|Found this one in the woods - be careful|
As a hunter education instructor we spend class time reviewing tresstand hunting methods and safety not because they are dangerous, but because this seems to be where many people get too comfortable in what they are doing and that is when something bad usually happens. Most hutning injuries are self inflicted and the majority are treestand related and the most important fact here is that they can be avoided by just following some basic safety tips.
The most important of these safety precautions is the need to wear a hunter safety harness. As a matter of fact, the Treestand Manufactures Association (TMA) recommends that a full body safety harness that supports the legs and torso be worn at all times when hunting from an elevated position. The full body hunter safety systems are designed to provide full body support during a fall which will keep you upright and in a position to recover if a fall occurs.
I've been around for some time now and I've seen the evolution of hunter safety systems from a single belt to the full body harness systems and wonder why they took so long to get here. Back in the day a single belt was typically worn and when worn correctly would be positioned high up on the chest under the arms and not around the waist as many hunters did at that time.
Today I wear a Summit "Seat-O-the-Pants" safety harness that retails for about $100 and it was the best hunting related investment I have ever made. Some time back in the late 80s a friend of mine was hunting out of an old baker climbing treestand without a safety harness. He was only about 15 feet above the ground and positioned near a branch which he decided to use as seat. As he went to put weight back on the stand the stand lost it's bite and started clanking down the tree and my friend was clutched to that tree like a little bear cub with one exception - he wasn't staying in one spot by sliding down the tree in pursuit of the his stand. He was fortunate in that he was able to catch up the to the stand and keep from hitting the ground. Other than some serious bark burns he was in good shape. To add a little insult to injury though, my dad made him shimmy back up that tree to retrieve the hand climber. that lesson stuck with me and I have never, and I can honestly say never, have hunted from a treestand with out a safety harness since that day.
There are other full body safety systems on the market like the the ones from Hunter Safety Systems (HSS) and is next on my purchase list. These systems wear more like a vest and can be considered a little less cumbersome to get into then some others but still offer the full body support across the torso and the legs.
Those safety harnesses are great but many falls and slips occur while climbing and descending the tree so something needed to be done to help here and along came the "life line" which is simply a rope connected above the treestand and down to the base of the tree that allows you to connect your safety harness directly to this line with the use of a Prusik Knot, also known as a friction knot, which mountain climbers and climbing professions use daily. The knot allows you to move it up and down the rope as you ascend and descend but once pressure from a fall is put on the knot it tightens up and stops the fall.
With the use of a full body harness and a "life line" your odds of surviving a fall and making it home for dinner are greatly increased and a must have piece of your hunting arsenal in my opinion.
There are many other tree stand safety tips like only using treestands that have been certified by the TMA and avoiding homemade stands, using a haul line to get your gear into and out of your stand as well as not relying on tree branches for steps. The TMA has a pretty complete list of treestand safety tips that you can find on their website.
No matter how long you have been hunting out of trees please take some time before the season begins to review these treestand safety tips and inspect your treestand equipment and safety gear. Brush on on the manufactures instructions and warnings for your gear and make sure it is all in perfect working order.
Wishing you a safe and successful season.