In the fall of 1998 I agreed to develop a treestand safety production for the National Bowhunter Education Foundation. From the beginning we cooperated with the Treestand Manufacturers Association. We have learned a lot since 98 and what we have discovered can reduce your risk of becoming a statistic.
At the request of the Consumer Product Safety Commission a task force was formed to review data concerning accidents. I volunteered to be one of the reviewers. Among other things here is some of what we learned.
The average age of the victims who fell or hung to their death is 44 years old. These are treestand hunters with up to 20 years of experience. They got lazy and too familiar with the risks. In 75% of the deaths the subject was not wearing a Full Body Harness. This is inexcusable as every stand now comes with one co-packaged. In this group 55% were using climber style treestands and 45% hang-ons or ladders style stands. Michigan leads in accidents and deaths.
In a previous study done in Vermont and South Carolina we learned that most treestand accidents occurred at a particular point of the hunt, right at stand level. Getting into or out of the stand and when putting up or taking down a treestand elevates your risk. This tells us that most hunters are not securely attached to the tree at these critical points of their hunt. We also learned that there are some common denominators when it comes to exposure to accidents.
CAN"T HAPPEN TO ME
Almost without exception hunters believed that "it couldn't happen to me". Many believed that if they did loose their balance they could quickly grab something to arrest their fall and regain their balance. Of course these assumptions are both wrong. The only way not to fall is to be attached from the moment you leave the ground until you return to the ground. The correct use of a lineman's style belt when climbing, putting up and taking down a treestand is a risk reducer for sure.
While "hang-on and ladder" accidents are common climber style stands account for a lot of accidents too. The point at which many climber accidents occur is when a hunter fails to attach the top and bottom sections and then looses the foot climber. Another sure way to get into trouble is to attempt to level your stand while you are in it. Removing pins and connectors to adjust the stand angle when up in a climber is a sure recipe for a disaster. If you need to readjust, return to the ground and adjust.
It's easy to stay attached when using a climber by attaching your tether and treebelt at ground level, then sliding the attachment tether on the tree as you go up or down. The key to not having a fall is to adjust the connection tether so there is no slack when seated in your stand. No slack yields no fall.
There has been a single breakthrough in treestand safety in the last 10 years that you should know about. It is a sideways move of familiar technology that makes tons of sense. In 2004 a few guys from Detroit's auto industry put their heads together to solve a problem. They were familiar with seat belt technology and actually worked with those crash dummies we see in test wrecks. In short they applied seatbelt technology to treestands. They named their company Integrated Safety and their seatbelt retractor and vest "Fall Guy"...after the crash dummy.
Fall Guy Full Body Harness Treestand Vest eliminates the tangles and snaps out so you can wash the vest separately
I have been using the vest and Fall Guy retractors since 04 and they have solved a major problem. Their vests go on easily and the harness can be snapped out of the vest so hunters can wash the vest and keep it scent free. Unlike some vest manufacturers their vest doesn't ride up your crack when you hang from it. It's professionally deigned. They offer a lineman's style belt so you can be attached when performing a task like hanging a stand. But they have one more product that is more functional than any accessory I know of. It's their retractor attachment.
We all are familiar with seatbelts and how they can grab if you lean forward quickly…well, their attachment is no different. It's the same technology that you have been using daily for decades. They offer both a retractor with a 3-foot tether and a dynamite design where the retractor webbing is a full 20-foot long. Here is how it works.
Hang your stand using your lineman's belt for protection. Now attach the 20-foot retractor above your stand platform at about head level. There is a little black cord that is 20-feet long that attached to the carabineer and hangs to the ground. Now when you walk into your stand just pull the cord and extend the 20-foot tether and hook it into your vest tether. It automatically remains taught and retracts as you climb.
If you were to slip or fall it catches you before you drop an inch and arrests your fall. When you climb aboard the stand, you're connected, and you stay connected throughout your hunt. When you are ready to descend just climb down and you're protected all the way to the ground. I now use 20-foot Fall Guy Retractors on all of my stands. I encourage my kids to use them. They are much more confident now that they are always attached…and so is their dad.
Fall Guy 20-foot Retractor keeps you connected
Treestand accidents are a common occurrence because so many hunters fail to recognize and address the risks involved. Fact is "It can happen to you". Stay attached from the moment you leave the ground until you return to the ground.