It was the opener of the 2007 Iowa shotgun season, early December, and a front blew through the night before. In fact, at 6 a.m. it was still dumping sleet and snow on our little piece of south-central Iowa heaven. To call it a weather system was akin to calling Hurricane Katrina a cloudburst.
The hunter approached the ladder stand in the pale blue light of very early morning and looked up at the sleet- and ice-encrusted steps. He shook his head and found a spot to sit on the ground. It was the right decision.
A slight majority of tree stand accidents occur not because a hunter fell asleep and took a tumble, but before that – when climbing into or out of the tree stand. Falls from the seat itself does occur, but even ladder stands, which often are thought of as “safer” tree stands, pose threats to careless hunters who are not securely attached to a safety harness on their way up into and down out of a tree stand.
Summit’s Seat-O-The-Pants (SOP) safety harness is barrier No. 1 to tree stand accidents. Its design allows it to be worn from the ground up when using a climber, and with the additional Treestand Safety Rope, from the ground to the tree stand in hang-on and ladders. Here’s how it works: The additional safety rope is attached above the tree stand, and the rope hangs to the ground along the steps. When the hunter arrives at the hunting stand, he or she attaches the SOP to the sliding prussic knot on the dangling safety rope. Then, every few steps, the hunter grasps the prussic knot on the safety rope and slides it upward. With this system, the hunter is attached from the ground to the tree stand, especially that critical moment of transition from a step to the treestand.
Another culprit in tree stand accidents is the homemade, wooden stand. According to the report of hunting accidents in North Carolina in 2006, of the five fatal tree stand accidents that occurred that year, three were from homemade stands. Wood simply doesn’t withstand the weather, insects, and abuse of being left out throughout the year, and by the time next season rolls around, can be rotten or so loose that it falls when the slightest weight is applied. One of those fatalities mentioned occurred when the hunter was constructing the treestand. It’s very simple: any time you’re in a tree, you should be attached via a safety harness.
It’s easy to see that there are times, like at the beginning of this article when climbing into a tree stand is not the smartest action. But it’s not just the extreme of heavy ice that can cause you to slip. Muddy boots also provide a slick surface, and distraction can play a factor. If you’ve taken sinus medication, consider a ground blind.
Safety harnesses do not make you a wimp; they make you smart. If you think you don’t need one, consider your family. Would you want one of them perched 25 feet in a tree with nothing to catch them if they fall? They probably feel the same way about you.