Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Treestand Hunting Safety Tips We All Should Know

We've all heard this one safety tip about hunting from treestands. Always wear a safety harness when hunting from a treestand!  We all tell anyone who's interested in hunting that this is the most important safety facet of treestand hunting.  Howevever there is more to safety than just wearning your harness. Preparation is just as important to insure your safety in the field as wearing a harness.

Like all sports, hunting requires measure of preparation.  Why? Because preparation is the best way to assure that you succeed in the field, and hunting is no exception to that rule.

In a previous hunting post we discussed the different types of treestands, however we never discussed the things required to keep us safe while hunting from a treestand.  That's the purpose of this post, to discuss the different things we need to do, in and out of season, to keep us safe while hunting from treestands.  So here we go:

Before Hunt:
Inspect Tree Steps, Climbing Sticks & Ladders: Whether your treestands and their parts are new or old you should be inspecting every inch of the stands. For me, that means starting with the items that are gonna get me up the tree.  The first things I inspect are any treesteps or ladders that I'm gonna use to climb the tree.   When I'm inspecting my steps and ladders I'm looking for these things:

  • Rust spots - Any places that have rust spots (especially weld points) get sanded down, reprimed and painted with rust inhibiting spray paint.  If it's rusted through too thouroughly then I begin to consider replacing the item where possible.  But my last option is welding replacement pieces on to stands or ladders. 
  • Peeling Grit Tape - Replacing the grit tape the most commonly replaced item on my stands and ladders. For $4.00 at home depot I can replace an item on my stand that will aid me in staying stable when I'm hunting in wet conditions.  A couple minutes to peel the old tape off a wipe down with some soap and water or goo-gone to remove the excess old glue and I'm good to go to add the new grit tape. 
  • Broken, Rusty or Defective Nuts & Bolts - Any nuts and bolts that are rusty, broken or defective get replaced immediately.  However I don't just go to walmart and buy nuts and bolts of the same size. I go to a hardware store and try to match the nuts and bolts exactly and spray them down with rust inhibitor before placing them in my stands. 
  • Frayed or Cut Straps - If the straps that hold my steps or ladders have any wear or rips in
    them I replace them immediately.  A trip to any craft store and I have more than enough feet of straps to replace the ones that are damaged.  Simply by replacing the straps you are making sure your tree steps are stands dont shift or fall upon having your weight added to them. 
  • Damaged Ratchets - Since ratchets are the only moving parts on your tree steps, climbing sticks or ladders I make sure I'm meticulous about checking for rust every where.  Since this parts move that means there will be a combination of friction and rust which can team up to give me a bad fall if not taken care of.  So any damaged or rusty ratchets get the boot and replaced. In the case of the straps that have plastic strap adjusters that cause the straps to lock into place, if they are cracked I replace those as well.  Joann Fabrics and Michaels craft stores carry the plastic strap adjusters in any size you need. 

Inspect Harness (Continuously): Your safety harness is the only thing stopping you from coming to an abrupt halt if you fall from your treestand.  As a result it is the most important item in your hunting gear and as such needs to be checked continuously for damage.  In the case of my safety harnesses, if they have any damage I dont repair them I replace them.  However in the case of vest style full body harnesses miner wear and tear can be fixed via your local taylor. Also they carabiners that lock to the tree can easily be replaced but if you're going to replace them don't skimp on carabiner.  Go to a store that sells professional climbing gear and get a good one.  You won't be upset with what you get, the carabiners that rock climbers use are equal in strength to the originals or stronger and ofter much lighter in weight.

Inspect and practice with your linemans belt: If you're like me and end up placing multiple stands each year or your use portable climbing sticks to hang stands on public land, you'll want to learn how to use a lineman's belt.  Pretty much what lineman's belt does is climb with you while you'r ascending and descending your tree.  Why is this important? Because most falls from a treestand occur when you're climbing up or descending your tree and the lineman's belt gives you a lifeline during those times. So if you're using a lineman's belt You're checking for the very same things that you are on safety harness.  Below is a video of who you can make your own lineman's belt and below that is a list of the materials need with links to where you can purchase.

Lineman's Belt Materials:
  • 11mm static mountain climbing rope click here
  • Ropeman ascender  click here
  • 7mm static mountain climbing rope if using a prusik knot click here
  • 3 Aluminum climbing carabiner click here

Practice Setting Up and Using Your Stands: Once you've checked and repaired all of your equipment the next thing that should be on your list of to do's is to practice using your stands and harnesses. Practicing setting up my stands before the hunting season helps me in a couple of ways.  First it gets me familiar with the parts of my stands thus making it easier to set them up quickly and quietly when I'm in the field.  Secondly when it comes to my climbers and hang on stands it allows me to see if there are any things I can do eliminate unecessary noise produced while setting up or walking to stand.

Practice Self Rescue: The worst thing that can happen while you're out hunting is that you can fall out of your stand.  Even with a harness falling from a stand can be a painful ordeal not only that but a difficult ordeal to get yourself out of.  So one of the things I do is I practice self rescues with all of my gear on before I get into the field.

By practicing self rescues you learn more than anything what you need as an outdoorsmen or woman to keep yourself safe up in the tree.  While hanging a safe distance from the ground you'll learn if you're muscles are not capable of pulling yourself upright.  Also you'll see if, upon a fall, your harness will actually keep you from hanging upside down and if not you'll quickly start trying to trouble shoot this problem.  You'll also learn if your upon a fall you'll learn to recognize how high you should have your tether rope attached to the tree.  By knowing this you can place your tether rope at a height that makes it easier for you to get back into stand safely.

Lastly, by practicing self rescues you'll give yourself the knowledge to quickly get yourself back on stand after a fall without having to do any major problem solving. Hopefully because you've seen all of the possible problems that could happen from a safe height.

During Hunt:

Select safe tree
The first part of selecting your tree is knowing what you're looking for in a tree.
1. Look for trees that are alive, so dont climb trees with dead limbs or that are wrapped in vines.
2. Choose straight trees or trees that lean slightly backwards
3. For Climing Stands avoid trees with smooth bark that have bark that strips off easily

Once you've selected your tree make sure you take time to climb your tree before actual hunting season starts.  This will give you the opportunity to do a these essential things:

  • check for any shooting lanes that need to be cut from your line of sight.  
  • clear any limbs that will stop you from getting to the height you want to hunt from. 
  • Install any screws or hanging aids you'll need while hunting
Once you've set up your treestand and are ready to get into the field. Make sure when climbing you're using the 3 point rule when ascending or descending stand.  (Three limbs are always in contact with the tree) Not only this but make sure you're using your linemans rope and climbing without your equipment attached to you.  Any equipment attached to you when you're climbing your tree can throw off your balance causing you to fall.  Simply use a haul rope for your extras, it'll save you pain and expense in the long run. 

When not to hunt from a treestand. 
  • If you're already fatigued dont hunt from a treestand.  Fatigue can be a killer if you need to practice a self rescue from 20 feet up. 
  • Finally if you it is raining with thunder and lightning do not climb up into a metal stand making yourself into a giant lightning rod. 

Quick Tips:
  • If using strap on tree steps, leave your highest steps in the tree so you have less to put up in the darkness when hunting. 
  • Set up your tree steps a couple of feet above your stand so you can step down into the stand rather than pulling yourself up. 
  • Use screw in steps for hanging equipment above your stand, not as steps to climb
  • Screw in steps can shatter under extremely cold conditions
  • Screw in steps set below your stand can inpale you if you fall from your tree
  • If you're using a climbng stand ascend and descend only 12 inches at a time
  • A small piece of carpetting on the stand floor quiets the stand, warms your feet and makes it less slippery
  • Make sure someone knows where you'll be hunting and how long you'll be hunting
  • Always wear a safety harness when hunting from a treestand 

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