The leading cause of accidents and injury to hunters each season does not involve firearms. Its treestands. There are a lot of different risks involved when you are elevating yourself as high as 25-30 feet up a tree, so you can expect multiple tips to cover this topic. For this reason, we decided treestands should be the topic of our first safety tip.
This tip will address the stand choice and its correct use. The ambush method for hunting game has always been a favorite strategy, especially when it comes to whitetails and treestands. There are several things to keep in mind when using a treestand to be sure to do it safely.
- Materials used: This is geared towards the homemade stands, built of 2×4’s and plywood, or whatever scrap happens to be lying around. Although I do not recommend constructing stands in this manner. Modern metal stands are very affordable to the point they may cost less than the sum of the lumbar and nails/bolts used to construct one. Modern stands are also durable, and reliable, and will not rot between seasons due to constant exposure to the elements. If you do construct a stand from wood, only use pressure treated lumber as it is the only wood product suitable for outdoor use. Lag bolts are a better choice of fastener than nails when it comes to attaching it to the tree.
- Shooting Houses: A good choice for rain/snow/ice conditions where standing or a more open platform of a smaller stand may be slippery and more dangerous.
- Ladder Stands: A great choice for ease of access from ground to stand. I would recommend only choosing ladder stands that have side rails above the seat and a shooting rail to provide additional comfort and security.
- Climbing Stands: Very safe when used properly. be sure to read your manufacturers directions for climbing and practice both the accent and decent on low climbs before going hunting.
- Lock-On: probably the least safe of the modern style stands. This is due to the usually tiny platforms that come with this style. You need to be very conscious of your foot placement when maneuvering into position for a shot.
- Straps/Tie Downs: By far, the best style of a strap for securing a modern stand to a tree is a ratchet-strap. These straps allow you to cinch the stand down extremely tight to the tree so that you will be solid with little to no wobble. I always make sure that every stand I hang has at least one ratchet-strap. Friction straps, that come with most stands, can be used, but never reach the tightness of the ratcheting style straps. Chains can also be used. Although are unable to be tightened, they are a good back-up. Under no circumstance should rope be used. Rope stretches and weakens with prolonged exposure to water and sun. If you leave a stand in the tree year-round. ALWAYS check the integrity of the straps each season prior to getting in the stand and replace any strap after 4 seasons of use (the limit at which we noticed our straps becoming too worn to be safe).
- Steps & Ladders: Metal ladders or wooden ones made from pressure treated lumber are the most safe to climb as they allow for three secure points of contact with each step within the confines of the ladder frame. Climbing sticks would be 2nd on the list as they are essentially a ladder without an outside frame. Last are the foot pegs or metal winders that you hand screw into the tree. The narrow diameter of these steps can make it tricky to grasp when wet or with gloves. Also, human error during installation may result in winders with a downward angle. These steps must ALWAYS be installed with a slight incline to help prevent your boot from sliding off.
Treestand height, set up, maintenance, and safety will be covered in additional tips to come. Remember that you should never climb a tree without a safety system attached. The number one cause of injury is treestand related and the most dangerous point in time when using a treestand is when moving to and from the climbing system (pegs, ladder, etc.) and the platform. Always take your time and don’t rush.
Stay calm and stay safe!