The words always and never are rarely valid in deer hunting discussions, but when the subject is tree-stand safety, there are a few rules carved in stone.

–Never climb trees when they’re wet with rain or covered by ice. If nasty weather blows in while you’re aloft, descend immediately.

–Never climb with a weapon. Leave your gun or bow on the ground and haul it up with a tether rope.

–Always wear a quality, commercially made chest harness from the moment your feet leave the ground. The Hunter Safety System Vest ($100; 866-476-8378; is a good example.

–Never trust any dead limb when climbing to a fixed-position stand. Saw them off so your foot won’t find one, especially when descending in the dark.

–Always use enough steps. Place a screw-in or rope-on step every 16 inches or less. Install the final one so that you can step down on the stand platform.

–Always maintain three contact points with the tree when you ascend. Example: As your foot reaches for a step, keep the other foot and both hands on a step. –SCOTT BESTUL