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1/08/2012

There had not been much action on a warm fall afternoon earlier this season.  I was sitting in a newly hung stand set located near a homemade ladder stand I had built back in my teens. The deer were not active so I had plenty of time to daydream back to the days when I used that homemade stand. I recalled why I built that stand in the first place, I was too chicken to use a conventional chain-on stand, they just seemed too flimsy for a guy who was 6’3” 250 lbs. The ladder I had built on that stand was completely vertical and the transition onto the platform itself was always very tricky due to a lack of anything told grab ahold of when climbing on or off the platform, but yet time and again I’d sit in that stand, not once using any safety equipment. I also thought back to the seasons that followed and how I had made my own the chain-on stands for the same reason I thought they were better constructed than any store bought stand.  Deer stand 1I’d weld them myself using scraps from the metal bin at work: flimsy angle-iron, thick, heavy expandable metal, and whatever else I could scrounge up. I also reminisced about how the platform of one of those homemade stands collapsed under me while I was jumping on it in an attempt to dig the bolts I had sharpened with a grinder and welded along the back of the platform into the tree, leaving me bear hugging the tree 12 feet off of the ground. Not very smart! Chalk it up to being young and dumb I guess.

Come on, admit it, we’ve all done it. At some point in your hunting careers you’ve sat in a tree stand without the proper safety equipment. Even with the advances in technology like fall suppression, braking equipment, etc., we routinely fail to take safety into consideration. Excuses range from the infamous ‘it’ll never happen to me’ bravado to simply forgetting your safety vest back in the truck and taking the risk that today won’t be the day.

Fast-forward twenty years to the present time. There I sit a good 20 feet in the air, easily 5 to 8 feet higher than the box blind stand I had built back in my early teens, yet I feel completely safe due to the safety measures I’ve now made a mandatory part of my hunting methods. At all times I’m connected to the tree via the use of my FallGuy 20 foot retractable belt I use with my safety vest. I sure love that little contraption, I haven’t had to see it in action yet, which is a good thing, but just having the security of knowing it’s there sure eases the mind when climbing up frost-covered strap-on ladder sticks onto an icy tree stand platform.

oldstandI personally have only fallen once from a stand. It wasn’t a complete fall from the platform, I was at chest height when I fell, but how fast it can happen really opened my eyes. All I was doing was unstrapping a store-bought ladder stand I intended on moving. When the second ratchet strap released the ladder sprung away from the tree and for a split second I found myself dangling 10-feet up and nowhere to go but down. Thank goodness the soft floor of the cedar swamp cushioned my fall. Even with that, my lower back and hips sure were sore for the next few days. I know of two other people who have fallen as well, one fell asleep and he awoke on the way down, right before he landed on top his camcorder. He ended up with back issues for years to follow. Another fell out of his homemade ladder stand and fractured his pelvis. I haven’t asked him how that’s affected him but I’m sure as he ages it’ll bother him on cool, damp days.

Many of us love the sport so much that we sometimes let our passion over take our common sense. No rack of antlers or grilled backstrap is worth being seriously hurt or worse. The most important peace of equipment you take with you to the woods is the equipment that keeps you safe.