Tree Stand Safety
In 1998, Michigan firearm deer hunters joined archers in having the choice to hunt from elevated platforms. With the use of these hunting aids came new considerations for the hunter and a need to:
Hunt Safely by understanding how to use tree stands and all related equipment correctly, reducing the chance of injury or death;
Hunt Smart through correct handling of firearms or bows at all times and attention to the many differences between ground and elevated hunting; and
Hunting Responsibly by respecting your environment and the other people who use it. Hunters should follow platform use regulations and "leave no trace" when passing through an area.
Tree stands and other raised platforms can give hunters increased advantage over their quarry. However, if used incorrectly, they pose serious safety risks. To reduce the potential of an accident use the following tips:
Before you hunt
- Take the time to "shop around" and buy safe and comfortable stand and harness of the type that's right for you. Safe and reliable equipment reduces your chance of injury.
- Carefully read all instructions and warnings provided with your stand.
- Practice setting up your stand and safety equipment at ground-level first. Use all recommended safety straps and pins to secure the stand.
Your safety harness
- Wear it at all times when climbing, hunting and descending.
- Choose one that will hold you right-side-up and not restrict your breathing should you fall.
- Choose one with a quick release system.
Maintain your equipment
- Look for wear, stress points and loose fasteners. fix or replace any worn equipment immediately.
- Keep your equipment clean.
Choosing a tree
- Choose as straight a tree as possible.
- Watch out for dead, overhanging limbs that may fall (they are called "widowmakers") and rotten wood.
- Use extra care when hunting from a smooth-barked tree (such as aspen, maple, hickory and beech) when it's raining, they get slippery!
- Use extra care when hunting from a frozen tree. Avoid using elevated stands when it's icy.
Hunting from a tree stand brings with it new considerations for the hunter. Keep yourself safe and pay attention to the following:
Transporting your gun or bow
- Always use a haul rope to bring gear to and from the ground.
- ALWAYS UNLOAD YOUR GUN BEFORE HAULING!
- If hauling a bow, tie your line to the top limb of the bow when climbing and the bottom when descending to avoid snagging arrows in tree branches.
Keeping yourself safe
- You may get drowsy and fall asleep while in the stand. Prepare for this by always keeping yourself secured to the tree with your safety harness.
- Be extra alert when climbing or descending from the stand. These are when most tree stand accidents occur.
- Avoid elevated stand hunting while overly tired or on medication.
- Never hunt while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Be sure someone knows where you are and when you're returning.
Hunt Responsibly. Improper or illegal use of elevated platforms harms trees and give hunters a bad public image. Set an example for others by respecting the laws that care for Michigan's resources. Care for hunting lands by "leaving no trace" of your presence after you've passed through.
Michigan's regulations state: "In taking an animal, a person shall not do any of the following on publicly-owned lands:
- Permanently construct or attach to a tree or other natural feature a scaffold, platform , ladder, steps or any other device to assist in climbing a tree. Also prohibited is the use of any item that penetrates the cambium (outer layer) of the tree for climbing purposes.
- Use or occupy a scaffold, raised platform, ladder or step that has been permanently attached to any tree or other natural feature.
- Nothing in this section shall prohibit a scaffold or platform temporarily attached to a tree by use of a T-bolt or similar device supplied by the manufacturer at the time the scaffold or platform was purchased.
- Use or occupy a scaffold or raised platform without first putting on the scaffold or raised platform the name and address of the user in legible English. this identificaiton must be easily read from the ground.
- Use, occupy or place a scaffold, raised platform, ladder, steps or any other device to assist in climbing a tree if the elevated structure is on public lands earlier than September 1 of each year or is not removed by the day following the last day of the latest open season for deer in that area.
Permanent tree stands are unlawful to construct on public lands.
If you fall from an elevated platform while hunting, please report your incident to the Michigan Department of natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division, P.O. Box 30031, Lansing, MI, 48909 or call 517-373-1230.