While gun safety is of paramount importance when hunters take to the woods, incidents of tree stand accidents grow each year. Maryland deer hunters begin their two-week season Saturday. West Virginia hunters began their deer season Nov. 19 and will continue hunting until Dec. 1
According to the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, annual tree stand sales number more than one million units per year and continue to escalate annually. At the same time, national studies indicate that approximately 10 to 30 percent of hunters who hunt from an elevated stand will have an incident sometime in their hunting career. For some, the injuries will be fatal.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources urges hunters who use tree stands to follow these safety precautions:
• Never carry equipment with you while climbing. Use a haul line to raise or lower your gear. Make sure guns are unloaded and broadheads are covered prior to raising or lowering firearms or bows with a haul line.
• Since most accidents occur when hunters are climbing up or down a tree, always use a climbing belt.
• Check permanent tree stands every year before hunting from them, and replace any worn or weak lumber.
• Read, understand and follow the factory recommended practices and procedures when installing commercial stands. Inspect portable stands for loose nuts and bolts each time they are used.
• Choose only healthy, living trees when using climbing devices. Rough-barked trees such as oak are best. Do not use a tree that is rotten or has dead limbs.
• Wear boots with non-skid soles, because steps or platforms can be slippery in rain, sleet or snow.
• Don't fall asleep. This is a common cause of accidents. If you get drowsy, move your arms rapidly until you feel alert.
• Never wear a ring in any climbing situation. Rings can catch on tree limbs and equipment.
• Carry a whistle to call for help and carry a first aid kit, flashlight and cell phone in a fanny pack.