Over the next 3½ months, more than 150,000 people will be heading into the woods in hopes of harvesting whitetail deer in South Carolina.
It goes without saying that as a responsible deer hunter you should know your target. But you also should ensure the success of your hunt by adhering to safe hunting practices as you climb into your tree stand.
First and foremost, that means wearing a safety harness when you are in a tree stand and knowing how it works.
You already should have inspected your tree stand to make sure it is in good working order. Look for signs of metal fatigue, loose or missing bolts and make sure any straps or chains are in good shape.
Do you know what a Prusik knot is and how it relates to safe hunting?
It's a friction hitch or knot used to attach a loop of cord around a rope for climbing. If there is no pressure on the Prusik knot, it can slide freely; it will jam tightly when a load is applied and could save you from severe injury in a fall.
Shortly before the 2020 South Carolina deer hunting season opened, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources posted on its Twitter account: "In 2019, there were eight reported tree stand accidents in our state, one of which resulted in a fatality. These accidents can be prevented through the proper use of a tree stand safety harness."
The fatal accident occurred Oct. 31 in Spartanburg County when a 66-year-old man fell from a tree stand that was 32 feet high.
I know several hunters who had more than their pride injured in deer stand accidents. In both cases, they were fortunate to land on soft ground with a bed of pine needles instead of on a tree root.
In a story posted on the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website, a hunter shared a story in which he fell 20 feet from his hanging tree stand when his climbing sticks failed. He landed on a cut tree about three feet tall and three inches in diameter that impaled his left upper chest area. He wasn't wearing his safety harness because he wasn't yet in his stand and attached to the tree, but later said a Hunter Safety System Lifeline rope which employs the Prusik knot would have prevented the accident.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers an extensive list of tree stand safety tips on its website. Among the tips offered: "Clear debris from the base of the tree to minimize injury from a fall and to ensure a safe base if using a ladder stand."
You should keep three points of contact with a ladder — either both hands and one foot or both feet and one hand — at all times as you ascend or descend a ladder.
Use a haul line as you raise and lower your unloaded weapon into your stand.
Another tip that goes without saying is to do what boaters do and let a responsible person know where you are going to hunt, when you will return and who is with you.
It might take a few extra minutes to follow the proper safety protocols but those minutes are well worth the time when you consider what you are risking.
Haven Hunt Club Draw Hunt
Registration is open until Sept. 15 to teachers, military, first responders and healthcare workers for a free guided deer hunt at Haven Hunt Club. Three guided hunts will be awarded in each category with the drawing taking place on Sept. 15 and the hunts taking place during the 2020 deer season. For registration details visit Haven Hunt Club on Facebook or call David at (843) 609-4399.
America's Boating Club
America’s Boating Club Charleston will offer a safe boating class for all ages from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sept. 26. Successful participants earn the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Boater Education Card. The cost is $25 for adults with youngsters 12-18 free. The class is not recommended for children under 12. Bring a bag lunch.
The club also has a two-hour seminar on Emergencies on Board on Sept. 29. Classes will be held at 1376 Orange Grove Road, Charleston. To register call (843) 312-2876 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
S.C. State Duck Calling Contest
The 2020 South Carolina State Duck Calling Contest has been rescheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 4 at Cooks Mountain in Wateree Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area, located right off U.S. Highway 378 between Columbia and Sumter. It originally had been scheduled to be held in March during the Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic but was postponed because of the coronavirus.
For information, contact Jesse Tucker at (864) 706-2545 or Marc Ackerman at 843-708-8869.
Warrior Surf Foundation Fishing Tournament
Folly Beach-based nonprofit Warrior Surf Foundation will hold its inaugural Keepin' It Reel Fishing Tournament Oct. 24. Fishing hours are 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Participants ages 13-16 (youth) and 17-plus (adult) can launch from any dock or public landing in Charleston to catch sheepshead, redfish and flounder.
Entry fees are $25-$40 in the youth division and $50-$65 in the adult division, depending on which categories you register for. There's also a "You've Been Schooled" category for participants who must use a child's pole. All entry fees will go towards WSF's 12-week program to help Veterans struggling with PTSD, transitional issues and other mental health challenges. For more information, and to register visit warriorsurf.rallyup.com/fishingtournament.