Last season the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission introduced the “Home From The Hunt” safety campaign to help reduce the numbers of accidents involving deer hunters and tree stands. The Commission is continuing the campaign this year.
According to Geoff Cantrell, a Commission spokesman, hunter-education instructors will emphasize proper use of tree stands and elevated hunting platforms. Recommendations include:
• Never carry anything when climbing. Use a haul line to raise and lower unloaded firearms and equipment once seated safely.
• Have an emergency signal device readily available. A whistle, flare, or cell phone on vibrate works well.
• Let someone know where you are hunting and when you plan to return.
• Select a healthy, straight tree and do not exceed the stand’s height recommendations.
Cantrell also stressed the importance of keeping three points of contact with the stand while climbing up or down and wearing a full-body harness.
There are other significant points to remember as well.
Never leave a stand up through the year. A tree continues to grow and can cause home-built stands attached with screws, nails and bolts to pull free. If using a lock-on type stand, the straps can stretch and fray, and if using a chain to secure to a tree, it can pull and bend damaging the attachment bolts.
In wet or frosty conditions, wood or metal steps become slick. A wet, rubber adds another dangerous element; the three points of contact are a must.
Always wear a full-body harness fall-restraint system. Older belt-style systems are dangerous; if a fall occurs, they can suffocate the wearer from the extra pressure placed around the chest area or cause the wearer to tilt downward headfirst, resulting in blood rush to the head. Either situation gives the wearer little time to seek safety or help.
If using a strap-style full-body harness, it is recommended to put the harness on before arriving at your hunting location, as it can get confusing which appendage goes in which hole in the predawn dark.
Never use a haul line with a loaded firearm. Crossbow hunters are encouraged to cock the crossbow before using a haul line, and haul it up without an arrow.
According to a survey of bowhunters in Vermont and North Carolina, 74 percent of tree-stand incidents occurred when climbing up or down, and 7 percent had reported a fall within the last 10 years.