WATERBURY, Vt. – Taking a stand, political or otherwise, can be dangerous, but no more so when that stand is up a tree.
The bowhunting boom of the 1970s introduced a new tool to hunters -- portable, commercially-made tree stands – and hunters were quick to discover their advantages. You can see over the brush, deer generally don’t look up, and when the wind is right, your scent will drift above deer that are close. However, using them safely demands preparation and precaution. With archery season open and firearms season just around the corner, here are some tips to get the most out of your tree stand hunting experience:
- Choose a live, straight tree.
Find the deer first, then find a healthy tree within shooting range
- Choose smart stands.
Only use stands certified by the Treestand Manufacturers Association (TMA).
- Inspect your stands.
Look for loose nuts and bolts each time they are used.
- Know the rules.
On state lands, it is illegal to place nails or other hardware into trees or to build permanent structures. On private lands, it is illegal to erect any tree stand, cut or remove trees or other plants, or to cut limbs without the landowner's permission. Regardless of property status, all stands, including ground blinds, must be marked with the owner’s name and address.
- Always wear full-body safety harness, even for climbing.
Most falls happen when going up and down the tree, and getting in and out of the stand.
- Don't go too high.
The higher you go, the smaller the vital zone on a deer becomes, while the likelihood of a serious injury increases. Usually, 15 to 20 feet is sufficient
- Never try to carry firearms or bows up and down trees.
Always use a rope to raise and lower all gear. Make sure your firearm is unloaded.
- Strap in as soon as you get in the stand.
To catch your fall, a short tether is safer than a long one. If you do fall, replace your tether.
- Familiarize yourself with your gear before you go.
The morning of opening day is poor time to put your safety belt on for the first time.
- Be careful with long-term placement.
Exposure to the elements can damage straps, ropes and attachment cords. Also, the stand’s stability can be compromised, over time, as the tree grows.
These tips are offered by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s Hunter Education Program. Each year, the Program’s 350 volunteer instructors certify almost 5,000 students. The free courses are entirely funded by hunters and shooters through the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program.
Be smart, think safety, and good luck.