. Frankly, I didn’t feel like I had much of a choice. So, the next morning. . .I climbed on up.
FACT: Nearly 1 in 10 falls from a tree stand result in death.
It was a skinny tree. Real skinny. I am not (nor was I at the time). I sat on this flimsy seat with no strap or safety belt and tried to be or even act comfortable. I was holding my gun and literally just blowing left to right and back holding onto the tree. I remember looking down to the ground and back up and thinking “there is no way I could actually shoot this gun from here! I climbed down and assumed my usual seat on the ground, somewhat thankful I had survived the great tree seat debacle.
FACT: The average age of tree stand fall victims is 46 years old.
I don’t blame my uncle for sending me up that tree. After all I was 27 years old. (I do credit my parents for giving me the sense to climb down though.) Frankly, that’s just not the way he or any of his friends hunted back then. However, it does bring to light the position we are all in when we introduce someone new to hunting or the effect we have on younger hunters who are watching the way we prepare for a hunt and the precautions we take or don’t take. The fact is we are setting an example every time we go afield that someone is likely paying attention to. Not only are they likely to draw conclusions from our routine, they are also likely to pass those same habits on to others.
FACT: 41% of all tree stand falls occur when the hunter is on the stand.
There is no more important example than the one we set by practicing proper tree stand safety. Climbing, hunting from and descending from heights over 12 feet are nothing to take lightly. The Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation has compiled this list of tree stand safety precautions to be followed.
The ABC’s of Tree Stand Safety
A. Always remove and inspect all of your equipment before using it.
(35% of all falls involve some inspection element.)
B. Buckle your harness securely.
(86% of fall victims did not wear a harness)
C. Connect before your feet leave the ground.
(99% of fall victims were not attached to the tree)
As the president of your hunt club, the informal leader of your hunting group or the uncle who is taking his nephew on a first hunt, what you say and what you do matter. Your attention to detail and unwillingness to cut corners when it comes to your safety may actually save someone’s life. Whether you know it or not, others are watching, taking notice and following your lead.
Make sure your lead is worth following.