Texas archery season is underway, and roughly 150,000 deer hunters will hit the field earlier than their gun-toting counterparts, who must wait until the first weekend in November.
While improved safety gear has helped ensure fewer accidents, bow hunting lends itself to a number of dangers including falls from elevated stands. Studies have shown that roughly 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 bow hunters will suffer a fall at some time during their excursions, mostly when either ascending or descending from a stand.
With that in mind, here is a glimpse at bow hunting safety:
- Always wear a full-body harness, also known as a fall arrest system, when you are in a tree stand, as well as when climbing into or out of a tree stand. Make sure it is worn properly. Treestand harnesses have an expiration date and should be replaced when they expire and/or if a fall occurs.
- A safety strap should be attached to the tree to prevent falling more than a foot.
- Always inspect the safety harness for signs of wear or damage before each use.
- Follow the three-point rule of tree stand safety. Always have three points of contact to the steps or ladder before moving. Be cautious that rain, frost, ice or snow can cause steps to become slippery. Check the security of a step before placing your weight on it.
- Always hunt with a plan and, if possible, a buddy. Before you leave home, let others know your hunting location, when you plan to return and who is with you.
- Always carry emergency signal devices such as a cellphone, walkie-talkie, whistle, signal flare, personal locator device and flashlight on your person and within reach even while you are suspended. 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 tree stand. Select a live straight tree that fits within the size limits recommended in your tree stand’s instructions. Do not climb or place a tree stand against a leaning tree.
- Never leave a tree stand 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 gear and unloaded firearm or bow to your tree stand once you have reached your desired hunting height. Never climb with anything in your hands or on your back. Prior to descending, lower your equipment on the opposite side of the tree.
- Be aware of suspension trauma. A rear attached full-body harness is intended to prevent falls, not to be suspended in. Suspension trauma can happen in less than 20 minutes and can be fatal. Hunters should attach an additional foot strap to the body harness to take the pressure off their upper legs and carry a pocket knife to cut away the harness if the situation turns critical.