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Tree Stand Safety Tips

tree stand safety

Millions of people across the U.S. enjoy being in the outdoors and hunting. For many, it's a hobby, while for others it's a lifestyle. One of the most important aspects of hunting is returning home safely.

Many hunters use tree stands – there are several styles, brands, and models of these hunter aids. While using a stand, hunters spent time suspended anywhere from 10-30 feet in the air. Falls from those heights can cause serious injuries or even be fatal. Tree stand safety is critical for hunters of any age.

General Treestand Safety

Be Prepared Ahead of Time

  • Make sure your tree stand complies with Treestand Manufacturer's Association (TMA) standards. You can visit www.tmastands.com for TMA-approved tree stands, information on recalls, and more.
  • If you hunt alone, make sure someone knows where you are hunting, when you plan to return, etc. It's best to hunt with at least one other person, because they may witness an accident and be able to help prove that the tree stand was defective.
  • Pack an emergency kit, signal device, flashlight, signal flare, cell phone, and whistle. Keep them readily available at all times. Keep some form of personal identification on you as well.
  • Prior to hunting with a tree stand, read the manufacturer's instruction manual from cover to cover. Review the manual at least once a year. Know the expiration date and maximum weight limit. Remember, the maximum weight limit is your weight plus the weight of your supplies, gun, bow, etc.
  • Be absolutely certain you have no questions about installing and using your treestand.
  • If you have a question about the manual or aren't feeling well, don't use the tree stand. Hunt from the ground. It's better to be safe than sorry.
  • Never use a tree stand without using a full-body arrest harness system that meets TMA standards. If you use a vest-style harness system, it should meet TMA standards as well.
  • Carefully inspect your tree stand, harness, tether strap, and tree belt every time before you climb. If you find damage, throw the tree stand away and hunt from the ground until you can buy another TMA-approved one.
  • Always have an escape plan – know what you will do if you lose contact with the tree stand or fall. Wearing a harness should prevent you from falling a great distance, but you need to be ready to act if something goes wrong.
  • Review manual/instructions with anyone who will use the tree stand.

Using the Tree Stand

  • Again, make sure you understand exactly how you need to use your tree stand. There are several types of tree stands – hang-on style tree stands, suspension release, etc.
  • Practice using the tree stand a few inches above the ground prior to climbing.
  • When using stacking steps/stacking ladders, stick ladders, or screw-in steps, always maintain 3 points of contact – 1 hand and 2 feet, or 2 hands and 1 foot.
  • Connect the tree belt at eye level, and step down onto the tree stand. Never step up into a tree stand.
  • Never climb while holding anything or carrying items on your back. Use a haul line – a method to raise and lower supplies via a rope that is connected to the tree stand. Check your manufacturer's instructions for information on where to attach the haul line on the tree stand.
  • Make sure guns are unloaded when raising and lowering them with a haul line. Keep the action open and muzzle facing downward.
  • Maintain the shortest amount of tether possible between you and the tree – there should be little to no slack, as this is the strap that will support your weight if you fall. You need to be near the same height to have a chance of getting back into the tree stand.
  • Lower equipment via the haul line before climbing down.

Fixed/Hang-On Tree Stands

  • Fixed or hang-on tree stands are semi-permanent. They are mounted to a tree with climbing aids, and the tree stand is fixed into position via a haul line.
  • Space between steps and stacking ladders should be less than 18 inches apart.
  • Don't use the steps or ladders if they are askew or not level.
  • Never use homemade steps or ladders, and don't use tree branches as steps.
  • Always read your manufacturer's instruction manual for exact installation, use, and storage of your fixed/hang-on tree stand.

Climbing Tree Stands

  • Climbing tree stands are modern and, in a sense, allow you to scoot up and down the tree with a seating platform and a standing platform.
  • Tilt seating and standing platforms in a slightly upward angle to account for the gradual narrowing of the tree. If you find that the angles are wrong, lower yourself to the ground and make adjustments before you climb the tree again.
  • Some climbing tree stands are designed to be able to make adjustments as you climb – refer to your manual.
  • Remain connected to the tree at all times from the time you leave the ground, to the time you return to the ground.
  • Pay attention to proper foot placement as specified by your instruction manual. Remember to keep your tether with little slack.
  • Always read your manufacturer's instruction manual for exact installation, use, and storage of your fixed/hang-on tree stand.

Ladder Tree Stands

  • Ladder tree stands are semi-permanent stands that have a ladder, braces, safety steps, a seating platform, and a standing platform. Many of the general tree stand safety standards apply to ladder tree stands.
  • Ladder steps should fit together and be fastened according to manufacturer standards.
  • Stabilizer bars should have contact with the tree.
  • Check that all fasteners are in place with the ladder and tree.
  • The bottom of ladder should be on level ground. Step on the bottom rung to get the ladder to sink into the ground for stabilization.
  • Two people should hold the base of ladder for stabilization while you climb up and down. For that reason, you shouldn't hunt alone when using a ladder tree stand.
  • Don't climb with anything in your hands or on your back. Lean forward as you climb.
  • As you reach to your desired height, attach your harness system to the tree as soon as possible before stepping onto the platform.
  • Install security devices according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Once on the stand, raise the tether to eye level or above so there is no slack when sitting.

Other Safety Considerations

  • Scout an area before hunting season starts. Pick a tree that is healthy and within the maximum tree diameter specified by your tree stand's manufacturer.
  • Never attempt to climb utility poles, dead or damaged trees, etc.
  • Never use a tree branch to support your weight.
  • Never use a homemade stand.
  • Never mechanically modify your tree stand.
  • Never use treestand while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Don't use a tree stand if you have a medical condition and haven't been cleared to hunt by a doctor.
  • Know your physical limitations, and never exceed your comfort level while climbing.
  • Inspect your tree stand prior to each use.
  • Don't expose your tree stand to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures, and don't keep the tree stand outside for an extended period of time.
  • Don't use tree stands when thunderstorms are in the area or if there are other bad weather conditions.

If You Fall

  • Don't panic – use your rescue recovery plan.
  • Try to get back onto the stand quickly, while still using the tree stand properly.
  • If you can't get back into the tree stand, you will need to use a self-extraction device that is covered in your user manual. You should be able to lower yourself to the ground safely.
  • If all else fails and you're hanging from your tether, use a device to signal to others that you need help. That's why it's important to keep a flare, flashlight, radio, cell phone, whistle, or other signal device on you when you're in a tree stand.
  • Hanging while in the body harness can cause trauma to your legs quickly. You can maintain circulation in your legs and relieve pressure by doing leg exercises.

Did You Suffer Tree Stand Injuries? Contact Us for a Free Legal Consultation

If you are a victim of a tree stand accident, you may have a case. Contact 1-866-943-3427 for a free legal consultation right away, or fill out the form at the top right of this webpage. Evidence disappears quickly in the woods, so you should call as soon as possible to get answers to your tree stand injury questions. In the meantime, follow our steps to take after a tree stand accident and learn more about our law firm.

Source: Treestand Manufacturer’s Association (www.tmastands.com)
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