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Use Caution When Hunting From Tree Stands

Deer hunters employ a wider variety of hunting techniques than do hunters of any other big game species. Still hunting, spotting and stalking, driving (or "brushing"), stand hunting (tree or ground), calling, rattling, floating in a drift boat...all are methods which bring success in deer hunting with the right conditions and a little luck. Over the years I've tried them all. When it comes to hunting whitetails (and even river bottom dwelling mule deer), some of my most memorable outdoor experiences have occurred while in a tree stand. I've even managed to take a few deer in the process. While bow hunting in complete camouflage, a screech owl landed less than a foot away from my face on my bow limb. On another hunt from an apple tree, a mother and young porcupine climbed from the ground to above my head in a tree. They never knew I was there until I began to descend at dark. A red squirrel jumped on my shoulder, ran across my back and onto a branch, then jumped to another tree and disappeared out of sight. At such times you feel confident your camo cover is good! From a tree stand, I've watched foxes hunt for mice, and deer feed into the open well out of range yet close enough to enjoy for hours. A huge whitetail buck followed the doe-in-heat scent left by my boots all the way to the tree I was in. He went so far as to sniff the wooden blocks I had used to climb up the tree. Lucky for him the steps were on the side of the tree behind me and I couldn't turn enough to get a shot at him! But as much time as I've spent in tree stands, I've never reached a high comfort level while suspended from the ground watching the world around me. Concern about what would happen if the stand slipped or I lost my balance never leaves my mind no matter how many hours I'm there. "What goes up must come down". The key element to safely hunting from a tree stand is coming down how and when you choose to, not when the law of gravity makes the decision for you. There are several precautions tree stand hunters should take to make certain their hunt is one they can walk away from. The most obvious is to use a safety belt, rope or harness at all times. Since most falls occur while climbing or descending, have one attached from the time you leave the ground until you return. These are readily available and reasonably priced...probably the least expensive piece of equipment you'll have with you. A safety belt should be fastened at waist height or slightly higher with only eight to twelve inches of slack. With more slack you risk being suspended from the tree upside down. Ten to twelve feet is plenty high for your stand. The higher you get the smaller your target becomes. As you go higher, you increase the angle of your shot and the distance to a deer under your stand. Accounts I have read about tree stand accidents speak of thirty foot falls. Ten to twelve feet is plenty high. Carefully inspect your stand before using it. Portable stands should be checked for loose nuts and bolts etc. Permanent stands should be checked for rotting supports and platforms. If you find a stand in the woods and intend to use it, use extra caution. The stand may be many years old and incapable of supporting a person.