When hunters take to the woods Oct. 14 for the start of archery deer season in Alabama, Hunter Education Coordinator Marisa Futral hopes that those using treestands will remember to wear and use a vital piece of equipment, the full-body harness.
“It sounds obvious, but wearing your harness and not attaching it to the tree will not save you if you fall,” said Futral. “Most falls occur while ascending and descending, or stepping into and out of the tree stand, so it is extremely important to be attached to the tree at all times.”
Futral says hunters should attach their full-body harness to the tree the moment they leave the ground, and it should stay attached until they are safely back on the ground. “Many hunters are diligent about wearing a harness,” she said, “but they don’t attach it to the tree until they have already climbed up and are seated. You are more likely to fall when you are moving, so attaching the harness before you start climbing is vital.”
Once at the desired height, hunters should keep a short tether between them and the tree with no slack when sitting. The tether should be fastened to the tree at eye level or above. This will allow an easier recovery if a fall happens. Never allow the tether strap to get under your chin or around your neck.
Hunting bows should be pulled up and lowered with a strong cord or rope. When hunting with a gun, it should be unloaded prior to pulling it up or lowering it.
Hunting is one of the safest outdoor recreational activities. According to American Sports Data and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, hunting ranks lower than basketball, football, tennis, cheerleading, bicycling, golf, and even bowling in the total number of injuries per 100 participants.
However, each hunting season, Futral receives reports on hunting accidents that could have been avoided. Last hunting season in Alabama, 11 nonfatal and two fatal incidents were reported relating to treestands, while seven incidents were attributed to firearms (one fatal and six non-fatal). In all of the treestand-related incidents, the hunter was not wearing a safety harness.
Futral stresses that hunters should carefully inspect their treestand and harness before each use. “Never use a damaged or expired harness, and make sure it can support your body weight,” she said. “And, most importantly, keep it attached to the tree at all times.”
For more information about how to properly use a full-body harness and other hunting safety tips, visit www.outdooralabama.com/tree-stand-safety.
PHOTO: When using a treestand like this climber, always have your body harness connected to the tree.