Deer season is approaching, and thousands of hunters will be taking to the trees.
Not me. I hunt from the ground. If I were meant to perch in a tree, I’d have been born with feathers.
But there’s no denying that hunting from tree stands is effective. Deer seldom look up, plus being high above the ground offers clearer lines of sight in the woods.
However, height has its hazards.
A hunter hunkered high on a stand, swaddled in bulky hunting clothes and boots, clutching a bow or rifle, and growing more and more jittery as a big buck ambles his way, can be an accident waiting to happen.
And happen they do.
Hundreds of hunters are injured every season by falls from deer stands. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says tree-stand accidents are the No. 1 cause of hunting-related injuries. Consequently, it has added a session on tree-stand safety to its Hunter Education classes.
An accident can happen in a split-second, even to veteran hunters.
Several years ago, an acquaintance in Hardin County was checking his ladder stand prior to deer season. The stand had been left up from the previous year.
My friend decided to shift the angle of the seat. He climbed up and unbuckled the strap that fastened the stand to the tree. The metal ladder sprang back, throwing him to the ground.
He suffered a broken back, spent over a year in painful rehab, and hasn’t hunted since.
The TWRA warns hunters to inspect stands for wear and tear, especially old-fashioned wooden stands nailed in trees. Wood rots, nails rust, and trees grow and shift.
Also check for wasp and hornet nests around the stand. Sitting down on a wasp’s nest in the dark, high above the ground, can spoil opening day.
The Agency advises wearing a safety harness, but that’s not fool-proof. One year a Kentucky hunter was found dangling upside down, dead, from his stand. He had fallen and his feet became tangled in the safety rope.
Climbing ladder rungs that are wet or glazed with frost and ice is treacherous. Heavy boots and gloves make it more-so.
As I said, I don’t hunt from a tree stand.
Since tagging my first deer as a kid in 1963, I’ve added 148 more. All but five were killed from the ground. Four were killed from shooting houses, and one from a tree stand -- long ago, when I was more agile.
I don’t like heights. I get dizzy cleaning my gutters. Every year I’m more committed to keeping my feet planted on solid ground.
Some of my hunting buddies kid me about being hesitant to sit atop a stand. I tell them it’s not the sitting that worries me -- it’s the falling and splatting.
I’ve never heard of anyone falling off the ground, so I’ll continue to hunt from there.
As for you hunters who perch, perch carefully.