Deer hunters advised to make safety a priority when using tree stands

A deer hunter using a tree stand. (Photo: Steve Maslowski, USFWS)

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources urges hunters to make safety, especially the use of a full-body fall arrest harness, a priority when hunting from a tree stand.

Gun season for deer hunting begins in both Tennessee and Alabama Nov. 18, and it’s already underway in Georgia.

Between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, there were 33 reported hunting accidents, four of which involved fatalities, in Georgia. Thirty-one of those, with three fatalities, involved tree stand falls.

Dear hunters:

The International Hunter Education Association reports that about 10 percent of hunters who use tree stands are injured each year, with 75 percent of tree stand injuries occurring during the use of fixed positions or climbing stands. That said, most tree stand-related accidents are preventable if hunters take a few safety precautions.

The nonprofit Tree Stand Manufacturers Association offers the following safety reminders (view a couple of TSMA tree stand safety videos here):

Never climb while carrying weapons or gear. Draw them up with a rope after you’re securely seated in the stand.

Never use a stand that has worn, missing or loose parts.

Always wear a full-body harness. Keep the tether as short as possible and clear of neck and shoulders.

If you feel yourself becoming drowsy or sick, get out of the tree. Many falls occur as a result of falling asleep or from sudden illness.

Practice using the harness, including suspending yourself by the tether, before you go hunting. Always have a helper standing by for practice runs.

If you ever fall, first contact a hunting partner and let them know you are attempting self-recovery. Ask them to keep tabs on you with return calls every five minutes.

If you can’t recover and are hanging suspended by the tether, call for help. Keep your legs moving to pump blood out of them. Otherwise, blood pooling in the legs could cause you to pass out.

Manufacturers say the safest recovery via a harness is to climb back into the stand. Only as a last resort should you cut the tether or release the harness buckles.

Additional hunting and firearm safety tips:

Always wear fluorescent orange.

Always be respectful of other hunters and property owners where you hunt.

Stay on established roads. Do not operate any vehicle, including ATVs, within streambeds.

Secure landowner permission before hunting on private property.

Control the direction of the firearm’s muzzle.

—Keep the safety on and fingers off the trigger at all times until ready to shoot.

Identify the target and what is beyond before shooting. Know the identifying features of the game hunted and be absolutely certain that what you are aiming at is that game.

Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions and that only the proper-size ammunition is used in the firearm.

Always unload a firearm when it is not in use, leave the actions open, and carry empty firearms in a case to and from shooting areas.

Never aim a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot. Avoid all horseplay with a firearm.

Never climb a tree or fence, or jump a ditch or log, with a loaded firearm.

—Never pull a firearm toward you by the muzzle.

Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or at water.

Store firearms and ammunition separately and beyond the reach of children and careless adults.

Avoid all alcoholic beverages and drugs before and during shooting.

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