The most deadly thought of all is this: "It won't happen to me."
This issue contains a lot of good deer stories that will entertain you and help make you a better deer hunter. Enjoy them!
However, the smallest and least visible story -- "The Other Guy," by Mark Siedschlag (page 98) -- is by far the most significant. That's because Siedschlag tells about his falling from a tree and the resulting injuries. Fortunately, he fully recovered and has gone on to enjoy life, but a lot of treestand-accident victims have not. They are living with lifelong disabilities -- or six feet under.
Perhaps what first drove me toward treestand safety was a story a doctor in Alabama told me. To clear shooting lanes, a hunter had sawed off some saplings under his tree. Then, while hunting, he had fallen off his stand, directly onto one of the sapling stubs, driving it through his chest. Unable to pull himself off the stub, he had to whittle it off and then crawl to his vehicle -- stub and all.
Man, an image like that should wake up the most brain-dead person. It sure did me. With a lot of life yet to live, I abhor the image of my lying under my treestand with a broken leg or back, impaled on a sapling stub, or dead -- all because I was too careless, lazy, hurried, or stupid to climb safely.
The issue has become even more compelling for me now as I introduce new hunters to treestands. Recently I took my son-in-law on his first treestand hunt, and it won't be long before his son joins us in the trees. As their mentor, I am responsible, and the only image worse than seeing my own broken body on the ground would be my looking down at one of them, broken or dead at the base of the tree -- all because I was too careless, lazy, hurried, or stupid to provide them with the best safety gear and insist they use it.
The issue of treestand safety has three components:
- Lack of knowledge. Perhaps you do not know how to climb safely. No excuse. Simply google "treestand safety" and you'll get encyclopedic information on safe climbing. For "official" guidelines on safe climbing, contact the Treestand Manufacturer's Association (www.tmastands.com) and the National Bowhunter Education Foundation (www.nbef.org).
- Lack of equipment. Again, no excuse. Back in the '70s, when I first hunted with treestands, the Baker Climbing Stand and Baker safety strap, a loop of nylon webbing that was probably more deadly than actually falling, were the only games in town.Safety gear has come a long way since then. Full-body safety harnesses abound, and only a fool would hunt without one. Modern climbing systems raise safety to an even higher level. In Tried and True (page 24), Curt Wells reviews climbing systems and lists several sources. Wherever possible, install a climbing system and use it religiously. If you think you're too macho to use one, think of your wife, daughter, or other inexperienced climber inching high into a stand. What's macho about jeopardizing their lives?
- Lack of concern. Years ago I interviewed a young man who had fallen while installing a treestand. He was young, agile, and strong -- before he fell. After that, he would forever live in a wheelchair. "I didn't think it could happen to me," he said.Human nature says, "Bad things don't happen to me, just to the other guy." Well, look at the facts. As Mark Siedschlag writes, "Anybody can become the other guy." He did, and you and I can too.
What's the real key to treestand safety? Ridding yourself of the insane notion that accidents happen only to the other guy. When you accept that reality, you will do things right, no matter what.
If you need further convincing, think about your crumpled body at the base of a tree, your life changed forever. If that image doesn't wake you up, envision yourself standing over the crumpled body of a loved one at the base of the tree -- all because you were too careless, lazy, hurried, or stupid to do things right. If that doesn't wake you up, you're already six feet under. Or your brain is.