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Paying Attention to Tree-Stand Safety


There are few things as enjoyable and exhilarating as spying a buck from a tree stand on a frosty West Virginia morning.   The forest is quiet, you are miles from anyone, the cell phone doesn’t work out here, and you’re about to drop the hammer on a trophy whitetail you’ve been chasing for the past two seasons.  

The scenario takes on a radically different tone however when you tumble 25-feet out of that tree.  You neglected to wear a safety harness, believing, "…that would never happen to me."  Yet it has happened.   Now you’re lying in pain on the frosty forest floor with a broken back, multiple fractures, and internal bleeding.  You’re unable to move.  It’s quiet, you’re miles from anyone, and the cell phone doesn’t work. 

Lt. Time Coleman of the West Virginia Natural Resources Police has seen the tragic circumstances time after time.   One slight movement in the wrong direction can turn a wonderful morning into the worst tragedy of your life.

"Get a good full-body harness," said Coleman. "So in case you do slip and fall it will not only catch you but it also won’t cut you in two."

But Coleman said the fall arresting device is only part of the solution.   Hunters routinely put themselves into perilous situations.

"You want to pick the right tree," Coleman said. "A slick bark tree isn’t going to hold the tree stand very well. Pick a thick barked tree like an elm or something so the stand can bite into it."

Ladder stands are most commonly recommended as the safest way to go, but even those can have their pitfalls.

"A lot of people are slipping off those steps," Coleman said. "Tons of people are slipping out of the stand by either falling asleep or just moving a little bit and believe it or not the stands, in some cases the last year or two are just collapsing on them."

The collapsing is especially evident in homemade tree stands.   He recommends staying away from those altogether.

"Everybody has their favorite area to hunt and they’ll go in the summertime and build a nice stand," said Coleman. "That may be good for the first year, but those things weather like anything else.  Nails pull out, wood rots, and the least little thing could bring it down."

Coleman suggests if you are hunting from an elevated position, be reasonable in your height.  He dissuades hunters from getting 20 to 30 feet up a tree since the distance of your fall is often directly tied to the severity of your injuries.

"All you need to do is get above the deer so he has to raise his head to see you," Coleman said. "That’s all the height you need to be."


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