There are probably statistics to bear it out, but a quick survey of the deer hunters I know finds that most hunt from some type of elevated platform, especially the bow hunters. But if you’re going to hunt from a tree stand, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to follow some common-sense safety procedures. The following are based on guidelines from the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association, with a little editorializing.

First and foremost, always wear a Full Body Fall Arrest Harness System.

Thanks to the TMA’s efforts, virtually all new tree stands now come with an FAS that meets stringent, industry standards. They used to come with a belt, and later with an upper body harness, but continual rigorous testing showed those to be inadequate. You need a full-body harness, and manufacturers have gone to great lengths to make those harnesses more lightweight, compact and comfortable, not to mention safer.

Don’t scrimp. The FAS that came with your stand will suffice (provided it is TMA certified) but some after-market ones are even better. And if yours shows any sign of wear or damage, discard it and get a new one. The cost of even the best harness is far less than that of a visit to the emergency room and time laid up and out of work. The same applies to your tree stand. Make sure it is TMA certified and in good working order.

This next bit of advice applies mostly to men, especially older ones: Always attach your FAS in the manner and method described by the manufacturer, which necessitates reading the instructions. Like any tool, it won’t work properly if you don’t use it the right way. Straps should be tight, but just loose enough to still be comfortable. Attach your tether high enough so there is no slack when sitting. Practice before hunting and adjust straps as necessary at ground level.

When it’s time to climb, never have anything in your hands or on your back. Use some type of rope, cord or strap to raise and lower your backpack, gear, unloaded firearm or bow. Otherwise you increase the risk of falling and damaging your equipment, or worse, yourself.

Another important point. Most falls occur when climbing in or out of a stand. Move slowly and always try to maintain three points of contact. An additional way to significantly reduce the risk of injury is to use a full-length tether, and there are several types available. When installing your stand, attach the tether and lower it to the ground. On subsequent visits, you can clip on at ground level and be attached throughout your climb.

When using a climbing stand, you should attach your tether and raise it as you climb. I daresay many folks probably don’t do this. It only takes a few more minutes, and as an associate of mine once said, “I’d rather be tardy than absent.”

You should always carry a cellphone or some type of signaling device – like a two-way radio, whistle, signal flare, personal locator device or flashlight you can easily reach and use while suspended. The harness will arrest your fall, but if you can’t recover in a timely fashion, you’re at risk of suspension trauma. Try to keep blood flowing to your extremities, especially legs, by pushing against the tree or doing some continuous motion.

Being prepared ahead of time also includes letting others know where you’ll be hunting and when you plan to return. Tell someone or leave a note, at home or in your vehicle so you can be located quickly if you don’t return or have an accident.

Where you hang your stand is also important. Pick a live, healthy and straight tree that is within the size limits recommended by the tree stand manufacturer. Avoid leaning trees or those that are dead or dying. And don’t leave your stand in place for more than a few weeks without at least inspecting it.

Last but not least, be smart. Know your limits and don’t take chances. Use only certified equipment and use it right. Climb only as high as you feel safe and capable of recovering should you fall. And if you don’t feel comfortable off the ground, stay on it. For more information on tree stand safety, visit www.tmastands.com.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]