Staying safe in your tree stand

Posted by Eric Grube, D.O.
September 25, 2015

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Tree stand (or treestand, if you prefer) injuries are common throughout the hunting season. In fact, a study by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) found that one in every three hunters who hunts from a tree stand will fall at some point in their hunting career. With archery and crossbow deer hunting in full swing and gun season approaching, it’s time to re-establish safety practices to prevent accidents from occurring.

These injuries can easily be avoided if hunters use caution and common sense. Multiple injuries and even death can result from falling asleep, slipping while climbing in or out of the stand and having faulty equipment.

Using a safety harness is a necessary yet simple, preventative measure all hunters can and should use. When using a safety harness, make sure it’s fully secured. In addition, if you have an older style waist harness, consider purchasing a chest or five-point harness as these provide better support through the upper body and reduce chance of internal organ injuries. The Treestand Manufactures Association states that 82 percent of hunters who fall from tree stands are not wearing full body harnesses.

Consider these additional safety tips:

  • Assess tree stand placement. Selecting trees that are substantial enough to hold the hunter’s weight is critical. Hunters also should choose trees that are visibly alive, standing straight and have course-type bark for gripping purposes. Never place stands on utility poles or other smooth surfaces for risk of slipping.
  • Count your contact points. Always have three points of contact on the tree while climbing in and out of the stand — either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand at all times. The less contact points, the higher risk of falling and injury.
  • Do not forget firearm safety. As obvious as it may be, it’s still easy to forget basic tree stand safety precautions. Hunters should never climb with a bow or firearm in their hand. This can take away an important contact point while moving up or down the tree. When raising or lowering a bow or firearm, hunters must make sure it’s unloaded, points down and the safety is engaged.
  • Educate yourself. Anyone planning to use a tree stand this season should consider a simple 15-minute online safety course. The Tree Stand Manufacturers Association provides a free, interactive course for all to prevent tree stand injuries.

Eric Grube, D.O., is an emergency medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.

Dr. Grube's colleague, David Ciresi, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, offers additional tree stand safety information and tips in this video:



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