As I type this piece out, we are only thirteen days away from the much-anticipated archery season for those of us living in the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Zone C, and the excitement is building. Archers all over the county are checking, testing, and fine-tuning their equipment. There is one piece of gear that is largely overlooked, and I want you to look closely at it. For each of you headed to the tops of the trees in ambush of your favorite game, Be safe and double-check your climbing gear!
I mostly bring it up because, over the years, I’ve taken some mighty bad falls. Which, if any of you ever wondered, explains why I do all of my hunting on the ground! It didn’t take too many times of nearly dying out in the woods before I finally figured out that fat guys and gravity are not a good combination. But for you arboreal bowhunters out there, take the time to thoroughly inspect your stands and climbing gear.
One of the biggest reasons guys fall is that they aren’t using their safety harnesses. I guess a lot of guys get in a hurry and take off or detach their safety harnesses for speed. What’s your hurry? At all times, remain tethered to the tree or stand. Sure, it’s a pain in the rear, but I’d hate for you to begin your archery season with a visit to the emergency room.
A statistic that was shared repeatedly with me is that one-third of all treestand hunters will fall from a stand sometime during their lives and that about three percent of them will suffer crippling injuries. Therefore, there are a few more points of safety to consider before we hit the woods next Saturday morning. Before using it, inspect your stand for defects, wear and tear, or broken parts. This includes new stands! Set them up and make a few climbs; test them out. And for any pre-placed stands, use your flashlight and study them for any damage.
Now, you need to check the tree really well and make certain it’s good and alive before making your way up, and then try to hunt comfortably and safely out of it. The last thing you want is for a dead tree to fall over in a strong breeze while you’re in your stand and tethered to it!
If you use screw-in tree steps or climbing sticks, make sure that the lowest step is low enough so you aren’t stretching too far to reach it going up or having to jump down after. Also, be sure to place steps at an easy distance up the tree. Practice with them at home to better understand their placement. I was recently visiting with Shonn Rivers, the owner of River’s Outdoor and Archery in Masaryktown, and he was showing me some new carbon tree steps. They are so amazingly light and pack down so flat that you can afford to carry a few extras with you and not overextend your steps to gain a few more feet in elevation.
Now, a big tip… Never carry your bow up and down the tree. Always use a pull rope to raise and lower it and any other spare gear. It’ll keep your hands free to maintain a good grip while climbing.
Pay attention, you young guys, especially. I know you’re all tough. You can climb around trees just like an extra in a Tarzan film. So, why should you worry about safety? Here’s why: because it only takes one brief moment for your life to be ruined. Always think ahead and anticipate what may go wrong and how to overcome it. As always, if you have any questions or comments on this week’s column, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God Bless, and good hunting!