Tree Stand Safety
Remember: Safe Hunting is NO Accident
It is impossible to know exactly how many hunters are injured every year from tree stand accidents because:
- Not all accidents are reported
- Not everyone who falls seeks medical attention
- Not all tree stand accidents are recorded as a category by themselves in hospitals
- Recording varies from State to State
- There is no national collection of data
A 1993 survey conducted by Deer and Deer Hunting magazine found that more than a third [37%] of tree stand hunters will at some time fall from a stand, and that about 3 % will suffer crippling injuries.
Of all the tree stand accidents, 75-80% occurs while climbing up or down.
Most hunters injured were not wearing a safety harness/vest.
Some reports have indicated that as many as 500 hunters are killed every year across North America due to accidents involving tree stands. There are another 5,000 to 7,000 permanently disabled and a further 10,000 to 15,000 hunters sustain less serious injuries.
In 2005/2006 in the Georgia hunting season, 54% of all hunting accidents were tree stand accidents  with 2 fatalities. Both fatalities saw the victim falling from the stand. One hunter fell asleep in his stand and then fell 17 feet breaking his neck. The other fatality involved a hunter who was descending his stand, lost his grip, fell and died of internal injuries.
The severity of injuries tends to increase with the distance the victim falls, however even short falls can cause spinal injuries and paralysis or death.
The main contributors were:
- Improper stand installation and
- Improper use
The majority of falls were due to:
- Structural failure of stands and steps, especially those that are homebuilt and wooden
So how can we avoid injury or death when we are tree stand hunting?
See our section on: safety in treestands as well as accidents in treestands.
Pick the Right Stand
Read our section on Deer Stands to understand the different types of tree stands, and which are suitable for you and your particular hunting environment – so you can choose the correct type of tree stand.
If you can afford it, buy a new tree stand that is approved by the Treestand Manufacturers Association [TMA]. The TMA have produced a very helpful set of tree stand safety guidelines.
The TMA is a standards-based organisation that employs 2 independent companies for testing tree stands and equipment. Nearly 30 manufacturers belong to the TMA.
The TMA specifically devotes its resources to tree stand safety. It endeavors to improve tree stand safety by education in the proper use of tree stands, the development of tree stand manufacturing standards, product testing, manufacturing quality control and the promotion of mandatory use of Fall Arrest Systems/Full Body Harness devices.
When tree stands are tested to be certified by the TMA, they are load-tested at twice the rated capacity of the product.
If you are buying a second hand stand, get it checked for bends, cracks, missing nuts or bolts and any signs of damage.
If you already own a tree stand or have purchased a second hand one, our section on Tree Stand Maintenance will be of interest.
Pick the Right Equipment
When using your tree stand, your fall restraint system is your single most important piece of equipment. A full body harness is strongly recommended. A rope or belt around the waist can be almost as dangerous as falling to the ground. A belt around the waist can cause a hunter to turn upside down should they fall, and the tightening of the belt around their waist can cause internal injuries.
Carry a whistle [in your pocket or around your neck so you can use it if you find yourself hanging from a tree by your harness], cellular phone, flashlight and first aid kit with you as listed in our 20-point tree stand safety checklist.
Pick the Right Tree
Choosing the correct tree is vital for your safety as well as effectiveness of your hunt. The tree should be strong, healthy with no dead limbs, and sturdy enough to support you in your tree stand. See our 20-point tree stand safety checklist that covers the points to look for in selecting the correct tree and hanging your stand correctly.
Additionally you should always follow general hunting safety practices to minimize the your risks further.