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According to the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, 3 in 10 hunters who use elevated stands will suffer an accident at some point in their hunting career. Those odds aren’t good.
Face it: Even though we know a fall could be dangerous, many hunters believe “an accident will never happen to me. I’ll be OK without a harness.”
The National Bowhunter Education Foundation also reports that 82 percent of hunters who have a tree stand accident weren’t using a safety harness.
Here’s the truth: Only Superman can defy gravity, and you are not Superman. A fall from a tree stand can result in serious injury or death.
To learn more about the nasty results of falling from a tree stand, we spoke with Dr. David Argo, an avid hunter and orthopedic surgeon for Beacon Orthopaedics in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Argo has not only operated on hunters who have fallen from stands, but has experienced a fall himself.
“I’m convinced that most hunters don’t grasp the severity of these types of falls until they experience them firsthand. Trust me, I’ve worked on many victims that have to live with mobility implications the rest of their lives because they didn’t wear a harness, or they tied a thin rope around their waist line,” said Argo.
What’s the take-home lesson? It can happen to you. Take the necessary precautions to stay safe in the stand. Hunter Ed recommends following a few important safety tips when hunting from tree stands.
Tree Stand Safety Tips:

  • Take your time; there’s no rush. Climbing into and out of stands is dangerous and should be done with great care. Make sure you maintain three points of contact at all times. The three-point rule should always be used in conjunction with a lifeline system, climbing belt or lineman’s-style belt.
  • Wear a fall-arrest system, which should include a full-body harness, a lineman’s-style belt and/or climbing belt, a tree strap, a tether, and a suspension relief strap. This hunter safety system will prevent you from falling to the ground if you slip out of your tree stand.
  • Use a haul line to pull up your gear. Climbing with a backpack or firearm strapped to your back is NOT SAFE! Once you are in the stand and fastened to the tree, you can pull your gear up.
  • Know your limits. Become comfortable with the stand you are in, and know the location of cables and other potential obstructions that could trip you up if you move around the stand.

Read up on tree stand safety and safe hunting methods with more tips from Bowhunter Ed.

Tree Stand Hunting Safety
Follow these safety tips and you’ll be able to enjoy many more hunts.

Target FixationImagine this situation: It’s a beautiful fall evening. You have your trusty rifle in hand and a buck tag burning a hole in your pocket. It’s been all day, but you haven’t found any game yet. Frustrated, you tromp into the meadow below. All of a sudden, you catch a flurry of brown and white out of the corner of your eye. You reposition to get a better look. Is it a buck? Is it a doe? Buck. All right! You lift your gun — but wait. Is it a legal buck? Do you even have a clear shot? Are you positive there’s not another hunter in the area?
Hurry up! He’s getting farther away with each passing second. Shoot… or don’t shoot?
Before you decide, you’ll need more information:

  • Have you positively identified that this is a deer?
  • Do you have an ethical shot? Is this deer, which you spooked and is running away from you, presenting an ethical shot? The Texas heart shot is not one you want to try. The responsible hunter waits for a clean shot, preferably broadside or quartering-away, where the animal’s vitals are well exposed.
  • Are you completely sure there isn’t another hunter or person in the line of fire or beyond? When in “the zone,” it’s hard to completely survey your surroundings to be sure of a safe shot.

Often, in the middle of the excitement, hunters enter “the zone.” In that tunnel-vision situation, you may misidentify an animal, make a dangerous shot, or be too close to other hunters or buildings. Target fixation can make those questions hard to answer.
It’s natural for hunters to get into “the zone,” but that can make you forget hunting safety rules.
Set up a safe hunting situation with the following steps:

  1. Set up in an area you are familiar with. Familiar hunting grounds are a best-case scenario. Being familiar with the land will help in the decision-making process of whether to shoot or pass. However, it’s not always possible. Regardless of where you are hunting, following these next tips can ensure your safety and the safety of others.
  2. Scan your surroundings constantly. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Are there any buildings in the distance? Are other hunters in the area? What potential dangers are nearby?
  3. Know your limits and the types of shots you can take. Broadside and quartering-away angles are desirable. Slightly quartering-away is a judgment call. Straightaway or head-on? Forget it; that’s not a good shot to take. Part of being a responsible hunter is respecting the game you are after and only taking responsible shots that will result in a quick and sure kill.
  4. Establish your effective range. Knowing your effective range is will help you make a decision in the field as to whether you should shoot or pass. If you don’t know your effective range, refer to your ammunition box or the manufacturer’s website for more information.
  5. Take a deep breath — or two, or three. In the case where you have decided to shoot, take a deep breath. Not only will this help you slow your heart rate and settle in for a clean shot, it will help you enjoy the moment! Taking a breath will also help relieve that target fixation and will allow you to collect your thoughts and make a sound decision.
  6. After your shot, pause and gather your thoughts. Take a moment: Is your safety on? Is your muzzle still pointed in a safe direction? Is your finger out of the trigger guard? Make sure you are obeying the rules of firearm safety, especially when you go to visit your trophy.

All in all, the adrenaline, the rush of excitement and the thrill of the hunt can distract you from important steps. Don’t let target fixation override your sense of safety. Be proactive in setting your boundaries, and think safety first. It’s as simple as that.

How To Stay Safe After The Shot

To learn more, visit Hunter Ed’s state-approved hunting education courses also discuss blaze orange, gun carries, ballistics, and much more to improve your safety in the field.