Bill Heavey's Deer Diary: Keeping Track of Gear

Actually, I observed it. I watched a hunting buddy as he finished practicing before heading out for an afternoon hunt. He took the release off his wrist and then buckled it around a limb of his bow. This act was so simple, so effective, and so obviously something I never would have thought of that I felt like one of the last members of a rival hominid sub-species watching a homo sapiens flaking a spear head with which he planned to hunt me later that day.

Strapping the release to the bow means that all you have to do from now on is find the bow. And bows, being bigger than releases, are proportionally easier to find. (Not that they can’t be lost, too. Trust me.)

There is another piece of gear you never want to lose: yourself. If you head up into the trees, I personally recommend an exceedingly unglamorous bit of gear, the safety harness. You can kill a deer without one, of course. You may also kill yourself.

Every year, a few guys choose this option. They tend to be younger men, mostly because such fellows are immortal. There is an old fable about this in the military in which some green airborne troops are receiving a final word before a dangerous mission. “Men,” barks their commander, “I’m not going to lie to you. There’s a good chance that only one in three of you will survive.” In the fable, every soldier casts sideways glances at the guy to his left and right. You poor suckers, he thinks, I’m going to miss you guys. So it is with falling out of treestands.

Not so long ago, safety harnesses were pretty deadly themselves. This was because many were just belts with shoulder straps. If you fell, you had about 30 seconds to a minute to rescue yourself before you began to suffocate. Today’s 6-point harnesses, which are more like those used by rock climbers, are a vast improvement. But even they are not a complete solution. I carry a screw-in tree step and a folding knife on my body so that I can have something to stand on instead of just dangling there, as well as the ability to cut myself free if for some reason I can’t reach the buckle. I do so many stupid things in my life that I don’t have room for extras. So I’m pretty religious about my safety harness.