Everybody reading this has personally known or knows of someone that has fallen from a tree stand. It is a real danger that we need not forget. Putting up a stand on a nice warm, dry, well lit day in late summer here in the South; when we are in shorts and a tee shirt makes getting into these stands rather easy. Add to that, we don’t have the huge amount of gear we normally carry with us up into our stands and there is no attempt at stealth. Further, there is no apprehension or excitement about the hunt in front of us and now it is a simple matter to get into the contraptions that we put up. But when the season is on, the weather is cold, the clothes are on heavy, you’re in the dark, the level of anxiety of getting in there quietly is high and everything has slick dew on it, the matter of getting into and out of our stands has taken on a whole new dangerous risk.
Tree Stand safety is deadly serious. Yet some hunting media and widely circulated internet pictures boast of the most absurd tree stand. While this may be funny in a “you know you’re a redneck” sort of way, we feel it only encourages needless risk. We are not party poopers raining on the creative juices of our fellow hunters. We have both known and taken care of spinal cord injured fellow hunters and the joke of humor is lost on us. Besides ending up like Christopher Reeves, falls have other horrible outcomes as well. Closed head injuries, fractures to the skull, spinal column and extremities, lacerations, tears to about any ligament, tendon or muscle and internal injuries round out the majority of the nasty things the unfortunate can expect from a fall of any significant height not to mention death. Remember though, you really don’t need to be 20 plus feet up to sustain serious injuries, Twelve feet is plenty sufficient depending on what you land on.
After hunting in many states here in the U.S. as well as Saskatchewan and Alberta in pursuit of Whitetail deer, we have had the pleasure of sitting in just about every type of contraption called a deer stand. It seems that the younger we were, the less safety aware we were. Macho sometimes takes over reason. Further, when you have paid for the hunt and arrived in the middle of nowhere, it is a little late to make a safety decision. Part of deciding whether to go with an outfitter needs to be their safety commitment. I can assure you that the more of us that demand standard, approved tree stands before forking over our money, the more likely the “invisible hand of the market” will influence the outfitters out there. If you arrive at camp to find a Lazy Boy lounger strapped to a tree with 2x4 stairs hammered into the tree as a ladder, consider a ground blind. They are effective, and even if commercial ones are not available, they can be constructed from a variety of materials quickly and without messing up the hunt. We are not trying to be cartoon safety characters here, but are giving you the real deal truth: Don’t climb into a non certified tested, non-standard tree stand. It is not worth the risk.
We’re not sure what possesses folks to think they can produce better and safer tree stands then today’s modern production companies. It is reported the majority of tree stand accidents occur out of back yard built home designed projects. In almost every case, no one individual has the manufacturing experience, materials, ability or testing facilities that each of these professional companies have at their disposals. With the price of materials these days and your safety and health at serious risk, why would you trust your well being to anything less then an industry approved safe stand. They are widely available all across this great country and in all price ranges. Many years ago when the tree stand industry was in its infancy, we all had home built stands in our woods and wondered how many years we would get out of them before they rotted away. But now there is no reason for home built stands. Broken necks, crushed heels and dislocated limbs are just not worth the few dollars (if any) we save in building our own stands.
It is not just standardized safe tree stands that protect us. Tie yourself to the darn tree with one of the tremendous number of safety harnesses. We’re not going to editorialize about which one is best. There are so many designs for archery and for rifle that work. Bring your safety equipment with you when traveling. We always have a tree stand safety harness on our packing list if there is any chance of off the ground hunting. It is hard to be macho if you cause your own paralysis by not wearing a “sissy” harness!
We did a little research using some physics equations and calculated some complicated figures in order to give you an idea of the force/energy you would hit the ground with if you fell out of a tree. These are eye opening numbers and clearly show why serious injuries are obtained from what is thought to be relatively short falls. Listen to this, if a 150 pound person falls 12 feet, he/she will hit the ground with 1797 foot/pounds of energy equal to the muzzle energy of a 30.30. A 20 foot fall and 2994 ft/lbs of energy is obtained equal to a higher velocity 30.06. A 200 pound person at 12 feet hits with 2397 ft/lbs and at 20 feet that same poor soul smacks the ground with the energy of a .375 H&H magnum, 3993 ft/lbs. So it is easy to see if you even more or climb higher, devastating injuries are a promise not a possibility if find yourself on the way to the forest floor. Obviously, what you fall onto has an impact on the degree of injury sustained but nether the less, it still results in an unwanted outcome.
Having seen many injured fellow hunters as our patients, we really feel strongly and encourage everyone to use industry certified safe stands. You really don’t want to be the other guy in this scenario. We know there are those reading this that believes they have the ability to build a safe stand and that may be the case but in the vast majority your better off buying one. Safety is our number one concern because we know you don’t want to be applying out west for the limited tags for the disabled hunters.
So as usual be safe and enjoy the outdoors.