Following four serious accidents since Sept. 13, including two fatalities, North Carolina Sportsman Magazine joins with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in urging hunters to exercise caution and use their safety harness when using a tree stand.

All the recent accidents involved falls from tree stands, with the deaths occurring in Richmond and Harnett counties. Investigations show that none of the hunters killed or injured were wearing a fall-restraint system at the time of the accidents.

"The best advice I can give is to always wear a fall arrest system," said Capt. Chris Huebner, the state's Hunting Safety Coordinator. "A full body harness is the best precaution anyone can use."

The popularity of deer hunting from an elevated position has increased in recent years. It provides some distinct advantages, such as putting a hunter out of a deer's normal field of view, increasing a hunter's range of vision, reducing scent detection and allowing closer shots.

Research by the Treestand Manufacturers Association, in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, found that 82 percent of all hunters injured in tree-stand falls were not wearing a safety harness.

North Carolina hunting safety instructors also recommend:
* Maintain three points of contact (hands and feet) when climbing up or down.
* Never carry anything when climbing – use a haul line to raise and lower an unloaded gun, bow or other equipment once safely seated.
* Check all belts, chains and attachment cords before use.
* Avoid selection of a decaying or leaning tree, or slippery-surfaced or smooth-bark tree.