VIDEO: Safety first when it comes to tree stands

Posted: November 7, 2017 at 1 a.m.

A tree stand offers a bird’s-eye view of the forest and gets a hunter above a deer’s line of sight.

There are good reasons most hunters aiming for a white-tail deer on Saturday will climb into a tree stand.

Tree stands get you above a deer's line of sight. They give you a bird's eye view of the forest. An elevated stand helps keep your human scent away from a deer's keen nose.

A tree stand is a handy tool for sure. Trouble is, falls from tree stands account for most hunting accidents.

Tree stand safety and hunting safety in general can't be stressed enough, said Joe Huggins, hunter education coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. There have been two tree stand falls with injury reported so far this fall since archery hunting began Sept. 23, Huggins said.

"Last year, we had a total of 28 reported hunting accidents. Sixteen were falls from tree stands," he noted.

Falls occur with every type of tree stand. Each year hunters fall from ladder stands, lock-on stands and climbing stands. Accidents have been reported with box stands that are like small houses on stilts.

"What happens is a guy will fall asleep and tumble out the door," Huggins said.

A quality tree stand harness is a deer hunter's line of defense against injury. A harness connects a hunter to the tree and stops a fall before a person slams to the ground. It's vital for anyone using a tree stand, Huggins said.

Tree stands are typically attached to a tree with a ratchet strap for a solid and sturdy connection to the tree. That's fine, as long as the strap is in good condition.

"What happens is someone will leave their tree stand up all year. The ratchet strap material can rot over time, then finally break," Huggins said. Wise hunters remove their stands after deer season, then put them up the next fall after a thorough safety check.

Ladder-style tree stands are our stand of choice at Camp See No Deer. They're basically a ladder with a platform on top for the hunter. To set one up, just lean the stand against a tree like setting a ladder up against a house. Fasten the platform to the tree with the ratchet strap. Secure the ladder to the tree trunk with the metal bar that comes with the stand. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes.

We like these because you climb a ladder to the platform. Using a lock-on stand sometimes requires using steps that screw into the tree. No need for these with a ladder stand.

It's best to have a buddy along when you're putting up any tree stand. A friend can steady a ladder stand while you're putting it up. In the unlikely event of an accident, someone is right there.

Or, forget tree stands all together and hunt from the ground. Our friend Daniel, the youngest hunter at Camp See No Deer, sits among the branches of a fallen tree with his home-made wooden bow. He brings home the venison every season.

Huggins offered more necessary steps for tree stand and hunting safety:

n Use a rope to pull your gun, bow and gear from the ground up into the tree stand.

n Make sure a firearm is unloaded when bringing it into the stand or placing it in a vehicle. Double check that a firearm is unloaded when riding an ATV or crossing a fence.

n Be sure of your target before you shoot. Check the background to make sure it's safe to shoot in that direction.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fputthoff@nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWAFlip.

Sports on 11/07/2017