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Safe tactics for archery season

By DICK MARTIN • Sep 2, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Some years ago I drove over to the Woodbury Wildlife Area to do a little bow hunting. I was sitting in my tree stand that morning when I heard a hundred yards or so away, the sound of a crash, breaking branches, a sodden thud, and some of the most colorful language I've heard in years. Ten minutes or so later I saw a man limp past supported by his partner, still cursing. He'd obviously fallen out of his tree stand.

Archery hunters, either on the ground or high above in stands, are definitely more prone to accidents than gun hunters. Their weaponry is (literally) razor sharp and potential for injury greater. In fact, in a reader survey by Deer and Deer Hunting Magazine, 37 percent of respondents reported having been injured while climbing a tree to hang a tree stand. And there's little doubt that a goodly percentage of the rest had fallen out of a tree stand or been injured while ground hunting.

In all my years of tree stand hunting for deer, I've NEVER fallen out of one or even come close. That's because I never sat up there without a safety belt carefully wrapped around the trunk and clipped in front. Not only was I safe, but the belt allowed me to lean out on this side or that, even turn around to see better or get a good shot. Wearing a belt is only common sense and they're available at any good sporting goods store, often coming with the tree stand you purchase.

Another source of serious accidents is climbing into a permanent tree stand, sometimes one that's been there for years. The absolute worse is one I've seen multiple times, a stand reached by climbing up 2 x 4's simply nailed into the trunk. The nails rust, loosen over years, and many a time an archer was half way up when a wooden section broke loose and sent him plummeting to the ground. Even one reached by a metal ladder or whatever and nailed together above to make a platform can rot over time as a well known dentist once found out when he fell through and broke his back.

Climbing up a tree to place a tree stand, one of those types where you inch worm up a trunk, place it and sit can also be dangerous. They slip sometimes or something gives way, especially older types, and down you go. Smart archers wear a linesman's safety belt, the kind used to shinny up telephone poles, when they climb. Chances of falling, at least more than a few inches, are extremely small then.

Take care with your weaponry, too. No archer should ever climb into a tree stand carrying his bow or crossbow. Instead, tie your gear to a sturdy piece of trotline cord, and when you're up there and settled, then lift your equipment to hand. When it's time to come down, do the same in reverse. I still remember a man who lowered his crossbow to a friend waiting below with a bolt still in place. The crossbow bumped the trunk, went off, and shot his friend downward through the neck. He was killed almost instantly.

Here's a final thought for ground archers doing a little still hunting. It can be a temptation to nock an arrow as you walk or put a bolt in your crossbow. But it's very easy to trip over a vine or bit of fallen timber and see a razor sharp broadhead end up in you instead of a deer. It takes only seconds to place either, and if those seconds cost you a kill, think of the alternative. It isn't worth it.


Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at richmart@neo.rr.com. You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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