Safety First: Preparing for the Upcoming Deer Season
For many parts of the country, deer season is now just a couple months away and hunters are beginning to prepare by scouting and hanging tree stands or placing blinds in their favorite areas. While this is an exciting time of year, it is also among the most dangerous, as most haven’t considered safety precautions since the end of last season. Here are a few important things to remember before heading afield this pre-season.
Despite all of the warnings, and with far too many examples of what can happen if you don’t practice treestand safety, seeing stories about falls and fall-related injuries this time of year is common. According to statistics, approximately one in every three hunters will fall from a treestand at some point during their hunting career. It is believed that many more go unreported, as do near-misses. These accidents are largely due to carelessness and can be avoided.
Before leaving for the woods, inspect your safety harness thoroughly to make sure that there are no rips and tears, or unusual wear. Believe it or not, harnesses have an expiration date due to breakdown of materials so figure a replacement into your budget every few years. In addition, make sure that ladders, steps, and stands are also in good working order with no visible cracking, breaking or missing parts. Never use a homemade stand, and always look for the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association seal of approval.
Because most falls happen when stands are being hung, taken down or when climbing onto and off of the platform, it is imperative that you connect yourself using a haul line that reaches from the ground, all the way to and above your stand. This way you are always connected and protected in case of a fall or equipment failure. For more information on treestand safety, visit the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association website.
Hiking in Rugged Terrain or at High Altitude
Not all pre-season accidents happen due to the use of treestands. In fact, many more happen while your feet are on the ground. Not everyone is in prime hunting shape yet this time of year, and overdoing it can lead to anything from exhaustion to twisted ankles and knees, or worse. This is particularly true for western hunters who are seeking out new areas for mule deer or blacktails. Maybe you drew a tag in a unit that you’re not familiar with and you’re trying to see as much of the terrain as possible in preparation for hunting season. This common scenario can make you particularly vulnerable.
If you’re scouting at higher elevations, be cognizant of the signs of altitude sickness, such as difficulty breathing, headaches and loss of appetite. Rapidly changing weather conditions can also be a problem so wearing a layering system can prove beneficial. You may be surprised to learn that more people die from hypothermia each year in the summer than any other season.
When scouting, always be sure to let someone know where you’re going, including leaving a map that you review with them before leaving. Make sure you have the appropriate footwear and clothing for the type of area you will be exploring, and always drink plenty of fluids to remain hydrated.
Carry a cell phone and keep it turned on and in a place that you can easily reach at all times. If you are in an area without cell phone coverage, consider purchasing or renting a satellite phone, which will work almost anywhere. If neither of those options are available, make a plan with family or friends for checking in at certain times so that someone knows where you are and that you are okay.
While concentrating on safety isn’t the most exciting thing to do heading into hunting season, it’s the most important. A little bit of time spent on safety now will go a long way toward helping you have a more enjoyable and successful season in the fall. Please don’t become a statistic, whether it be suffering an injury, or much worse. You owe it to yourself and your friends and family to do everything you can to prevent an accident.