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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 will suffer injuries.

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

“Wearing your safety 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 182 hunting accident reports filed by the DNR Division of Law Enforcement over the past five years, 109 involved falls from tree stands.

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

National studies show that one of every two tree stand users wears a fall arrest device and that as many as 30 percent of hunters who hunt from an elevated stand will have an incident sometime in their hunting career.

The National Bowhunter Education Foundation ( 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 treestand safety tips:

Before the hunt

  • Know your equipment.
    • Read and understand manufacturer’s instructions and warning before using your treestand and full-body harness (FBH).
    • Check stands (including straps and chains) every season and before each use for signs of wear, fatigue, cracks, loose or missing nuts and bolts. Replace as necessary.
    • Practice at ground level with your treestand 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 treestand.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 are unloaded before attaching to a haul line and don’t attach the haul line near the trigger or trigger guard.
  • Make sure broadheads are covered prior to 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.

The best tip of all?

Don’t take chances.

Don’t be a thud!

Treestand Accidents in Indiana 2012-2016


Total Hunting Incidents

Treestand Falls

% of Total Due to Falls