Next Saturday thousands of Minnesotans will hunt deer from treestands. Some will hunt from permanent stands, others from portables. No matter what type of stand you use, proceed with caution. Treestand accidents happen every year and you don't have to look far to find a hunter who's had a close call.
This past week I talked to a Brainerd hunter who survived a recent fall from a treestand. He didn't want his name in the newspaper, but agreed to tell his story in an effort to save other hunters.
"I had been busy around the house all day," the hunter said. "It was late afternoon and starting to get dark and I wanted to get my stand up in a hurry. I found an oak in a good location and put in tree steps until I was about 14 feet up.
"My stand has a large T-screw that you screw in first and hang the stand on before tightening the strap. I put the T-screw in but the stand wasn't level so I backed it off a few turns. I got onto the stand and was about to secure the strap when all of a sudden it went down.
"I always thought that if a stand gave way I could grab the tree and catch myself. But there was no time to think. It all happened so fast it was unbelievable. All I remember is feeling the stand give way and the next thing I knew I woke up on the ground. I was out cold for 15 to 20 minutes. I landed on my right shoulder and neck. I broke a rib, bruised my arm and damaged some muscles in my neck. I'm still sore."
The unfortunate hunter got himself to the doctor and fortunately did not suffer permanent injuries. But he still can't draw his bow and is done bowhunting for this season. Others who fall from treestands are not as lucky. The hunter said he's taken some steps to prevent another fall.
"I bought a different T-screw with longer, deeper treads," he said. "I make sure I screw it entirely into the tree. I got a 9/16-inch closed-end wrench that I use to get more leverage when I screw it in.
"Be very sure of your stand. Make sure it's secured to the tree before you get in. Make sure every time. If I weighed more than 200 pounds I don't think I would bother with a treestand at all."
No matter how much you weigh include the following precautions in your stand-hanging routine:
* Wear a climbing belt. They're inexpensive and guarantee you're secured to the tree during every step of the hanging process. It can be cumbersome to climb a tree with a belt, especially oaks or other species that have a lot of branches along the way. But when you're screwing in tree steps or hanging the stand itself it's nice to have both hands available. Without a climbing belt you always have to have one arm wrapped around the tree.
* Wear a safety belt while in your stand. This goes for hunters in permanent stands, too. You just never know when you might lose your balance and fall. A gust of wind can cause you to lose balance. The warm afternoon sun might cause you to nod off and lose balance. You may be positioning yourself to take a shot at a deer and lose balance. You may reach into your backpack for a sandwich and lose balance. The possible scenarios are endless. The only way to assure that a loss of balance won't lead to a fall is to wear a safety belt.
I'm always leery about hanging treestands, but I continue to hang 'em and hang 'em high. But I've had enough near-slips to know it's vitally important to take your time and follow the above safety steps.
Have a successful and safe deer hunt!
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