Staying Alive – Safety First
As a hunter safety instructor, I am adamant about properly preparing stands and being safe in the woods. Hunters spend countless hours in the field every year setting up treestands, checking trail cameras and planting food plots. The time spent preparing takes much longer than time actually spent hunting. Unfortunately, every year there are accidents causing serious injury and sometimes even death. What’s even more unfortunate is that almost all of these accidents could be avoided if just a little more time was spent on preparation and safety. Here are some common mistakes that hunters make that could cost you immensely if neglected.
First and foremost is to wear a safety harness. If you have purchased a new treestand within the last 10 years you have received a certified TMA (Treestand Manufacturing Association) full-body safety harness with your purchase. Check any hunting store or sports shop and you can find other more comfortable styles that are also inexpensive. Over the past few years, more people have been injured surfing, golfing, and participating in other “safe” sports than injured while hunting. Imagine how the statistics would look if we eliminated falls from tree tops. I get it, the harnesses are aggravating and sometimes a struggle to get off and on but only a few seconds can save your life.
Another mistake hunters commonly make is reusing ratchet straps that secure stands to the tree trunk. These straps are constantly bound and under stress. Factor in extreme weather conditions such as ice and snow which can cause wear and tear on them and you are taking a risk using them for more than one season. Once again, you are trusting your life with straps than can be bought in a package for less than fifteen dollars at an outdoor shop. Additionally, the old straps are still useful for cinching gear down on ATVs and pickup trucks so they don’t have to be thrown away.
The third error is a two-part mistake. The first is the decision to not wear any blaze orange while in the field. Notice I said in the field, not necessarily while hunting. It is state law for hunters to wear blaze orange so not is only is a safety concern it is also the law. Keep in mind that just because you may not be hunting doesn’t mean that others aren’t hunting nearby. In other words, if you are checking your trail cameras or scouting, especially on public land, you need to wear blaze orange. The second part is to always use a flashlight. Getting into and out of your stands without alerting nearby deer is an important step in not over pressuring the deer on your land but I always use a flashlight when walking to the stand in the morning and leaving in the evening. While blaze orange is bright, it can easily blend in with the autumn foliage associated with cooler hunting weather in low light conditions. For this reason, blaze orange and a flashlight should be used together and every time you hit the field.
The goal of hunting is to enjoy yourself and teach others about the thrills of spending time outdoors. The possibility of harvesting a deer is just a bonus. In the end, the objective is to make it home later that night so you can do it again next weekend and for years to come. This season, take the extra time to prepare and spend a few extra dollars to ensure your safety. You will be glad you did.