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Common Sense Tree Stand Safety

The statewide archery antlered and antlerless deer season opens this Saturday, October 1. As the season progresses and nears that “magical” time of the rut, bowhunters will spend an increasing amount of time in the woods. While hunting from the ground or in a ground blind can be successful, most would agree that a tree stand places the hunter in a much more advantageous position. Many of the tree stands have already been put into place, but some might be moved based on deer movement or new ones installed. With the all-too-often reports of tree stand accidents and incidents, it might be a good time to think about incorporating some common sense safety practices when using any of these potentially dangerous devices.

Ladder stands and climber stands have evolved greatly since their initial models, and today there are dozens of models and options available. The key here is to NOT skimp and NOT try to buy the cheapest ones available. This is truly where an investment of a few more dollars will pay off in the long run. A higher-priced stand will generally be of greater quality with heavier material used in its construction.

Most hunters will agree that the location of a stand is critical. You can’t just erect a stand “somewhere” in the woods and expect a great deal of deer movement around you – even during the most active times of the rut. Thus, pinpointing a spot where two or more active trails from bedding to feeding areas intersect should be a great location, or at the edge of a food plot where there is a well-used trail leading into it will also serve as a good spot to position a stand. From a safety standpoint, a primary consideration needs to be the selection of the exact tree you plan to use. It needs to be large enough in diameter, and it needs to be as straight as possible. A tree with a larger diameter will help break up a hunter’s outline and, more importantly, will provide a much steadier platform for a tree stand. The straighter the tree, the more easily and safely it can be climbed with a climber stand or attached to with a ladder stand.

Erecting a ladder stand or prepping an area you have selected for a climber stand is a two-man job. When placing a ladder stand, it is even smarter to have three people available to perform the task. For safety’s sake, this is simply something that should not be attempted by one person. It is not a matter of how strong you think you are – it is a matter of how smart you should be! Think safety and use common sense!

Ladder stands can vary in height, generally ranging from 15 to 20 feet from the ground to the platform, with the seat being a comfortable height above the platform. The taller stand may require a larger tree to provide a strong enough base for attaching the stand. With a quality, heavier-duty stand, the weight can easily run around 100 pounds, and therefore when you begin to pivot the stand upward toward the tree, there is a great deal of torque involved – thus the need for two or three people to erect it safely. Once the stand is up and safely secured to the tree, having more than one person involved will allow the clearing out of shooting lanes to be a much smoother operation as well. The hunter can remain in the stand and point out the limbs that need to be removed rather than making numerous trips up and down the stand to clear the paths if he was by himself.

Climber stands are a horse of another color.

Although they will be used by just one person, common sense would tell you that a second individual nearby is a smart idea during initial preparation. There may be limbs to clear on the actual tree you will use for the stand, as well as side branches from other trees that may need to be trimmed for shooting lanes. During this trimming process, there may be some stretching out beyond a comfortable level that needs to be done, and having a second individual standing by is a smart idea. Climber stands are simply not for everyone. It is important to recognize and respect your individual limitations and your comfort level. If you are not at ease prepping for or using a climber stand, the ladder stand is what you need to use for your hunting. Again, think about safety and use common sense.