The What, When, Where, Why, and How of Hunting Safety Harnesses
We all probably have that old-school hunter in our deer camp every year. You know the type. They have hunted deer in the same plaid clothes, with the same wooden platform tree stands, and with the same gun for forty plus years. It’s pretty much impossible to convince them to change their ways, no matter how much you try. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right? Heck, maybe we’re even describing you. Nowhere is this truer than with hunting safety harnesses.
Most of the hunters in the above group would rather climb into their tree stand and hunt like they’ve done for decades. They’ve made it this long using their approach, so why stop now? At many deer camps all across the country, you’ll probably still get a fair amount of heckling for admitting you use a hunting safety harness. Not at all to bash the hunter we described above, but many don’t see the value of them and only see the potential setbacks in their minds. For example, many hunters believe that harnesses are too awkward to wear, are uncomfortable, or just take up too much space and time to hunt very effectively.
Seems legit on the surface, but let’s dig a little deeper. Is it wrong to want to add a dose of safety to an inherently dangerous activity (i.e., tree stand hunting)? While rare, a fall from a tree stand could mean a trip to the emergency room or worse. You owe it to your family and friends (not to mention yourself), to wear hunting safety harnesses when you’re hunting. And not just that. You should also be wearing one when you hang your tree stands or climb into them too. So open your minds and listen up hunters of all types.
Hunting Safety Harnesses | Muddy Outdoors Teasers
(video) – The undoubtedly most important aspect of deer hunting is safety. Besides firearms safety, climbing up in tree stands is the most dangerous part of your hunt. Stay safe on the way up, and during the hunt with Muddy’s innovative and advanced hunting safety system designs, the hunting safety harnesses in Muddy’s line is enhanced with the exceptionally high-end features and unwavering quality that it has always been known for. As tradition continues, Muddy endeavors to exceed limitations for tree stand safety and raise the bar on expectations through innovation, experience, and commitment. If you are looking for hunting safety harnesses and tree stand safety harnesses, check out Muddy’s Safety Systems Line.
Basic Principles of Tree Stand Safety
Taking your hunting safety harnesses and tree stand safety seriously from the very beginning is really important, for the reasons stated above. Just like with firearm safety, there are a few basic rules or principles you should always follow. The Treestand Manufacturer’s Association (TMA) has some specific safety guidelines that sum these rules up very nicely.
Understanding Your Hunting Safety Harnesses
Before using your harness, always make sure to read the manufacturer’s specific tree stand safety harness instructions about proper use and other warnings. Make sure you know how to use a tree stand safety harness before going into the woods, so you don’t have to guess at the right way to do it. Also spend time before the season starts inspecting your hunting harness for any signs of wear (e.g., fraying ends, loose stitches, etc.) and replace items as needed instead of trying to milk one more year out of it. Most people aren’t aware that these harnesses do expire at some point.
Always Stay Connected
As we stated above, it’s important to stay connected to the tree from the moment your boots leave the ground to the moment they’re back down. Any time in between, you should have at least one safety harness system connecting you to the tree, and maintain three points of contact with it (e.g., two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) while climbing or keep both feet on the platform while up in the tree.
The Myths of Hunting Safety Harnesses Debunked
We mentioned a few of the concerns that some hunters have with using a hunting tree harness. But how true are they really? Let’s look at a few to check out the evidence.
Does it take a little more time to dress in a tree stand safety harness and secure yourself to a safety line? Yes, a little. But you can put your Muddy treestand safety harness on when you’re at the vehicle or house and not really even notice you’re wearing it. It just becomes part of your hunting clothes. And as far as clipping into your safety line, it only takes a few seconds with the one-hand carabiners that Muddy Outdoors® uses.
Does it add a little more bulk to your hunting clothes? Sure, but barely. Again, hunting safety harnesses are actually pretty comfortable. You can slip them on over the top of your hunting camouflage or wear it beneath. Whatever’s more convenient for you.
Won’t a safety harness for hunting just get in the way? Not if you don’t let it. For example, keep your tree strap above your head far enough so that it’s fairly snug when you’re sitting down. That will produce the shortest fall distance if you were to suddenly slip out. But if you find that too restricting (e.g., if you’d like the option to bend down or kneel), lower your strap a little until it’s where you want it to be. Similarly, if you think your harness tether strap will get in the way when you’re taking a bow shot, plan ahead. Make sure your tree stand is facing a direction you’re pretty positive the deer will come from. Rotate your body so that you keep the tether strap away from your bow arm. You can use a bow hunting safety harness very effectively.
Ask yourself this the next time you’re running late and tempted to climb into your tree stand without a hunting harness: is getting into your tree stand a few more minutes ahead of schedule really worth your life? We don’t think so either.
Different Hunting Safety Harnesses for Different Tree Stands
Depending on which type of tree stand you primarily use, you should be using a different strategy for getting into them safely. Take a look below and see the best way to install and hunt in the following types of tree stands.
This kind of tree stand can offer amazing hunting opportunities, due to the slim profile and element of surprise. But they can also be a little dicey to hang and hunt without using the right hunting safety harnesses. A lot of hunters hang them without any type of fall protection harnesses but then connect to the tree once they’re in it. To really be safe, you need to be connected at all times (remember the rules above?).
As you start hanging ladder sections, you can use what’s called a Lineman’s Rope that loops from both sides of your harness around the tree to keep you close to the trunk. This basically acts as your third point of contact with your two legs, freeing your arms up to pull more ladder sections up and secure them and the tree stand to the tree.
After the ladder sections and tree stand are hung and safely secured to the tree (but before you climb into your stand), you should wrap a tree strap around the tree, above where you intend to sit. The distance from your tree strap to the base of your harness should be short enough to produce a taut tether line. To this strap, you can then attach your safety line for repeated visits. Attach your tether strap carabiner to the safety line and then step into the tree stand to cut any remaining branches or firmly seat it.
Climbing Tree Stands
Similar to the lock on stand discussion above, climbing stands can be very productive to hunt out of, especially over a secluded hunting plot. But there are a few basic safety guidelines. Since you’ll be climbing the tree at the same time your stand is going up, you should use a lineman’s rope to keep you close to the tree trunk again. But that won’t necessarily stop you from plummeting to the ground. To be really safe, you could also use a tree strap that you adjust to always be above you as you climb. Attach your Safe Line to the tree strap, attach the carabiner to your harness to the built-in prusik knots on the safety line, and keep the prusik knots above you at all times. The prusik knot allows you to easily move them up and down, but will quickly tighten if you were to fall.
After each incremental step up you take, firmly seat the stand into the tree. Then raise the prusik knots and tree strap as far up as you can safely reach. Climb again and repeat. If you’re going to use the same tree during the season, you could leave your tree strap and safety line in the tree top. When you return with your climber, you can simply attach to the safety line and start climbing more smoothly.
While you can’t exactly attach a safety line as you’re installing ladder stands, you could use a very large lineman’s rope to hold you safely to the tree as you climb it the first time. Before you leave the ground, you should make sure that the seat is nestled tightly against the tree trunk and that the bottom straps are secured around the tree. By using a lineman’s rope around the tree stand and tree, you could have some additional security as you near the top of the stand.
Once the ladder stand is secured in place with ratchet straps, you should immediately wrap a tree strap above the stand and attach a safety line. First, you should clip into the safety line using the procedures described above. The Crossover Combo harness comes with six convenient pockets to hold gear as you’re climbing. The extra padding on the shoulders and back make it very comfortable and probably the best tree stand safety harness for hunting all day. At the end of the hunt, drop the free end of the safety line down to the base of the stand. You should attach the rope to the stand so it’s not waving around in the wind, which could get tangled in nearby brush or spook deer.
If you’re hunting in a box blind or tripod, you’ve found the one exception to hunting safety harnesses, since there’s nothing to secure yourself to. In these cases, simply make sure to take your time as you climb into them. The consistent root causes of people falling out of tree stands of any type are that they were rushing to get in or out of them and missed a step, or they didn’t maintain three points of contact while climbing or descending. You don’t have to be in a hurry.
If you fit into the “old dogs” group above or if you just haven’t tried them before, it’s time you consider using fall protection equipment when you’re hunting; not only when you’re hunting, but when you’re hanging your stands too. It doesn’t take much time, it’s comfortable, and it could save your life.