Safety harnesses a must

Deer hunters across the country are sitting in tree stands as the season starts to heat up.

Safety is paramount when hunting from an elevated perch. Phillip Vanderpool, host of online web series “The Virtue,” knows all too well about the devastating effects a fall can bring to a person’s life.

“Garvin Gibbins is a lifelong friend of mine who I’ve hunted and fished with since we were boys,” Vanderpool said. “He’s one of the best hunters I’ve ever known. On the last day of Arkansas’ deer season a couple of years ago, Garvin went up a tree unprotected to pull his stand.

“He stepped on a limb that snapped and fell 22 feet. He severed his backbone. Garvin lost the use of his legs and is in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.”

Spending more days in a treestand each year than the average hunter does in a decade, Vanderpool knows the odds are against him. At some point, no matter how careful one is, statistics say you are likely to have an accident. That’s why it is so important to always, always wear a safety harness while you’re hunting from a tree stand and to use a support line when climbing.

“I wear a Hunter Safety System every time I’m up a tree,” Vanderpool said. “I know what my friend and so many others go through with their injuries sustained from a fall. I take every precaution to protect myself from serious injury, and I strongly encourage you to do the same.”

One statistic that may surprise you is that a very small percentage of falls actually occur once hunters are situated in their stand. Nearly 90 percent of falls occur while ascending or descending a tree or climbing onto or off a stand.

Many hunters make the potentially fatal mistake of climbing unprotected. Don’t do this. Your loved ones deserve more from you.

“I use the Hunter Safety System Life Line when I’m going up or down a tree,” Vanderpool said. “It’s really simple. You install it while wearing a lineman-style climbing belt, then each time you climb up or down from then on, you clip your harness to the Life Line and a knot slides up or down the line with you. If you fall, the knot cinches on the line and stops your fall.”

The first time is typically the most dangerous time up a tree because if you are going to break a branch, then the first time you step on it is the most likely time for it to snap.

Being careful and cautious and taking your time is a must.

“I’m telling you guys, tree stand falls are a bad, bad thing that just don’t need to happen,” Vanderpool said. “It just hit real close to home for me when Brandon Amos, a young man I trained on video, fell. He stepped on a limb and it went. He broke his right arm and fractured four vertebrae in his back. He’s very lucky to not be paralyzed.”

Look, if you’re going to hunt from a treestand, then you need to wear safety equipment. There is no excuse. With today’s advanced harnesses, you’ll be comfortable while protecting yourself and your family.

From the time your feet leave the ground until they touch back down, wear safety equipment. Don’t risk it. Wear a safety harness and use a support line.

For more information about how to safely use tree stands, visit the Treestand Manufacturers Association website at tmastands.com.

Brandon Butler writes an outdoors column for The Tribune. Send comments to jmorey@tribtown.com.