Hunting Above Ground? How to Stay Safe…Treestand Safety Guidelines

Get Ready for your Fall and Winter Hunt during the summer months. Click for How To Stay Safe.

  • Get ready for hunting “Above Ground” during the Summer Months
  • Get a full body harness, then learn how to use it
  • Carry a cellphone or signaling device
Stay attached to the tree from the ground to the stand, during the hunt and back again with a properly installed Hunter Safety System Lifeline.

By Bob Holzhei

Each year, thousands of hunters are injured in tree stand accidents. In fact, according to the Treestand Safety Awareness Foundation (TSSA), there are about 4,000 emergency room visits each year due to tree stand falls.

Don’t wait until hunting season arrives to practice tree stand safety. Now, the summer months, are the ideal time to begin practicing to get ready for the fall hunt. When fall arrives, safety measures will become part of your routine.

As I got older, I gave up hunting from a tree stand and purchased a 10 by 10-foot hunting shack and loaded it onto my hay wagon. The insulated shack is heated with a Big Buddy Heater and is comfortable. My wife added, “You can go out there and sleep overnight whenever you want!”

There are a number of tree stand safety guidelines which will help educate hunters and are excellent suggestions to review prior to a yearly hunt.

First – Use a full-body fall arrest harness system, the meets stringent, industry standards. Wear the harness system every time you leave the ground, including ascending or descending from the tree stand. Single strap belts and chest harnesses are no longer allowed. Serious injuries including death have occurred each year.

Second – Attach a Full Body Harness System according to the manufacturer’s directions. The tether should have no slack when sitting. Failure to do so may result in suspension without the ability to recover to your Treestand.

Third – Always “read, review, understand and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.” If questions arise, contact the manufacturer.

Fourth – Always use a haul line to raise your backpack, gear, and unloaded firearm or bow to the Treestand. Prior to descending, lower the equipment on the side of the tree opposite your descent route.

Fifth – Practice using your Full Body Fall Arrest Harness System in the presence of a responsible adult, prior to using it in an elevated hunting environment. Learn what it feels like to hang suspended in the harness at ground level.

Sixth – Have a plan for recovery, escape, and rescue, including the use of a cellphone or signal device for use while suspended. If you are suspended before help arrives, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree. If you do not have the ability to recover or escape, hunt from the ground.

Approaching the age of 74 the hunting shack provides a comfortable place to hunt!

The HSS-HANGER is the only treestand harness designed for the off-season, hanging and removing tree stands, cutting trails and shooting lanes and running trail cameras.

How to Be a Better Deer Hunter

  • Stay dry, Stay Still, Stay Safe – Here’s How
  • Smell like the woods, Know Where You Are and Want To Go, Bring the Deer to You – Here’s How
  • Deer Down, Time for Venison Jerky – Here’s How
Big deer on the scale are a prize and this young hunter was mentored by a savvy whitebeard from another generation that was using the right stuff.

By Larry Whiteley

Deer hunting season is here if you are a bow or crossbow hunter and the firearms season will be here before you know it. I hope you are properly outfitted so you can enjoy your time and be successful in your pursuit of the white-tailed deer.

Here are some of the products my family and I use and depend on when deer hunting that you might like too. Don’t just take my word for it though. Go online or to your favorite outdoor store and check them out.

FROGG TOGGS

Most rainwear is not quiet and even slight movement’s causes sounds that can spook deer. The folks at Frogg Toggs solved that problem with their new Dead Silence rainwear. They took brushed camo material and made the quietest, driest, yet breathable jacket, bibs and hoodie I have ever owned in my 50 some years of hunting. I actually use it even when there is no chance of rain.

I really like all the pockets that help me put things I need where I can get to them. I don’t like being cold out in the deer woods so I just zip in their insulated Co-Pilot Puff Jacket and stay comfortably warm waiting for a deer to come by my secret hiding place. www.froggtoggs.com

Controlling human scent will make every hunter “rut ready.”

SCENTLOK

I have been wearing their clothing and using their OZ Chamber Bag since archery season opened this year and I also spray exposed skin and equipment then re-spray everything once I am in the stand to keep myself scent free. I have not been busted and have had plenty of opportunities to take deer but it’s still early and I am being picky.

Just in case you didn’t know it, deer have 297 million scent receptors in their nose and they even have a scent gland in their mouth as well as 2 large scent processing areas in their brain. If you’re not doing everything you possibly can to eliminate your scent you will get busted no matter how good you are. www.ScentLok.com

HUNT COMFORT

I don’t know about you but the number one thing that causes me to squirm around and move too much in my stand or blind is my butt getting uncomfortable.

This year I’m using a cushion called Fat Boy made by Hunt Comfort that is made with Gel Core. I can’t explain how it works but I do know it does and that’s all I care about. My butt is very happy! I’m also using it in my office chair as I write this and in my truck for long trips. www.huntcomfort.com

HUNTER SAFETY SYSTEMS

According to statistics, nearly one out of every three hunters who hunt from an elevated stand will fall at some point during their hunting days. That scared me after I read that so I now use their Ultra-Lite Flex safety harness and their Lifeline that keeps me safe going up and down my stands.

I also will not allow any of my family members that hunt to ever get in a tree stand again without both of these lifesaving items. I hope for your sake and your loved one’s that you will do the same. www.huntersafetysystem.com

There are ways to bring those rutting deer to you for a close shot, false scrapes can help – here’s something that works for me and my friends.

ScrapeFix

Bucks make scrapes in clearings or fairly open areas like old logging roads, power line cuts, field edges and edges of timber clearings. So, I make mock scrapes using their products for early season and right before the rut in these same areas but where they are in good range of my stand, blind or game camera.

I make the scrape by clearing out debris in about a 2 foot area under an overhanging tree branch about head high to a buck because they lick and chew branches at a scrape and won’t make the scrape without them. I then put a small amount of their product on the licking branch and the ground. If there is a place I really want to put a scrape but it doesn’t have a limb at the right height I just use their Vine and make my own. Believe me folks making your own scrapes really works in helping bring in the bucks. www.scrapefix.com

onX HUNT MAPS

I have this app downloaded on my smart phone, tablet and computer. Boy does it help with my deer hunting.  It gives me maps for all fifty states, with detailed public and private boundaries, landowner names and even hunting districts. I can even put tracks to and from my stands. I can’t believe that even when my network is nonexistent, which is often, my GPS in my phone still works offline. You sure get a lot of helpful information with this app.

Hunting app’s with maps can be a very useful tool, especially on state lands or extra large tracts in your new hunting areas.

You can go online and sign up for a 7-day free trial to see if you agree with me. It is one useful tool to put in your deer hunting arsenal. www.onxmaps.com

OUTDOOR EDGE

When it comes to field dressing a deer I have their Swing Blade series of knives and I highly recommend them. I don’t know who came up with this idea but with a push of a button the Swing Blade changes from a drop point skinner to the best gutting tool I’ve ever used.

They have a jillion styles of knives to choose from and I really like those that come with replaceable blades so I don’t have to sharpen them. Plus if you process your own deer they’ve got everything you need for that too. www.outdooredge.com

HI MOUNTAIN SEASONINGS

If you eat a lot of venison like we do, these folks have a great selection of all kinds of seasonings for grilling your deer steaks and burgers, making deer fajitas and tacos, marinating your venison and more. I use a lot of their jerky and snack stick kits in several different flavors. My grandkids at college and their friends love it when I make up a big batch for them the deer we harvest.

If you don’t have the time to make your own jerky they are now also offering jerky bagged and ready to eat.  www.himtnjerky.com

Quantum Gravity Fright, RISING MOON Hunting Night

  • Big Bucks, Acorns and Apples
  • Dreaming about Scent Control
  • Elevated Hunting Stands REQUIRE SAFETY AWARENESS
  • Prusik, Gravity, Your Whitetail Deer Hunting Future

By Forrest Fisher

Healthy bucks roamed near the field edges along the apple trees and oak woods, captivating my attention with scrapes and rubs.  Jim Monteleone Photo

The phrase “Whitetails Unlimited” is catchy if you are a deer hunter, especially a whitetail deer hunter.  It’s also the name of an organization that has more than 100,000 members because the hunting messages they share are effective, useful and are delivered from the experience of real hunters and field contributors.  There is more than beginner value.

Whitetails Unlimited Communications Director, Jeff Davis, was his usual self. Modest and humble, unassuming, friendly and confident, as he extemporaneously addressed more than 150 outdoor communicators at the opening luncheon of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW) Annual Conference at the Sportsman’s Lodge, on the Lake-of-the-Woods in Baudette, Minnesota.

His voice was passionate, descriptive and implicit with experience from encounters with an army of ardent whitetail deer hunters.  Davis has met hundreds of hunters and shared in many their most exciting tales and hunter secrets.  Hunter’s trust this hunter-gentleman because not many questions are ever left unanswered, at least not until the next issue of their extensive quarterly conservation and hunting magazine.  Magazine issue content is an art and delivery science.

Jeff Davis, Whitetails Unlimited Communications Director, is modest, humble, unassuming and highly experienced.  Davis delivered the message of “Tree Stand Safety” to outdoor communicators at the 61st Annual Conference of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers, held at Sportsman’s Lodge on Lake of the Woods in Baudette, Minnesota.  Forrest Fisher Photo

With a slight grin that emerged to also offer a note of truth and sadness, “Not every tale has a happy ending,” Davis said.  He postured his oncoming message from experience and history, with an element of approach intended to share and impart his high concern for hunter success and safety.  His audible expression was unmistakable and optimistic. He was delivering advice for hunting and addressing an eager and robust audience that was all ears.  We all felt comfortable to learn more.

As Davis continued, my mind drifted off. Was his smooth delivery hypnosis? Not sure. Was I bored? No, but my tummy was full from lunch. Like listening to a short sermon in church, my brain had transcended into an imaginary place and I was on a hunt. All the elements of what Davis had been talking about were in my dream. I think I drifted into dreamland for just a minute or two, but I clearly remember the details of my dream.

There was a succulent white oak tree forest with mounds of sweet acorns next to a row of apple trees where my trail cams had chronicled bucks rumbling antlers with each other in the previous weeks. There was a highly traveled rub line and it was near sunset in my aspiration.   A full moon had just started rising in the eastern sky, it had a tinge of orange color.  Scrapes every 25 yards were visible. There were the sounds of apples and acorns crunching in the distance from my tree stand about 95 yards downwind. Yes, I had audio, and many deer. Imagine such unlimited whitetails. I was in my place of reverie as a deer hunter.

As summer wanes, the bucks lose their velvet and seek safe resting spots in heavy cover for daytime vigils and the annual “doe watch” in wait for the upcoming rut cycle. Jim Monteleone Photo

My tree stand was situated where it was because I wanted to be safe about human scent dispersal.  There I was, sitting in a hanging tree stand elevated 20-feet, vertical access from a stick-ladder and feeling very happy and safe.  I knew this was a good spot.  It was so quiet, except for those inconsiderate munching deer chewing in the distance.

Sitting on my butt in my stand, full-body harness in place – I wear it every time, my bow was resting on my lap. The deer on this night had dispersed and had no interest for my grunt and bleat combinations. Probably a wind direction issue. The sun had disappeared and it was time to head back. Disappointed, I started to think about what to do next time.  I dropped my bow down on the lift-line, my backpack too.  Then I started down the ladder.  Oops!  My foot slips on the top step and I was suddenly airborne.  In a split second, I crashed hard into the ground and could not move.  I could not feel my arms or legs.  What happened I thought to myself?  I had been in my dream spot.  I started to grunt a bit from my perceived pain when my better half woke me up and said, “Hey Forrest, the speaker just called your name from the raffle.”

There were people clapping warmly. “Oh, I said, sorry honey, I must have dozed off.”

I got up and approached the speaker’s stand when Jeff Davis said, “You win a THE Safe-Line from MUDDY!  Congratulations!  Enjoy.”  Wow.  Thank goodness I was dreaming!  I was literally trembling as I walked back to my seat, the dream had been so real for a brief moment, then at the end, a nightmare.  I smiled, trying to hide my brief moment of fear from far away in dreamland.

When used with a full body harness (fall-arrest system), the MUDDY Safe-Line allows hunters climbing up or down to stay connected to safety and avoid a fall that could result in serious injury or death. (Photo Courtesy of GoMUDDY.com)

As I sat there in a semi-stupor, I realized that in the dream I had been so focused on the next hunt, that safely getting down from the tree came second.  My safety came second.  My life came second.  My safety and how important I was to my family was not even part of my thinking in the dream.  It was now.  So I took a step back to really think about it.  I knew that another force from far away must have been talking to me to even have this dream, or maybe that Jeff Davis was one of those magic-maker speakers where everyone can get up and talk like a chicken upon request.  You’ve seen the act.  I laughed to myself and grinned over to my wife who said, “You’re so lucky!”  No kidding, especially this time, I thought.

So I continued in my post-dream thought, how could this accident have been prevented?  We know how my safety was compromised because every solid hunter has thought about the next hunt at the end of a fruitless day.  We can lose our focus for safety during “thinking moments” like that.

A MUDDY Safe-Line for secure descent would have saved me from this dream accident.  Under $40 worth of gear (www.gomuddy.com), the same gear I had just won.  I felt connected to another source of energy for a second or two.  Sort of unreal.  For a moment, no kidding, I felt an angel must have been telling me that I need to be more aware of safety.  Thank you Lord.

To use the Safe-Line, you attach the line to the tree just above your tree stand with the loop knot provided.  You leave this rope in place now during hunting season.  The body harness Carabiner Clip latches right onto the Prusik knot loop of the Safe-Line – it comes with two Prusik slip knots (for a two-man stand), the Prusik loop slides down the Safe-Line as you proceed one step at a time and down you go.  Safely.  The bottom of the Safe-Line is then tied around the tree at ground level.  Going up or down on slippery steps wet from rain, snow or ice is no longer a safety concern.  The Prusik knot will go with you as you gently push it up or slide it down with you in either direction.  If you should drop quickly, it immediately locks into place, saving you from rapid descent, a fall and possible death.

Fall arrest systems are comprised of a full body harness such as these from Hunter Safety Systems and include a tree belt, lanyard, relief device and climbing belt. When used in conjunction with a “Safe-Line” and Prusik Loop Knots, hunters are protected from ever falling to injury during ascent or descent. Photo courtesy of www.hssvest.com.

Davis’s message from Whitetails Unlimited Magazine for the attending outdoor journalists visiting from across the country was TREE STAND SAFETY.

I think I got the message. In my case, Davis had help even he did not know about. No, I’m not superstitious, but I am listening to thoughts of safety much more now.  The dream honestly scared me.

My grandkids are just coming of age to hunt deer and the kids will be just like many of us in the outdoors, hunting from that one place that deer rarely see, an elevated tree stand.  Safety will be the first concern for each of us when we consider the future safety of our grandkids.

Write it down as a MUST-HAVE:

One (1) Safe-Line (MUDDY, www.gomuddy.com) for every tree stand and one (1) full-body harness (HUNTER SAFETY SYSTEM, www.hssvest.com) for every hunter in your party. 

Then and only then, can you go up and down from your elevated tree stand in total safety while thinking about the strategy for the exciting day ahead, or for the strategy on that next deer hunt.  I had a lucky dream, then a lucky raffle.  Don’t you be unlucky by choice.  Conquer safety. Make it habit. Start now.

Pass it on. Please.

About Whitetails Unlimited: Founded in 1982, Whitetails Unlimited is a national nonprofit conservation organization that has remained true to its mission, making great strides in the field of conservation. We have gained the reputation of being the nation’s premier organization dedicating our resources to the betterment of the white-tailed deer and its environment.  On behalf of our 105,000 plus members, we welcome you to browse our site and learn more about WTU, our past accomplishments, and the organization’s commitment to caring for our priceless renewable natural resources. We appreciate your interest in Whitetails Unlimited and hope that after reviewing our site, you will consider joining the whitetail team “Working for an American Tradition.”  The Whitetails Unlimited quarterly magazine (60-80 pages, 4 times per year) is not available on newsstands, only through membership.

Big Buck Stories Start with the Moon

Big bucks begin the ritual of searching for hot does in their mating cycle ahead of when the female deer are ready. According to predictions, the 2016 rut will be late this year, after November 14th. Joe Forma Picture

Ever since I was a little kid, watching the sky for the moon, the stars, and now satellites and the space station, has always been an exciting encounter. Getting older, when it seems I need fewer haircuts, has allowed me to connect that deer and the moon are synchronized through a master system that some experts say they understand. According to experts that follow the moon, the rut for 2016 will be a late event, set to occur about one week after November 14th, the date for the traditional rutting moon.

Yet, regardless of the 2016 moon cycle right now, whitetail deer seasons across the country are either open or are set open very soon based on calendar dates. The reality of big game archery hunters afield will be noted by vehicles parked along traditional hunting areas wherever they exist.

Deer will usually not be “fast on the move” this early ahead of the main rut, but no matter, it is always great to be in the deer woods. The fresh air, the silence, the time away from modern life, allows hunter folks to hear crispy, outdoorsy, none-essential sounds that are hard to describe any other way, and they are somehow appealing.

Crunchy autumn leaves as they gently break off from tree limbs make a distinct departure sound and again a distinct landing sound, as they meet the earthen floor. With a gentle wind and enough leaves are falling, a hunter can be moved to think there is something walking in the woods. Something like a deer. So it’s a special and uniquely exciting experience as we begin to hunt this fall.

Summer to autumn is a time of year that marks a normal change for all of us. Starting with the shortened hours of daylight, the first week in October is when the hours of daylight actually become less than the hours of nighttime. Hence, while most of us think of this phenomenon as simply – “winter is around the corner”, the tilting axis of our Earth in this annual position of orbit around the sun comes into reality in this manner. Without additional explanation, the change in daylight hours is real and that causes deer (and other critters too) to begin their hormonal trigger to transition toward their mating mood.

Traditionally, the first full moon after the autumn equinox (September 21) is called the farmers “Harvest Moon”, it will occur on October 16. It’s late this year, most farmers will already have made their harvest. With the increasing hours of more darkness than daylight, nocturnally-minded deer become instinctive to mate. The problem is, a majority of the doe’s (female deer) are usually not ready until at least another month passes.

Between the Harvest Moon and the next full moon that occurs on November 14, said to be known to the Indians as the “Hunters Moon” (for good reason), hunters will find areas in the woods where hot bucks mark the domain of their territory. Scrapes on the ground below favored licking branches, with accompanying antler rubs on nearby trees. The cycle of bucks and doe’s is fun to watch from a tree stand.

Studies show that really big dominant bucks can roam a rather large area of five or six miles and call it “their territory.” Smaller bucks always bow to the giants, so being on stand to even see a giant buck is really a simple matter of timing and luck.

To properly attach a Hunter Safety Systems full body harness and restraint to the tree, it’s got to be high to perform properly. Photo courtesy of Hunter Outdoor Communications LLC

Look for larger scrapes and rubs on giant trees to put yourself in an area of larger deer, then use your portable climbing tree stand to elevate to a vertical position where you can situate yourself downwind from the scrapes and rubs and be in a favorable position to make the perfect arrow placement.

Use of a trail camera will confirm the size of the bucks and does that visit the scrape you are monitoring. Since many deer are more active after dark, the new ultraviolet sensing cameras work to record all the deer activity without being detected by the deer. Many hunters use a Stic-N-Pic mechanical camera stand to hold the camera at an exact position or angle (see http://www.sticnpic.com/), I have one of these and they work very well.

While trail-cam technology can offer some advantage, just hunting the scrape is sufficient to provide you with a hunter awareness advantage. The problem with a trail cam is that hunters want to check them regularly “to see” what has come through. Doing that will leave hunter human scent in the stand area and work against the hunter, so smart hunters with trail cam’s get the memory chips and switch in new chips to review when it’s raining.

For tree stand hunters, portable or fixed, please be sure to use a full body harness that is designed to assure your safety. Don’t go vertical without a proven full body harness (visit http://www.huntersafetysystem.com/).

Large bucks or small, hunters with arrows still have to calm their nerves and make the perfect shot to succeed. One thing most successful hunters share is that they have learned never to look at the horns. Experienced hunters say that you really need to train yourself into that mental mode and it is hard to do.

After first noting that the deer you have spotted is a buck you would like to harvest, look only at the perfect target spot. From then on – in your mind, many make believe they are target shooting. Your nerves will be more in control, so say experts. My heart starts pounding a bit with any deer I see during bow season, but after hunting with arrows these last 50 years or so, the tremble and shake is better, but not gone. It’s still exciting!

Keep in mind, during that one week period after the Hunters Moon, bucks will run across roads and only care to chase the scent of a doe in heat, forgetting about their scrapes and rubs, and anything else including the scent of a hunter. It’s a good time to be hunting. The bucks simply chase the does that are ready to breed and stay with them until they succeed. When the does are ready and not one minute sooner, that is usually the week that many big bucks are taken.

The bucks are only looking for doe’s in heat, hence, they ignore just about everything else. So to become part of that chemical scent message telegram in the woods, that is the time for hunters to use “doe-in-heat” scent with a dragging line to their stand, put up a few odor canisters (check your state laws), and try to mimic the smell of a female deer that is trying to find a buck.

Stay calm, shoot straight, enjoy the harvest.