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Treestand Safety: I Repeat, Wear Your Harness!

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October 26, 2012

Treestand Safety: I Repeat, Wear Your Harness!

By Scott Bestul

I say it every year, but it bears repeating: If you are not wearing a treestand harness, you’re nuts. Take a look at this picture. The man hanging from the strap is Jim Barta of Hunter’s Safety Systems, makers of one of the original high-quality, hunter-friendly safety harnesses designed to keep you upright if you fall from a tree stand. I shared a camp with Jim on my recent Oklahoma hunt, and during a lull in the action one afternoon, he delivered his popular harness demonstration, wherein he intentionally steps off a tree stand hung 20 feet up. It’s pretty cool. It also gets people’s attention.

Part of Jim’s normal routine is to deliver a portion of his it’s-important-to-wear-a-safety-harness lecture while dangling from the tree. Then he swings himself over to a tree step or ladder stick and climbs back on the stand to finish the speech. But this time, just as he grabbed the stand to help him reach the ladder, the stand—a brand-new model hung by experienced guides—inexplicably collapsed. Now Jim had no platform, just the ladder. Did we help him? No. We took pictures. But this wasn’t Jim’s first rodeo, and he handled it all expertly. After a few more swings, he had his feet safely on the ladder.

The point is this: Unforeseen stuff happens, even to a professional in a highly controlled situation. I’ve already heard about three guys in my area pitching out of their stands this season--all experienced deer hunters who’d scaled hundreds of trees over the years.

People, it can happen to you. And if you hunt long enough, it probably will. But if you’re wearing a harness—especially in conjunction with a safety line—you’ll just have a scary story with a happy ending. Like the one Jim Barta can now tell.

 

Comments (20)

Top Rated
All Comments
from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I have hunted for nearly 14 years now (heavily for about 5) and I have never once worn a treestand harness and nothing bad has ever happened to me. That is probably because in all of those hunts in all of those years...I have never hunted in a treestand. or any pre set stand for that matter.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

Rain or snow makes it even more dangerous.
Don't play Russian Roulette! It's not fair to your family and friends.

Thanks Scott for the Caution Reminder!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from vtbluegrass wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

Has F&S done a review of the livewire system from Tree Spider. I definitely always wear a harness and try to keep mindful of how I am tied off that if I fell I would end up on the side of the tree with the ladder or my steps. In the case that you knocked your head or somehow where hurt it seems like it would be a good thing to have that thing lower you to the ground.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blase110 wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

nehunter92 thank you for sharing that you have never fallen out of a tree...because you have never been in one. I myself have never been attacked by sharks while fishing in the Missouri River, I guess I have just been lucky.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Silverback wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

My daughter was born 9 years ago. So I grew up back then and have worn my harness ever since. My daughter desirves my at least that from me. I love her more than hunting (and that is a lot). WEAR YOUR HARNESS for someone else, if not for yourself.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from mitchw wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

Ditto Silverback. My son was born in August of 04, and I've been wearing a Summit Seat Of the Pants in every tree since. And now he's wearing a Hunter Safety System every time he's up a tree with me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Half-of-two wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I agree with Silverback & MitchW (oddly enough, my name is also Mitch W.) about doing it for your kids. My wife wouldn't let me take my son up in a tree until I repeatedly promised that he'd be in a harness. You never know what's gonna happen when you're up in a tree. I'd much rather have the harness and never need to use it, then need it once and not have it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I am curious to know how many guys still wear the old safety belts?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bassman06 wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I don't wear mine... The reason why is that I choose the muddiest places to hunt in. Also I'm around 10 feet up and if I fall it's one to two feet down in mud.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I used to never wear a harness. I had a ladder stand that was 10 feet up, tops. How bad could it be? Right? One day I was standing on the ladder stand, but this time took a strap and rope and tied it around me and tied myself to the tree. I skipped any coffee cause I didn’t want to have to take a leak. That morning was gorgeous and as I was admiring Mother Nature, I must have suddenly zonked out. Next thing I know I wake up and I am falling head first off the ladder stand headed at some rocks. The rope, caught me before I fell too far and jerked me off the stand but probably saved my life.

Moral of the story: You never know when you are going to fall asleep in a stand.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

On the same topic of treestand safety. I have several stands I leave up all year. I have little faith in the integrity of the nylon straps lasting through the 4 month archery season. I have replaced them all with good quality chain.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from woodsdog wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

Timely post for sure. I'm a hunter and bowhunter safety instructor and due to the increasing number of accidents associated with treestand mishaps which happen every year, unfortunately, we are forced to spend more and more time on this important topic. I know plenty of hunters who still ignore the suggestion. We are now focusing on the new and/or younger upcoming hunters. Much like seat belt use, we are hoping that we get this next generation to just use them as a matter of needed gear. The HSS system like MR. Barta's facilitates this goal and is an excellent (Vest Style) because it much simplifies putting a safety harness on. We do a demo where we take one out of a hunting pack which is just stuffed in the pack and within seconds, the unit is on and ready to be attached to the appropriate tether. We typically ask a young hunter in the class to volunteer. When people see how quick and easy it is for a newbie, they are more prone to use one. The original full body style harnesses which came out several years ago were an improvement over the simple belts and ropes we used to use as the harnesses keep you upright. However, the other important concern is getting back onto a stable and safe platform or just getting down. Staying suspended for too long in any harness is still unsafe. These are to prevent a fall and thats it. Once you have NOT fallen, you need to plan how to get back on your platform or get on the ladder. Incidentally, we also warn against the use of screw in type tree steps. The safest are climbing ladders which ratchet strap to the tree. Good topic and we all need to set the example for our new or young hunters.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawndog wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

The focus should be on safer stands, rather than harnesses. If the stand is dangerous enough to require being straped in, don't get in it.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I wear a harness and inspect my stands frequently. Hunters die not from being shot but from falls from their stand. I need to get home to my family every time.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deanlikes2fish wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I agree with you steve182, I wear mine when I am climbing the ladder or using the climbing tree stand. @hawndog I agree that tree stand safety is important, however there are too many variables besides just the safety and quality of the tree stand that you are hunting from. The best safety systems work from the ground up.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blase110 wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Considering most tree stands come with harnesses (although maybe not top of the line) and you can buy nice comfortable ones for $50 I think it's silly to ever use a stand without one. People spend all kinds of money to buy big SUV's because they are "safer" for them and their families to drive, expensive hand guns for home protection, and the must have Zombie Survivalist kits to prepare for the impending rise of the dead but will not fork over the little bit of money for a safety harness. Seems dumb and just plain lazy...and probably more of the latter

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Egrill wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Hawndog, you're missing the point. Perhaps you fell one too many times.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jared Matson wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Great post about treestand safety. Many experienced hunters I know get lazy over time and stop wearing their harness simply because they know their way around the tree stand and haven't fallen out in twenty years, etc, etc. However, a great example was just this weekend for firearm opener in Minnesota. A friend of mine let his nephew go out and use his stand under the condition that the nephew used his harness. The nephew agreed but ultimately didn't follow through. His explanation was that he woke up late and did not have time to figure out the harness before going out to the stand. It almost cost him his life. He slipped on a wet ladder rung getting out of the stand and fell twenty feet to the ground. Luckily for him, the stand is in an old swamp area filled with somewhat soft bogs and thick brush. It was enough to break his fall. He walked away unharmed but more intelligent.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawndog wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Egril, no I not missing the point at all. Most of my hunting is done from the ground.
Which is safer, staying out of bad situations, or adding safty gear to unsafe conditions.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawndog wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Sorry for the bad grammar.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Silverback wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

My daughter was born 9 years ago. So I grew up back then and have worn my harness ever since. My daughter desirves my at least that from me. I love her more than hunting (and that is a lot). WEAR YOUR HARNESS for someone else, if not for yourself.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I used to never wear a harness. I had a ladder stand that was 10 feet up, tops. How bad could it be? Right? One day I was standing on the ladder stand, but this time took a strap and rope and tied it around me and tied myself to the tree. I skipped any coffee cause I didn’t want to have to take a leak. That morning was gorgeous and as I was admiring Mother Nature, I must have suddenly zonked out. Next thing I know I wake up and I am falling head first off the ladder stand headed at some rocks. The rope, caught me before I fell too far and jerked me off the stand but probably saved my life.

Moral of the story: You never know when you are going to fall asleep in a stand.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

On the same topic of treestand safety. I have several stands I leave up all year. I have little faith in the integrity of the nylon straps lasting through the 4 month archery season. I have replaced them all with good quality chain.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I have hunted for nearly 14 years now (heavily for about 5) and I have never once worn a treestand harness and nothing bad has ever happened to me. That is probably because in all of those hunts in all of those years...I have never hunted in a treestand. or any pre set stand for that matter.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

Rain or snow makes it even more dangerous.
Don't play Russian Roulette! It's not fair to your family and friends.

Thanks Scott for the Caution Reminder!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from vtbluegrass wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

Has F&S done a review of the livewire system from Tree Spider. I definitely always wear a harness and try to keep mindful of how I am tied off that if I fell I would end up on the side of the tree with the ladder or my steps. In the case that you knocked your head or somehow where hurt it seems like it would be a good thing to have that thing lower you to the ground.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blase110 wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

nehunter92 thank you for sharing that you have never fallen out of a tree...because you have never been in one. I myself have never been attacked by sharks while fishing in the Missouri River, I guess I have just been lucky.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mitchw wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

Ditto Silverback. My son was born in August of 04, and I've been wearing a Summit Seat Of the Pants in every tree since. And now he's wearing a Hunter Safety System every time he's up a tree with me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Half-of-two wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I agree with Silverback & MitchW (oddly enough, my name is also Mitch W.) about doing it for your kids. My wife wouldn't let me take my son up in a tree until I repeatedly promised that he'd be in a harness. You never know what's gonna happen when you're up in a tree. I'd much rather have the harness and never need to use it, then need it once and not have it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from woodsdog wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

Timely post for sure. I'm a hunter and bowhunter safety instructor and due to the increasing number of accidents associated with treestand mishaps which happen every year, unfortunately, we are forced to spend more and more time on this important topic. I know plenty of hunters who still ignore the suggestion. We are now focusing on the new and/or younger upcoming hunters. Much like seat belt use, we are hoping that we get this next generation to just use them as a matter of needed gear. The HSS system like MR. Barta's facilitates this goal and is an excellent (Vest Style) because it much simplifies putting a safety harness on. We do a demo where we take one out of a hunting pack which is just stuffed in the pack and within seconds, the unit is on and ready to be attached to the appropriate tether. We typically ask a young hunter in the class to volunteer. When people see how quick and easy it is for a newbie, they are more prone to use one. The original full body style harnesses which came out several years ago were an improvement over the simple belts and ropes we used to use as the harnesses keep you upright. However, the other important concern is getting back onto a stable and safe platform or just getting down. Staying suspended for too long in any harness is still unsafe. These are to prevent a fall and thats it. Once you have NOT fallen, you need to plan how to get back on your platform or get on the ladder. Incidentally, we also warn against the use of screw in type tree steps. The safest are climbing ladders which ratchet strap to the tree. Good topic and we all need to set the example for our new or young hunters.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I wear a harness and inspect my stands frequently. Hunters die not from being shot but from falls from their stand. I need to get home to my family every time.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blase110 wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Considering most tree stands come with harnesses (although maybe not top of the line) and you can buy nice comfortable ones for $50 I think it's silly to ever use a stand without one. People spend all kinds of money to buy big SUV's because they are "safer" for them and their families to drive, expensive hand guns for home protection, and the must have Zombie Survivalist kits to prepare for the impending rise of the dead but will not fork over the little bit of money for a safety harness. Seems dumb and just plain lazy...and probably more of the latter

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jared Matson wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Great post about treestand safety. Many experienced hunters I know get lazy over time and stop wearing their harness simply because they know their way around the tree stand and haven't fallen out in twenty years, etc, etc. However, a great example was just this weekend for firearm opener in Minnesota. A friend of mine let his nephew go out and use his stand under the condition that the nephew used his harness. The nephew agreed but ultimately didn't follow through. His explanation was that he woke up late and did not have time to figure out the harness before going out to the stand. It almost cost him his life. He slipped on a wet ladder rung getting out of the stand and fell twenty feet to the ground. Luckily for him, the stand is in an old swamp area filled with somewhat soft bogs and thick brush. It was enough to break his fall. He walked away unharmed but more intelligent.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I am curious to know how many guys still wear the old safety belts?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deanlikes2fish wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I agree with you steve182, I wear mine when I am climbing the ladder or using the climbing tree stand. @hawndog I agree that tree stand safety is important, however there are too many variables besides just the safety and quality of the tree stand that you are hunting from. The best safety systems work from the ground up.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Egrill wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Hawndog, you're missing the point. Perhaps you fell one too many times.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawndog wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Egril, no I not missing the point at all. Most of my hunting is done from the ground.
Which is safer, staying out of bad situations, or adding safty gear to unsafe conditions.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawndog wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Sorry for the bad grammar.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bassman06 wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I don't wear mine... The reason why is that I choose the muddiest places to hunt in. Also I'm around 10 feet up and if I fall it's one to two feet down in mud.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawndog wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

The focus should be on safer stands, rather than harnesses. If the stand is dangerous enough to require being straped in, don't get in it.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

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