I’ve “Fallen” For Hunting…

Have you? If not, I highly recommend against it.

Here’s my quick story…

I was 18 years old and had become a below-average archery deer hunter. I was completely self-taught; my equipment was average and most of the stands I used were homemade contraptions I now affectionately refer to as “death traps.” One of those death traps err, stands, was on the flat portion created when lightning struck and split an oak tree. It was 14 feet off of the ground and was in an ideal location to cover three different trails.

A basket-racked 6-point came running to my grunt call the second time I sat there. I didn’t see him until he was almost on top of me because it had been raining just enough to quiet the forest floor. I drew my bow, waited for him to settle down and stop, and made a perfect shot through both lungs, then watched him expire less than 50 yards away.

I hurriedly let my bow down using a rope, disconnected my safety belt (there was no such creature as a full-body harness in those days) and began to turn toward the ladder I had used to climb the tree.

And that is when things went horribly wrong.

My foot slipped on the wet bark and down I went. First I struck my side and underarm on the horizontal portion of the tree where I had previously been standing. After bouncing off, I reached for the ladder—got it—and rode it all the way down. It wasn’t perfect and I landed on my side hard enough to knock the wind out of me.

As I laid there, all I could think of was “My dad’s gonna kill me for getting hurt while hunting.” I took quick inventory of my injuries, felt every part of my body and the only pain was where I had hit the tree and from the landing. I stood up slowly and brushed myself off while thinking, “That was really stupid.” Then, I went to claim my prize—my first buck with a bow.

I was foolish and really, really lucky. I escaped with nothing more than some nasty bruises. Fortunately, I had already quit the football team because it interfered too much with my hunting! However, every year there are many people who are not so lucky.

I like to think I am older and a great deal wiser now. I go through a checklist each time I’m up in the air, before and during any climbs. Here are my safety rules for tree stand hunting.

Safety Rules for Tree Stand Hunting

  • Always have three points of contact whenever you are climbing up, down or in a tree. Never let go or move unless you can make certain that all three are solid. Your safety belt counts as one.
  • Always wear a full body harness when climbing to, and sitting in, a tree stand. Your stand is not the place to put on your safety harness. That should be done from the ground.
  • Check your gun/bow—at least twice—before lowering it to the opposite side of the tree or stand that you will be descending.
  • Hunting is not worth dying for.

That last one is really important.

If I’ve forgotten my safety harness or haul rope, I will either hunt from the ground or go back for them. After I shoot, I tell myself to calmly go over my mental checklist and SLOWLY and SAFELY climb down. I don’t hunt from anything but a Treestand Manufacturer’s Association-approved, solid stand that has been carefully inspected before the season, whether homemade or commercially bought.

You are more important to somebody than any trophy animal could ever be. Follow my advice and learn from other’s mistakes. Making your own can be extremely painful, permanently maiming or even deadly.

How do you stay safe when you’re tree stand hunting? Share in the comment section.

Safe Hunting! [ace]

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Comments (4)

  1. Like AR Shooter, I too have physical limitations and I think common sense demands that some of us stay on the ground. My father in law originally taught me how to hunt and he was already in his late fifties or early sixties so we sat and hunted on the ground well camouflaged. Now he’s gone and at 72 there’s no way in hell you’d get me into a tree stand.” Not even with a safety harness and a parachute. I think like Dirty Harry noted, “You have to know your limitations,” and work with in them. You kids can still have fun and so can us oldsters, just a lot more cautiously. I’m an older hunter now but I like to think a wiser one. Hank

  2. I’m an EMT in a rural area of Wisconsin and have responded to several accidents involving hunters using tree stands. I’ve also witnessed a person using a tree stand to cut limbs on a tree. That person ended up with a broken leg. Keep in mind that hanging from a harness makes for poor circulation that leads to other problems. The idea is to able to get yourself down safely or get help fast.

    I spend a lot of time in the forest, usually alone, and I believe that it is important to let someone where you are going. Your game plan. I usually carry a small back pack with some survival gear like toilet paper, compass, matches, etc.

    I’m an avid hunter, and whether I bow hunt or gun hunt, I find it more of a challenge to stalk my quarry. The success ratio is lower, but it works for me, and might be a better alternative for some to consider. If you are playing or working, coming home safely after, is the only objective.

  3. I no longer am a hunter due to my physical limitations , but I feel I must share this incident with you . We live in a very nice , small neighborhood where good and bad news travels fast .
    When i heard that our neighbor that live across the road BROTHER DIED it shook up everyone . As more details of this tragic death surfaced . We found HE DIED IN A HUNTING ACCIDENT . One of my first questions that came into my mind was “where was he at when he got shot” ? Thats when i found out HE WASN’T SHOT………..HE FELL OUT OF A TREE WHILE HUNTING ! ! ! ! ! !
    It is such a shame for this man who had a wife and two small children to die .

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