Don’t break a leg: Safety refreshers for hunting season

Palmetto Armory firearms manager Dave Field carries the TMS Outdoors Hunter’s Trauma Kit when he heads into the woods.

With deer season in full swing and cooler weather right around the corner, more and more people will be in the woods looking to bag that big one. Now is not the time to let your guard down.

Every year, you hear about hunting accidents, including tree stand accidents, happening across the country. At the beginning of each season, you hear, “Be safe out there,” but might shrug it off because you don’t know anyone who’s had an accident, and think, “Well, it won’t happen to me.”

I haven’t experienced an accident either, thank goodness, but one happened to my friend last deer season near Huntsville, Alabama. He had a hard week at work and just wanted to relax like a lot of us who seek refuge in the woods or on the water. He got home late on a Friday after a long conference call and told his wife that he was going to the hunt club in the morning. Like always, he told her which tree stand he planned to hunt, and what time he thought he would get out of the woods. It seemed like he did everything correctly. Unfortunately, he forgot one important thing that morning, a tree stand safety harness.

Many of us have been there. A too short and restless night’s sleep compounded by the stresses of work and an early morning made my friend even more tired the next day. While getting comfortable in his stand and waiting for the rustling of leaves, he dosed off and fell 20 feet to the ground. My friend survived, but is now paralyzed from the waist down.

According the 2014 National Shooting Sports Foundation Industry Intelligence Report, in 2013 alone there were 7,302 hunting with firearms related injuries, including tree stand injuries. Here are some steps to protect yourself this season:

• Before your first hunt of the season, check your stand to make certain it is sturdy. Make sure there aren’t any loose boards or wasp/hornet’s nests, and that it’s fixed to the tree properly.

• Tell someone where you are going to hunt (even the specific stand/blind/area you plan to hunt).

• Tell someone when you plan to be back.

• Carry a cell phone.

• Wear a blaze orange safety vest and/or hat.

• Wear a tree stand safety harness. My favorite is the Hunter’s Safety System Ultra-Lite Flex, but there are a lot of good manufacturers such as: Summit Treestands, Muddy, Big Game Treestands, etc. Talk to your local outdoor sporting goods store employee to find out which one will work best for your hunting preferences.

• Pull your unloaded gun or bow up into the stand with a rope (lower it the same way when you get out of the stand).

• Carry a medical kit, I carry the TMS Outdoors Hunter’s Trauma Kit in blaze orange.

I don’t care how “uncool” it may seem do these things; I will do them on every hunt for the rest of my life. The consequences are just too great not to follow these steps.

I am not trying to scare anyone, but I want everyone to be safe and take my friend’s experience as an eye-opener to some of the hazards of improper safety when hunting. If even one person takes this article to heart and practices the proper safety precautions while in the woods, I’ll consider this a job well done.

Dave Field is the firearms manger for

Palmetto State Armory.