Tree-Stand Safety

Hunting Regulations Icon Indiana Hunting

Don’t Be a Thud

Sometime this hunting season, a hunter will fall out of a tree stand. Perhaps he will survive, perhaps not.

Most assuredly, he or she will suffer injuries.

It’s inevitable. The sad thing is it’s also avoidable.

“Wearing your harness in a tree stand is comparable to wearing your life jacket around water,” said Lt. Larry Morrison of the DNR Law Enforcement division. “When the accident happens, it’s going to save your life.

“When you leave the ground, you should be secured to the tree with a full-body safety harness.”

Of the 163 hunting accident reports filed by the DNR Division of Law Enforcement over the past five years, 103 involved falls from tree stands.

Most of the victims were not wearing any form of fall arrest device, which could have prevented serious injury.

Indiana currently reports a significant reduction in reported tree-stand-related incidents, from 28 in 2017 to 12 in 2018. This is still 12 too many. Of the 12 incidents, a quarter involved a “homemade” type of tree stand. This is why is it recommended to only use stands that meet or exceed industry standards.

The National Bowhunter Education Foundation (www.nbef.org) states on its website: “Some will not live to tell their story; others will tell it from a hospital bed or wheelchair. Many accident victims will never hunt again.”

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service offers the following tree-stand safety tips:

Before the hunt

  • Know your equipment.
    • Read and understand manufacturer’s instructions and warning before using your tree stand and full-body harness (FBH).
    • Check stands and climbing aids (including straps and chains) every season and before each use for signs of wear, fatigue, cracks, and loose or missing nuts and bolts. Replace as necessary. It is recommended to remove stands after the season ends. (See Deer Regulations for laws for tree stands on public lands.)
    • Practice at ground level with your tree stand and FBH with another person present.
    • Learn how to properly use your FBH with a suspension release device.
  • Select the right tree for your stand.
    • Find a healthy, straight tree that is the right size for your tree stand.
    • Check the tree for insect nests or animal dens.
    • Avoid using climbing stands on smooth barked trees, especially during icy or wet conditions.
    • Clear debris from the base of the tree to minimize injury from a fall and to ensure a safe base if using a ladder stand.

During the hunt

  • Wear a full-body harness (FBH). Simply owning a FBH does not make you safe. You must wear it.
  • Make sure your FBH is attached to the tree as soon as you begin to climb.
  • For an additional level of safety, use a tree-stand safety rope.
  • In the case of ladder stands, attach the FBH before securing the platform to the tree or stepping onto it.
  • When climbing a ladder, keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times. Both hands and a foot or both of your feet and one hand should be used to support your body weight when using a ladder.
  • Always be sure to use a supplied tether between base and seat portion of stand to connect the two sections.
  • When using a platform stand, climb higher than the stand and then step down onto the platform. Slowly put your weight onto your stand to be sure of your balance.
  • Use boots with non-slip soles to avoid slipping, especially in wet weather.

In the stand

  • Properly adjust your FBH. Whether standing or sitting, keep the tether-line distance between you and the tree as short as possible with no slack in the tether while in a seated position. This will minimize the distance in the case of a fall.
  • Use a haul line. Always raise and lower your firearm, bow or other equipment with a haul line.
  • Make sure firearms have the muzzle pointed down, are unloaded, with the action open, and with the safety on, before attaching haul line near trigger or trigger guard.
  • Make sure broadheads are covered before raising or lowering a bow with a haul line.
  • If you fall, stay calm. By planning ahead, you can avoid additional problems.
  • Have emergency equipment, such as a knife, cell phone, flashlight, and/or whistle on your person.
  • Practice the three Rs: recover, relief and rescue. Attempt to recover and return to your stand. If this is not possible, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree, using another form of motion or your suspension relief device until help arrives.
  • Use a hunt plan. Let someone know where you are hunting and when you will return.

The best tip of all?

Don’t take chances.

Tree-stand Accidents in Indiana 2014-2018


Total Hunting Incidents

Treestand Falls

% of Total Due to Falls

























Don’t be a thud!