One of the most popular pieces of equipment used by deer hunters is a tree stand, but it can be dangerous if used incorrectly or carelessly. Statistics from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) show that 54 percent of hunting accidents reported in 2012 were related to deer hunting and that the leading cause (39 percent) involved tree stands.
Falls from tree stands can be caused by a variety of factors, including structural weakness, incorrect installation, or carelessness by the hunter. Tree stands can also be a factor in other hunting accidents, including injury from accidental firing of a loaded firearm while the hunter is climbing to the stand.
To help prevent accidents, follow these safety precautions:
- Most injuries from tree stand accidents can be prevented if hunters use some type of fall restraint system (FRS). Nationally, 82 percent of hunters injured or killed in tree stand accidents were not wearing an FRS. The TWRA recommends tree stand hunters use only a full-body parachute harness-type FRS that distributes body weight throughout the shoulders, chest, waist, and legs.
- Never carry equipment while climbing. Use a haul line to raise or lower your gear. Make sure guns are unloaded and broadheads are covered.
- Choose only healthy, living trees when using climbing devices. Rough-barked trees such as oak are best. Do not use a tree that is rotten or has dead limbs.
- Check permanent tree stands every year before hunting from them, and replace any worn or weak lumber.
- Read, understand, and follow the factory-recommended practices and procedures when installing commercial stands. Inspect the stand’s nuts and bolts and look for worn straps each time they are used.
- When choosing a commercial stand, get the one with the biggest platform you can afford. The bigger the platform, the more foot room you have, and the less chance there is of stepping off an edge.
- Climb higher than the stand and step down onto it. Climbing up onto it can dislodge it.
- Wear boots with non-skid soles because steps or platforms can be slippery in wet weather.
- Carry a whistle to call for help and a first-aid kit, flashlight, and cell phone in your gear. Tell a dependable person where you’re hunting and when you plan to return.
- Don’t fall asleep. This is a common cause of accidents. If you get drowsy, move your arms rapidly until you feel alert.
- As a precautionary measure, remove all logs, upturned and cutoff saplings, rocks, and other obstructions on the ground below the tree stand.
- Use updated equipment. When used properly, newer tree stand equipment is solid, safe, and secure. Older models of safety belts offer some protection, but newer safety harnesses offer more protection.
- When you scout for hunting sites, don’t just look for tree stand locations. Plan for ground hunts, too, in case of high winds, rain, snow, and ice, which are not ideal for climbing into a tree stand.
Don’t become a statistic when hunting this season. Think about safety each time you use a tree stand. If nothing else, your family will thank you for it.