With archery seasons opening across our state at the end of this month, many bowhunters are making grand preparations for the opener. Many are practicing shooting their bows, buying broadheads, checking trail cameras, scouting for mast and game signs and spending as much time as possible in their hunting grounds. Soon, treestands will be hung like stockings at Christmas time in hopes that Mr. Big Buck pays them a visit.

In my lifelong career of hunting, treestands have evolved tremendously as technology and hunters have demanded better equipment. Bowhunting of my youth was centered around wooden platform treestands that were nailed into trees with spike nails. They were slippery when wet, creaky when dry and no doubt, spooky. I have built many in my day with 2x4s, a hammer and nails and a chainsaw.

Shortly after that period, hang-on treestands or simply-made climbers became the treestands of choice. These earlier models were bulky, most were heavy, loud and well, not very well designed. Screw in tree steps of all shapes and sizes, chains, turn buckles — it was a chore to get these things up a tree and even more tricky to get them hung. I used to dread the process of hanging them and taking them down after season.

Shortly after the early hang on or climbers came the first ladder stands. Don’t even get me started on how heavy those things were when trying to set them up against a tree. It took half a football team full of nothing but linebackers to hoist those early ladder stands.

Thankfully today, education, awareness, technology, lighter and stronger materials — all have led to simpler, safer and much easier ways to hunt out of a tree.

In fact, a note came across my desk this week I felt was a great example of this.

September is Tree Stand Safety Awareness Month, and it’s the month that most hunters head back to the woods to hang stands in preparation for the upcoming hunting season. Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation’s (TSSA) mission is to significantly reduce tree stand accidents through promotion, education and best practices, and the goal is to reduce the estimated number of incidents 50 percent by 2023. TSSA strives to ensure that every hunter comes home safe to their family and friends.

TSSA has designed an educational campaign called the “ABCs of Tree Stand Safety” to serve as the building blocks to the awareness campaign.

A) Always remove and inspect your equipment.

B) Buckle on your full-body harness.

C) Connect to the tree before your feet leave the ground.

By performing these three simple steps, treestand users can virtually eliminate their risk of falling to the ground as the majority of falls occur outside the stand. TSSA encourages all hunters to take tree stand safety seriously, every time you hunt from, hang or remove a tree stand. TSSA is also excited to share that they are continuing to see positive changes in the estimated numbers of falls that require emergency care on a national level. Based on the 2018 data, there were an estimated 3,001 tree stand falls requiring an emergency department visit. This reflects a decrease of 46.5 percent (2010–2018) in the number of estimated falls requiring an emergency department treatment.

With the hunters demanding better, safer equipment, manufacturers listening to their customers to provide better equipment every year from treestands to safety harnesses, our DNR educating through hunters ed courses and groups helping to get the word out about treestand safety practices, hunters today have much better tools and higher chance for success. Good luck in your preseason scouting and planning and I am hoping Ol’ Big Boy Buck walks right under your tree opening morning.

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