An Advanced Class in Treestand Safety

When I was asked to write about treestand hunting I was instantly taken back to a cool morning in November of 2016. I quickly but quietly slipped through the darkness to a treestand perched on the north side of a draw where the deer would make their way from a standing corn field at the top to a brush choked bedding area at the bottom.

I carefully climbed the tree steps to the platform about twenty feet up in an old walnut tree that had no branches for the first thirty feet or so.The instant I reached the top, I secured the tether of my safety harness around the truck of the tree and slid the rope up to a level that just allowed me to sit comfortably. This would allow me to climb back onto the stand in the event of a fall and prevent suspension trauma, a potentially fatal condition caused by extended periods of suspension in a harness.

I pulled up my pack and shotgun on two ropes attached to a loop on my safety harness and completed my setup in anticipation of a long sit. The chase faze was in full swing and I was both excited and optimistic. Shortly after settling in I caught movement in the direction of the corn field and saw several does and fawns making their way past in no particular hurry. It was about that time that my cell phone vibrated in my pocket so after ensuring that the deer were long gone I retrieved the phone from my breast pocket.

It was my friend who owned the property. He was texting me to ask if I had seen anything. I typed my reply and with my phone still on my hand I began to feel a strange light headedness. Almost instantly I lost consciousness dropping my phone , my only means of summoning help to the ground below.

After what I can only assume was several minutes I woke up hanging in my Harness facing away from the tree beside my stand. I quickly regained my composure and managed to reboard the stand.I sat for a few seconds and attempted to not only process what had just happened, but how I was going to get down. As I sat pondering my situation it happened again. Once again I scrambled back onto the platform. I hurriedly repacked my cameras and equipment and lowered them to the ground then I unloaded my firearm and lowered it.

After a brief pause to catch my breath I swung over onto the top Steps, unhooked my Carabiner and scurried down the steps to the safety of terra firma. I gasped a huge sigh of relief  and retrieved my phone from the soft leaf cover and hit “redial”. When my friend answered he was surprised to hear me calling. I simply said, “I passed out in my stand” and he somehow knew which of several stands on the property I was referring to. In just a few minutes I heard the roar of the side by side. He was coming to my rescue.

It was later determined that due to a hidden Neurological condition I would require a pacemaker. I would be remiss if I didn't relay this story when writing on the subject of treestands and treestand safety.

I honestly believe that I owe my life to my Altan Harness pro. It’s lightweight design makes it easy to wear without feeling restricted. Freedom of movement is a must whether installing a stand or simply climbing into one, however purchasing a good quality harness is merely the beginning. Like any piece of equipment, learning to use it correctly is imperative.

Start by purchasing a quality harness then adjust it to fit the wearer so that it will function properly while also allowing for that physical dexterity required for climbing. A great rule of thumb is if you can just extend your arms straight up, and raise your knees so that your thigh is parallel to the ground with no binding you should be good to go. This will allow you to reach your next step or rung on the ladder.

If you're like me you spend a lot of time in the late summer months installing stands over trail hubs, staging areas and heavily worn bedding trails. While installing stands I always use two tether ropes equipped with a Knot Designed to slide freely up and down the tether but in the event of a fall when your body weight is applied to the knot it instantly locks onto the main rope preventing you from falling. This is called a prusik knot. I use one tether as a lineman's belt around the tree keeping my hands free to handle the stand which I pull up on a piece of light rope called a pullup rope and when I have the stand securely in place I apply my body weight gradually to the platform. I wrap the second tether which I already have attached to the rear tether strap of the harness around the tree and then detach the lineman's tether.

With this method I can install a stand and board it in one motion while remaining attached at all times. This hang and hunt system has proven extremely useful for hunting public land and private land where theft may be an issue and can be employed with either screw in steps or strap on ladder steps.

For those of you who prefer a quality ladder type stand Such as the Big game stealth elite XL or the Altan side by side express, safety should still be foremost in your thoughts. The convenience of the ladder and stability of the rail surrounding the hunter is great but there are still risks associated with all elevated platforms if precautions are not taken. In most of my stand setups I like to install a simple but highly effective tool to keep me safe from the moment I step off of the ground and that is called a lifeline. The lifeline is simply a rope very similar to your tether but it is installed during initial stand setup and is tied off above the stand and at or near ground level perhaps to one of the steps. It has a prusik Knot installed and while safely on the ground the hunter attaches his or her tether to a ring on the prusik Knot and slides it up as he or she climbs. If your foot slips while on the steps or while stepping onto the platform Which statistically is the most vulnerable point in the climb, the lifeline will stop you from falling.

Many hunters prefer the versatility of a self climber, this dual tether system is ideal for use with these types of stands. You simply climb with the lineman’s setup and attach the rear tether when you get to your desired height.

I hope this helps to keep you safe while you enjoy the great outdoors this season. All the products mentioned in this article are available in store or online at