Illinois hunting and fishing

The Hunter Safety Systems Reversible tree stand harness allows the hunter to use the product for bow or gun season. Photo by Chris Young.

Don’t be a statistic: Practice tree stand safety

October 12, 2012 at 09:06 AM

It would be great if all tree stand accidents came with a funny story and a happy ending.

“A 51-year-old male in tree stand got excited seeing the ‘biggest deer’ he had ever seen and walked off the end of his tree stand.”

That anecdote is in one of the hospital reports from 2010 included on the National Electronic Injury Surveillance Service (NEISS) Website that compiles accidents requiring an emergency room visit.

That hunter was lucky, suffering “rib contusions” but apparently no serious or permanent injuries.

And while it seems like an obvious point to keep driving home, preventable accidents involving falls from elevated tree stands are sure to put a black mark on this year’s hunting season.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, there were 26 hunting incidents in Illinois in 2011, including one fatal.

Thirteen of those were blamed on falls from tree stands.

So far in 2012, six hunting accidents have been reported.

The first news story already has surfaced about a hunter falling out of his stand.

An 80-year-old Indiana hunter fell late last week (See story linked below).

When it comes to safety, everyone wants the same thing.

“We want our hunters to return safely to their families and their loved ones,” said Karen Lutto, with Hunter Safety System harnesses (http://www.huntersafetysystem.com).

Harnesses keep hunters secure in tree stands.

“Anytime your feet leave the ground you should be in a harness,” Lutto said. “Eighty percent of accidents happen when people are climbing up into a tree stand.”

Lutto said hunters should use a Treestand Manufacturers Association approved harness.

TMA promotes the mandatory use of fall arrest systems or full body harness systems (http://www.tmastands.com).

Proper tree stand safety can keep an accident from being a fatal accident.

“The statistics are frightening,” she said. “There are a lot more (falls) you don’t hear about because they don’t report their falls because they are embarrassed.

“They say they fell, they just don’t say they fell out of a tree stand.”

Lutto showed two harnesses, an Ultra Lite basic harness and a Reversible that has pockets and can switch from camouflage to blaze orange for hunters switching between bow and gun seasons.

Lone Wolf, known for making tree stands and other gear, offers a six-point harness system with a lineman rope assembly and carbineer rope assembly designed to arrest a fall.

“You can basically have hands free and you can make adjustments,” said Kristen Durbin Monroe, account manager with Bast-Durbin, Inc., an outdoors media firm. “It is high quality, padded and really comfortable.”

DNR also says hunters using a tree stand should use a full body safety harness (also known as a Fall Arrest System or FAS). 

Hunting Safety Facts from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources:

*Illinois law requires that anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1980, must successfully complete a hunter safety course before a regular Illinois hunting license is issued.

*The number one cause of hunting accidents in Illinois is falling from a tree stand.

When using a tree stand, remember the following:

*Check ladder stands before climbing to make sure they are secure.

*Wear a Fall Arrest System/Full Body Safety Harness when leaving the ground until returning to the ground from the tree stand.

*Use a haul line to raise and lower your equipment and unloaded firearm or bow into a tree stand.

When hunting with a firearm, sportsmen should remember three primary rules of firearm safety:

*Know your target and what is beyond your target.

*Point the muzzle in a safe direction.

*Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.