Treestand use is a popular practice for both hunters and wildlife photographers. According to the Division's Hunter Education Program,treestand safety practices have evolved over the years as new research and statistics become available. What were once considered to be 'safe' treestand safety practices 10 years ago are simply not considered 'safe' today.
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife's Hunter Education Program has teamed up with HunterExam.com to offer tips and an opportunity to take a voluntary online treestand safety course . By reviewing this 15-minute interactive, narrated treestand safety course, a tree stand owner or user will learn about the latest Treestand Manufacturers Association's safety standards and guidelines.
Treestand Safety Tips From MassWildlife and the TMA
- ALWAYS wear a Fall-Arrest System (FAS)/Full Body Harness meeting TMA Standards even during ascent and descent. Be aware that single strap belts and chest harnesses are no longer the preferred Fall-Arrest devices and should not be used. Failure to use a FAS could result in serious injury or death.
- ALWAYS read and understand the manufacturer's warnings & instructions before using the treestand each season. Practice with the treestand at ground level prior to using at elevated positions. Keep the warnings and instructions for later review as needed,for instructions on usage to anyone borrowing your stand, or to pass on when selling the treestand. Use all safety devices provided with your treestand. Never exceed the weight limit specified by the manufacturer. If you have any questions after reviewing the warnings & instructions, please contact the manufacturer.
- ALWAYS inspect the treestand and the Fall-Arrest System for signs of wear or damage before each use. Contact the manufacturer for replacement parts. Destroy all products that cannot be repaired by the manufacturer and/or exceed recommended expiration date, or if the manufacturer no longer exists. The FAS should be discarded and replaced after a fall has occurred.
- ALWAYS practice in your Full Body Harness in the presence of a responsible adult, learning what it feels like to hang suspended in it at ground level.
- ALWAYS attach your Full Body Harness in the manner and method described by the manufacturer. Failure to do so may result in suspension without the ability to recover into your treestand. Be aware of the hazards associated with Full Body Harnesses and the fact that prolonged suspension in a harness may be fatal. Have in place a plan for rescue, including the use of cell phones or signal devices that may be easily reached and used while suspended. If rescue personnel cannot be notified, you must have a plan for recovery/escape. If you have to hang suspended for a period of time before help arrives, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree or doing any other form of continuous motion. Failure to recover in a timely manner could result in serious injury or death. If you do not have the ability to recover/escape, hunt from the ground.
- ALWAYS hunt with a plan and if possible a buddy. Before you leave home, let others know your exact hunting location, when you plan to return and who is with you.
- ALWAYS carry emergency signal devices such as a cell phone, walkie-talkie, whistle, signal flare, PLD (personal locator device) and flashlight on your person at all times and within reach even while you are suspended in your FAS. Watch for changing weather conditions. In the event of an accident, remain calm and seek help immediately.
- ALWAYS select the proper tree for use with your treestand. Select a live straight tree that fits within the size limits recommended in your treestand's instructions. Do not climb or place a treestand against a leaning tree.Use 3 people to set-up any ladder-type treestand. Never leave a treestand installed for more than two weeks since damage could result from changing weather conditions and/or from other factors not obvious with a visual inspection.
- ALWAYS use a haul line to pull up your gear, unloaded firearm or bow to your treestand once you have reached your desired hunting height. If using a firearm, make sure it is unloaded and the muzzle is covered! Never attach the line near the trigger or trigger guard. Never climb with anything in your hands or on your back. Prior to descending, lower your equipment on the opposite side of the tree.
- ALWAYS know your physical limitations. Don't take chances. If you start thinking about how high you are, don't go any higher.
- NEVER use homemade or permanently elevated stands or make modifications to a purchased treestand without the manufacturer's written permission. Only purchase and use treestands and Fall-Arrest Systems meeting or exceeding TMA standards. For a detailed list of certified products, contact the TMA office or refer to the TMA web site .
- NEVER hurry!! While climbing with a treestand, make slow, even movements of no more than ten to twelve inches at a time. Make sure you have proper contact with the tree and/or treestand every time you move. On ladder-type treestands, maintain three points of contact with each step.
Using a tree stand while photographing wildlife or hunting game is a safe recreational practice. By using a little common sense, treestand use will stay that way.