Survival Skills: Treestand Survival

Besides our favorite firearms and bows, one of the most popular pieces of equipment used by many of us deer hunters is the tree stand. But every year, dozens of hunters in the U.S. are injured or killed by mishaps in and around their tree stands.

A 10-year survey of deer hunting injuries at two major trauma centers in Ohio found that falling from trees and tree stands accounts for the majority of injuries to deer hunters each year. Tree stands can be dangerous if they are used improperly or carelessly.

On average, one in three hunting injuries involves a tree stand. Falls from tree stands can be caused by a variety of factors, including structural failures, incorrect installation and unfortunate mistakes. To help prevent these accidents make sure that you, your friends and your family members follow these easy safety tips:

• Never carry any equipment with you while climbing or descending. Use a haul line to raise or lower your weapons and gear. A couple dozen feet of 550 Cord works perfectly, and has hundreds of other uses in the woods and around camp.

• Make sure that your guns are unloaded, or that your broadheads are securely covered before you use the haul line to pull them up to you.

• Always use a climbing belt, as most accidents occur when hunters are climbing up or down a tree. Stay belted or harnessed to the tree (NOT the stand), when hunting from elevated tree stands.

• Never use a rope instead of a proper safety belt or harness system.

• Do no hunt from homemade "permanent" stands. Only use stands certified by the Treestand Manufacturer's Association.

• Inspect portable stands for broken welds, or loose nuts and bolts before each use.

• Choose only healthy, living trees when using climbing devices. Do not use a tree that is dead, rotten or has a bunch of dead limbs. Never put all your weight on any single branch, live or dead.

• Keep up to date. Newer safety harnesses offer more protection.

• Wear boots with non-skid soles. Steps or platforms can be slippery with frost, rain, sleet or snow.

• Carry communication devices like a cell phone or two-way radio so you can call for help in case you do get hurt.

• Don't fall asleep. This is a common cause of accidents. If you get drowsy, move around a little or sip on an energy drink until you feel alert again. One of those 5-Hour Energy drinks will fit well in any pocket, and not bust your bladder.

• Carry a whistle, a first aid kit, a flashlight and a survival kit in addition to your cell phone.

And finally, tell a dependable person your game plan for each hunt. Let them know where you're hunting and when you'll be back. That way, if you end up stuck in a tree--or flat on the ground--someone will know that there is a problem. You usually don't get rescued unless someone knows there is a problem.