Use extra caution when hunting from tree stands

If you’re a hunter, chances are you know or know of someone who has been injured in a treestand accident. “In our hunting club a few years ago, one of the guys didn’t check his stand from the previous year before using it. When he went to climb onto it on opening day of deer season, the limb he used to step into his stand from had rotted. When he stepped on to it, it broke. He fell to the ground, broke his hip, and lay there for four hours before crawling to the road for help,” said Jackie Bushman, the founder and CEO of Buckmasters, the world’s largest whitetail deer hunters association. “Most treestand accidents are the result of careless and costly errors,” says Bushman. “But treestand hunting is safe and rewarding if we pay attention to a few basics. People don’t like to bother with things like safety belts and other safety measures, but paying attention to safety measures, like wearing a safety belt, is smart,” he says. “Being safe in a treestand isn’t difficult. It boils down to a little time and advance work’which provides some of us with a really good excuse to spend extra time in the woods before hunting season,” Bushman added. If you plan to hunt from treestands this year, here are some things Bushman recommends keeping in mind. “No accident was ever planned, that’s why they’re called accidents,” Bushman said. “Accidents often occur when you’re tired, or when you’re still sleepy from getting up early. One fall, just one, can leave you dead or paralyzed. “Any time your feet aren’t on the ground and you’re not wearing a safety belt, you’re in what I call “death territory”, he says. “If you hunting from anything that’s hooked to a tree, you need a safety belt. If, for some unknown reason your stand breaks, or you fall asleep, or you lose your balance, the safety belt can save your life. “If you like to stand up and shoot when you’re bow hunting, use a safety belt that keeps you snug to the tree when you stand up. If you have to lean a little bit, you want to feel the safety belt grab. Always check your treestand before the first day of the season. “If you use a homemade treestand, don’t forget: trees grow wider as well as taller from fall to fall and the nails might be deeper in the tree than they were,” Bushman says, “leaving the steps or stand less stable. Check to make sure that wooden parts are not rotten. If you plan to make your own stand this year, consider using treated lumber, which will last a lot longer. “If you plan to use any of the limbs on a tree as steps to get into your treestand, or for balance after you get in, make sure that they’re alive and sturdy. “Remember the “death territory” – when you’re putting a treestand in place or when you’re putting in screw-in tree steps, wear a safety belt. “There are many safety belts and harnesses on the market,” Bushman says. “It’s important to buy one that gives you a feeling of comfort as well as security. I like one with a push-button on the ropes so I can tighten it to get closer to the tree or loosen it so I can lean out against the tree. It gives me a little more versatility when I’m putting up a treestand or when I’m hunting. “Be sure the belt is big enough to go around a tree,” he says. “If you’re hunting from big trees, you might have to get an extension rope. We learned that lesson the hard way while taping the Buckmasters TV series. “Pull your gun or bow up after you’re in the stand. Before going up into the stand, make very sure your gun is unloaded and the bolt is open. Then tie a rope or line to the gun so the barrel points toward the ground. Before going down, reverse the procedure: unload the gun, open the bolt, tie it so the barrel points downward. “Sure,” Bushman says, “taking safety precautions in a treestand is sometimes bothersome, but your friends and family will appreciate your safety efforts because they’d like to see you again. “Enjoy your hunts,” he said. “And, if you get a chance this fall, take your family and friends hunting. Hunt safely, hunt ethically and try to introduce someone new to hunting before the season is over.”

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