Treestand Safety 101

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By Jason Herbert

With so many tragic accidents happening each fall, we hunters need to step up our safety game plan a notch. Everyone knows about wearing a safety harness, but there is more to treestand safety than simply locking in once you’re in the stand. Accidents will of course always happen, but here is a solid plan for safely hanging, hunting from, and removing a treestand.

Safety Check

Before even thinking about hanging a stand, be sure all of the nuts and bolts are tight. Also check any chains, wires, straps, etc… to make sure everything is in good working order. There have been instances of straps wearing thin and simply failing when hunters are in the tree. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Safety Harness

First and foremost, invest in a high quality full body safety harness. A full body safety harness is essential to anyone leaving the ground. Be it 5 or 25 feet, don’t allow yourself to leave the ground without a harness. In the past, there were several times where I had quietly snuck to my tree, only to realize I forgot my harness at the truck. This situation presents an ethical dilemma. Do I turn back and quick go to the truck, while taking the risk of bumping deer and working up a sweat? Or do I simply hunt like usual, taking the risk of leaving the ground untethered? Neither is an ideal option, but in this situation absolutely go back and get the harness. However, a few years back ScentBlocker and Tree Spider came out with what I feel is the best advancement yet in safety gear, the Spider Web Safety Apparel. In a nutshell, the Spider Web is a set of hunting bibs WITH a safety harness included. So, now I don’t forget my harness, and I have a sweet pair of camouflage, scent control bibs.

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A good solid extending trim saw is handy when prepping a treestand. As with anything off the ground, be sure to be properly tethered to the tree before extending out on any thin branches.

Along with the Spider Web, Tree Spider also makes individual safety harnesses. Another high quality brand is the Hunter Safety System. The important thing when purchasing one of these harnesses is quality first. Second would be comfort because we all know if something isn’t comfortable, we will not wear it.


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Hanging

One of the biggest challenges for people is safely hanging a treestand. Many people struggle to find a way to stay tethered to the tree while climbing up to hang the stand for the first time. One way to be somewhat safe is to wear a safety harness and use a lineman’s belt to stay strapped to the tree. In the case of a fall, the lineman’s belt will keep the hunter close to the tree, but will not prevent them from slipping. A lineman’s belt is safer than nothing, and on a straight tree with no branches, the only way. But, if there are overhead branches, there is another way. By using a safety line with a sliding prussic knot, and some old backyard know-how, a hunter can be tethered to the tree from the moment they leave the ground.

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Always be sure to check all of the nuts and bolts on a stand before using it. Notice how Jason already has his safety harness on.

A friend of mine showed me a trick recently and I tried it this fall. He gave me about 50′ of thin, strong rope with a small canvas bag tied to the end. The canvas bag was full of sand, and weighed over a pound. By tying the tail end of the thin rope to the loop end of the safety line, this system will allow the hunter to fasten their safety line in the tree before climbing at all. Simply find an over hanging branch that is above where the stand will go and throw the sand bag over it. Then, once the bag is thrown over, gravity will bring it back to earth. Then, simply pull it until the safety line has made it’s journey over the limb. Insert the loose end through the loop, thread the prussic through, and pull tight. Then voila! The safety line is set without having left the ground yet.

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Here’s a close-up of what Jason described in the article. A smaller, thin rope with a heavy weight at one end can be used to throw into the tree to securely attach the safety line before ever leaving the ground.

Hunting

Most people have this portion covered. Be sure to lock the tether of the safety harness into the safety line before climbing into the stand. Slide the knot up quietly every few steps, so in the case of a fall, you wont go far. Then, securely step into the stand. Once there, also be sure to lock the harness tether to the tree before unlocking from the safety line. Hunt hard, shoot straight, and reverse the process when climbing back down.

Removing

Just like the hanging portion of the process, re-attach the thin rope to the loop of the safety line. I also recommend loosening the safety line rope a bit at the tree just to avoid any possible hang-ups from the ground. Reversing the hanging process, be sure to slowly lower the stand and steps down to the ground, trying to avoid any potential damage. Then, when back to the ground, pull on the thin rope unhooking the safety line.

As I mentioned earlier, accidents can and will still happen. But, securing a safety line to the tree before hanging the stand is certainly a better option than hanging it with no tether at all. Our families and loved ones depend on us to return home safe. Anti-hunters love to see us fall. More and more landowners are reluctant to give hunting permission because they are afraid of being sued in court over an accident. Whatever your reason for being safe, just be sure to stick with it. As always, have fun this season and be as safe as possible.