Bowhunters of Alabama cannot be calm about the ABSOLUTE need to have a full-body safety harness while climbing and sitting in a tree stand. If you are teaching kids about bow hunting, please have them watch the videos below. There are many other videos and training courses to help learn and teach about tree-stand safety. The first two videos are produced by the Alabama DCNR. The last MUST-see video is a real-life story by Mike McCabe. Wearing a safety harness is not optional equipment.
First, make sure your tree-stand does not have any stress fractures or broken links and arms. Then inspect that your safety harness does not have any worn places. If you would not put it on your child or spouse, it is not worthy for you either. Throw it away and invest a little money and get a solid and safe harness. Your family members want and need you to come home safe.
Have a SAFE Hunting Season
Mike McCabe Bowhunting Tragedy
Please listen to Mike’s story before you climb into your stand this year.
Climbing Trees & Harnesses/Belts
by Jim Powell, BHA Member
Every year we always read or hear about hunting accidents associated with falling out of tree stands. A little research shows those falls come largely, but not exclusively, during the climb or transition from the climb to the stand.
Of the climbing models, most folks would agree on the sit and climb variants are easier to climb than hand climber models. But setting the ease of climbing aside, they can be just as dangerous to the careless hunter. It is pretty easy to get overbalanced while sitting on the rail and using your feet to raise the lower platform. For this reason, manufacturers like Summit include a harness and a means to tie into the tree during the climb.
Over the years I developed the following techniques which work for me. Maybe, they can work for you. Like most folks on here, I use two types: climbers & lockons. When I’m using my Buck Steps or Lone Wolf climbing sticks, I use two lineman belts. That way when I come to a limb to go around, I unhook one and move it above the limb before unhooking the other one. Then when I get to the top, I move one from the belt to higher up for the tether before I start messing with hanging the stand. If I am climbing to a stand that I have already hung, I still tie in with a tether after getting to the top of the sticks before making the transition from the sticks to the stand. And I don’t release the lineman’s belt till the tether is secure. [The most dangerous part is making the transitions — and that is when most folks that I’ve asked about it are momentarily completely disconnected from the tree.]
When I started using a climber, I would always tie it in with a tether and move it up as I made the climb. Seemed to work ok with a sit-and-climb type stand. But as I transitioned from being primarily a gun hunter to being almost exclusively a bow hunter, I found I preferred the open front stands. However the hand climbers were harder on my shoulders than the sit and climb models. What I started doing was tying in with my tether just like I always had, but I also tied in with a lineman’s belt. It took all that pressure off my shoulders. This technique made climbing with the hand climbers much easier.
If you use a hand climber, give it a try — you might be surprised at how much easier it seems to be. These techniques cost me a few extra minutes, but when I consider that I usually hunt alone and if help is going to come— it’s not going to be for a long time — it is time and effort well spent. [Yes, I tell someone where I headed with a description of how to get there and with the coordinates of my stand. ]
BTW: If you’ve never practiced getting back aboard your stand after “falling out,” you ought to. It actually isn’t that hard if you set your tether upright. But if you are too far below the stand to get back on rather quickly, you can quickly find yourself exhausted while hanging in your harness. If you use two lines as I described above, you can use the second one to loop back around the tree to use as a step to help climb back up or at least take the pressure of the leg straps off and keep, the blood flow going into your lower legs.(Note: If you are going to practice this, do it low enough to stand up and relieve the pressure. Or at least do it with supervision/a spotter.
Also, I know some folks tie in a lifeline and leave it in the tree for the season. I’ve never trusted that the rope would survive the elements or the critters. Best of luck out there. Hope this helps you think about how to do what we do better and more safely.