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Tree stand safety remains vital for hunter survival
RAYMOND, Miss. -- Deer hunters should not take safety for granted while enjoying the benefits of using tree stands.
Many hunters appreciate the improved visibility that tree stands offer. Tree stand occupants can see deer better, and other hunters can spot orange vests above dense undergrowth. Some believe that stands help keep human scent up in the trees instead of along the ground. Stands can allow hunters to move a little without scaring alert deer.
Other hunters simply feel safer shooting down toward their targets on the ground, especially if houses or other buildings are nearby.
While the number of firearm-related hunting accidents has dropped dramatically in the past two decades, the number of tree stand accidents has risen sharply.
Unfortunately, there are some downsides to tree stands. Most deer hunters in Mississippi know someone who has fallen from a tree stand. Many hunters have been killed or confined to wheelchairs due to tree stand accidents.
Seventy percent of tree stand falls occur when hunters are climbing up and into a stand or when they are getting out and down from it, almost the same percentage of hunters fail to wear a fall restraint system during this critical time.
What makes a hunter climb 20 feet off the ground into a $150 tree stand without any fall-restraint system? It may be the same factor that leads some motorcycle riders to ride without helmets. Some people are just willing to assume more risk than others. Maybe it’s the same characteristic that draws hunters to wild places.
Another problem is financial in nature. Many people just don’t want to spend a lot of money on a fall-restraint system. They will pay thousands of dollars each year to participate in a much loved sport. They spend money on hunting gear, land leases or licenses, but when it comes to climbing safety, that willingness disappears.
Using a tree stand is a popular and effective method of hunting. However, because tree stands also pose significant safety risks, each hunter needs to assume responsibility for his or her safety. Knowing and practicing safe tree stand procedures can minimize these risks and ensure your time afield will be both safe and enjoyable.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.