An average of 20 hunters per year die, and many others are permanently impaired by disabilities, because of tree stand falls. That’s why August is Tree Stand Safety Awareness Month, so hunters remember to brush up on essential tree stand safety practices. Hunter Ed supports Tree Stand Safety Awareness Month, and has a few simple tips to keep hunters safe.
Tree stand falls are the number one cause of serious injuries or death to deer hunters, but they are preventable if you follow these basic steps.
1. Wear a fall-arrest system, which includes a full-body harness.
2. Stay connected to the tree the whole time you are off the ground.
3. See that your buddies do the same.
Tree stand harnesses are one part of a fall-arrest system (FAS). Components should include a full-body harness, a lineman’s-style belt (or a climbing belt), a tree strap, a tether, a suspension-relief strap, and a lifeline system. When used properly, these components can protect hunters from a dangerous fall. Always follow manufacturer recommendations when using your FAS.
Any hunter who can’t wear an FAS properly should stay on the ground.
You and those you hunt with should always use a full-body harness and lineman’s-style belt or lifeline to stay connected to the tree from the time you leave the ground until you get back down. Following these simple steps can save lives.
You know how to handle your firearm in the field and at the shooting range, but are you ready for waterfowl season?
Transporting your firearms by boat comes with some extra precautions.
- File a float plan. Adding water into the hunting mix means extra dangers. Make sure someone you trust knows where you are going and when you plan to be back.
- Wear a life jacket. In the excitement, your boat may tip or swamp. Wearing a life jacket means you won’t have to worry if you get a little wet. Remember, a personal flotation device doesn’t have to be bulky and orange: inflatable life jackets are now available—yes, even with camouflage designs!
- Load your gear with caution. If you’re with a partner, have that person get into the boat so you can hand the gear in. If you’re hunting alone, place all your gear into the boat while you’re still at the dock and on steady ground.
- Balance your gear. Evenly distribute gear from bow to stern (front to back) and port to starboard (left to right) so the boat isn’t likely to tip. Use a boat that can handle the weight of you, your partner, your dog, and all your gear!
Get ready for all your hunting trips with the video below:
Learn more about how to transport firearms here.
Which of these steps is hardest to remember? What do you do to ensure you stay safe?
In addition to following the 4 Essential Rules of Firearm Safety, remember these few simple guidelines to stay safe.
- After checking—and double-checking—that the firearm is unloaded, pack it in a secure case before loading it into your vehicle. Pack the ammunition separately.
- Store your gun in the back; you won’t need it until you arrive at your hunting location.
- When you arrive, uncase your firearms. Wait to load your ammunition until you are away from the vehicle and ready to start your hunt.
- Rest or go slowly to avoid careless mistakes that can happen when you’re overtired.
- When crossing obstacles like streams or fences, unload your firearms and open the action so that you can move safely.
- At the end of the hunt, unload firearms before approaching the vehicle, being sure to face away from others and point your muzzle in a safe direction. Check the safety and remove the ammunition before casing your firearm once again.
Watch this video below for more detail on the best ways to get to and from your hunt safely.
Save your worries for finding the best game by transporting your firearms safely, both to and from your hunt.
Remember: Always load your brain before your load your gun. (In other words, keep your mind on what you are doing.).
What tips do you recommend for transporting your firearms?
Upland bird hunters Brett Sowders and Tony Strobl hit the deck. The bullet from a distant deer hunter’s rifle whizzed overhead, too close for comfort. Five seconds pass, 10 seconds—what seems like eternity, yet they remain snug to the earth. Scared to get up, they held fast to the ground until the shots were surely over.
“We saw the deer hunter in the distance; there’s no way he didn’t see us,” said Sowders. “You ever have those slow-motion moments? Well, this was one of those. We saw him raise his rifle in our direction and thought ‘surely he’s not shooting our way.’ I tell you, being on the receiving end of gunfire is scary. The crack of the bullet speeding by was very identifiable, so we hit the dirt.”
This scenario indicates that the deer hunter failed to obey several safety rules. Most prominently, he failed to remain within his safe zone-of-fire. If he had, the bullets never would have reached Sowders and Strobl because the hunter would have had them in clear sight before he shot.
Staying within the safe zone-of-fire is a critical step for hunting safety. Here’s what to watch for: A safe zone-of-fire, which is the area or zone where a hunter can shoot safely, spans about 45-degrees directly in front of each hunter.
To visualize your safe zone-of-fire, focus on a distant object straight ahead. Now, hold your thumbs out at your sides, then slowly draw your thumbs in front of you. When each thumb is in focus, without moving your eyes, you have set the boundaries of your safe zone-of-fire. It’s important to never shoot outside of your safe zone-of-fire. This is because our peripheral vision limits what we can see clearly. If you can’t immediately see that an area is clear and safe, it’s outside of your safe zone-of-fire.
What happens when you add the rush and excitement of flushing birds or seeing a deer? A whole new element kicks in: target fixation. Target fixation will cause you to focus on your target to make a good shot. But it will simultaneously cause you to lose sight of your shooting zone, potentially losing track of people, buildings or roadways in the distance, and could even make you lose sight of other hunters.
Surely this happened with the deer hunter who shot toward Sowders and Strobl. The deer took off, and the hunter fixated on hitting his target, traveled outside his safe zone-of-fire, and failed to identify the pair of hunters in the background. What can we learn from the deer hunter? Don’t let target fixation override your sense of safety, and stay within your safe zone-of-fire.
The hunter safety courses at www.hunter-ed.com include videos that cover these safety concerns. In addition to offering excellent hunting education, these videos feature professional actors and fun, up-to-date scenarios that enhance learning. “Safe Zones-of-Fire” and “After the Shot” cover the importance of obeying safe zones-of-fire and how to deal with target fixation.
The state-approved hunting education courses also discuss blaze orange, gun carries, ballistics, and much more to improve your safety in the field.
Learn more about safe zones-of-fire with hunter education courses from Hunter Ed.