Unfortunately, falls from tree stands are becoming more common. However, many states like Pennsylvania haven’t really started tracking these incidents. We do know however, that the main reason for accidents involving tree stands is the failure to wear fall protection (harnesses). Find out from one of our experienced Assistant Field Safety Managers, Brant Farmery, GSP's first hand look at hunting safety from his professional experience with both industrial construction, general industry safety management and training who has a passion for hunting, by reading the excerpt below.
Most people hunt from an elevated position of 12-25 feet. OSHA’s Fall Protection standard for general industry requires harnesses (or other form of fall protection) to be worn by employees when 4’ above a lower level. Hunters are usually at heights 3 to 5 times higher than this requirement. For construction industry safety, OSHA requires fall protection when 6’ above a lower level.
Could it be because of the advancing age of hunters? Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation started tracking tree stand fall incidents and found that over half of the injuries were as a result of structural failures. In addition, a quarter of the injuries were from slipping or missing rungs on the ladder. Older hunters were more likely to fall, the mean age of these victims was 47.5 years old.
A study in Wisconsin found that 84% of gun hunters and 91% of archery hunters hunt out of elevated tree stands. Of those, only 33% of archery hunters and 23% of firearm hunters wore their safety harnesses. This is a baffling number, especially since there are options for harnesses on the market that are not only extremely comfortable, but are very useful and have pockets, binocular harnesses, etc. built into them. There are also systems out there, which should be a “no excuse” for not being tied off 100% of the time. There are lifelines, linesmen belts, etc. to satisfy this.
I personally had a small incident during the month of November in 2017 when I was on my “rutcation.” I was very lucky though. After I hung my treestand prior to the season, I installed a vertical life line with a prussic knot to tie off to before my feet even left the ground. That chilly morning in November I was climbing up my ladder sticks in the dark while there was frost on the ground. At around 7 feet off the ground, my foot slipped and I was caught by my life line before I even fell 6 inches. After the adrenaline rush, I continued my climb up the tree and enjoyed watching the woods wake up. Who’s to say that if I was not tied off as soon as I left the ground, and the incident happened, I could have been hurt, or worse.
Another option that a few hunters are purchasing are tree saddles. With a tree saddle, you can wear it with no more added weight, sound, or inconvenience. Rather than hoisting a traditional heavy metal stand into a tree, with a saddle you simply ascend the tree, attach a step or small platform, loop a rope around the trunk, and clip in. These are modeled after arborist saddles and take out the need for a tree stand itself. A lot of manufacturers sell these as a kit with a linesmen belt and a tree tether so that you are never untied once you step up off of the ground. These also allow you to use the tree as a “blocker”, especially if you are using a ring of steps that are 360 degrees around the tree. We all know how that “sixth sense” of the monarch buck you are hunting kicks in at the wrong time for you.
With the rut coming up for us archery hunters and gun seasons starting all over the country, remember to tie off. Also shoot straight, identify your target, and what determine what is behind it. No animal is worth an accident to you or possibly an innocent bystander.
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