Health Break | Published September 8, 2008 | Written by Rich A. Kelley, NREMT-P

Healthy Hunting Tips to Avoid Tree-stand Related Injuries

The use of treestands for hunting is becoming more popular each year. Hunting from elevated stands has many advantages. Hunters position themselves in trees to improve their field of view and to reduce the chance of being detected by game. Hunting from treestands can be more productive, but using them can also be very dangerous.

One survey revealed that approximately 30 percent of hunters have experienced accidents or falls while in their stands. Another survey by Deer and Deer Hunting magazine found that nearly 80 percent of the fall victims in their survey were not wearing a fall restraint system. Of the 2,300 respondents in the survey, 70 suffered permanent crippling injuries.

The proper use of treestands and fall restraint equipment will help prevent injury or even death from such falls. Reduce the chance of a treestand accident by following the tips below:

  • Scout preseason and locate good stand sites.

  • Choose a tree that is straight and healthy. Never select a leaning, diseased, shaggy-barked, or dead tree to place a stand.

  • Never use homemade treestands or treestands made from wood. Only use a treestand approved by the Treestand Manufacturers Association (TMA).

  • Insert screw-in steps only into the solid, live portion of wood of a tree.

  • If using a climbing stand, tie both the climber and platform together to assure that the platform cannot slip away out of your reach.

  • Always use a fall restraint system (a full-body restraint system or safety harness that wraps around your chest, waist and legs) when using an elevated platform. Choose a harness that will keep you upright and not restrict your breathing.

  • Anytime your feet leave the ground, a fall restraint system should be used. Nearly 85 percent of all falls occur while climbing in or getting out of treestands.

  • Never leave a stand installed for more than two weeks. Trees grow in diameter and may stress buckles, chains or straps and cause the treestand to fail.

  • Use common sense when choosing a height for your treestand. You need not go too high. A treestand height of 12-15 feet will provide all of the advantage you need.

  • Read and follow the manufacturers guidelines and inspect all treestands regularly.

  • Hunt with a plan and a buddy. Have someone contact you if you dont return at an established time.

  • Never mix guns with drugs or alcohol. This creates a recipe for disaster

Whether using a treestand or not, it is always wise to carry a small first aid kit into the woods. A couple dressings and cravats will help control most external bleeding.

Also be sure to carry a means of communications, such as a cellular phone or a GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radio to talk to other members of the hunting party. Most cell phones are GPS (Global Positioning System) enabled, which allows 911 centers to pinpoint the callers location. Unfortunately, this technology isn't yet available in the Centre and Clinton County areas. Therefore, a separate handheld GPS unit is required. With a GPS unit, the caller is able to give the 911 telecommunicator his or her coordinates, enabling the 911 center to dispatch the closest appropriate Emergency Medical Services and avoid delay in locating the caller.

And before heading into the woods, schedule a physical exam with your physician. In addition, Mount Nittany Medical Center will again offer its free Hunters Health Day screening on Saturday, September 13 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Medical Centers Trustees Conference Room on the ground floor accessible through Entrance D in the rear of the Medical Center. Hunters Health Day screenings include EKGs, as well as screenings of cholesterol, blood sugar, hearing, blood pressure and more. No appointment is necessary. For more information, call the Department of Prehospital Services at 814.231.7054.

Rich Kelley is the prehospital services coordinator at Mount Nittany Medical Center.