A friend asked me the other day why it seemed like there were so many deer hunters getting seriously hurt or killed from falling out of a treestand.
Since the archery deer season opened in the Northeast, there have been at least two deaths from hunters falling out of a tree. Both were in Maryland. Another occurred Monday near Atlanta when a man was setting up his stand.
The rest of us start opening up this weekend, so that number will likely start going up.
His point was there didn't seem to be as many accidents back in the old days as there are now.
He's probably right. But we all forget the old days.
My first climbing treestand was a Baker. At least I called it that. It was actually a home-made version of the original climbing stand, which was nothing more than angle iron and a piece of plywood.
I felt invincible with my Baker in my hands, like there was no tree I couldn't climb. It opened up the hunting game for me and a lot of others. I can still remember having the tell-tale scratches on my forearms when inevitably my home-made Baker would slip out off my feet and I would I have to do a fireman's slide down the tree.
Thinking about it, I should be dead. But that was back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when you could almost gather all the bowhunters in any given state into a small church house.
Today, bowhunting is hugely popular. And the number of guys scratching their way up a tree has grown a hundredfold if not more. More folks just mean the odds are better for an accident.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Tree stands are a far sight better than what they used to be. You would be hard-pressed to even find an old Baker still in use. And the Treestand Manufacturer's Association has created standards that we could only dream of 25 years ago. (If your stand isn't NMA approved, get rid of it).
The most important easy-on, easy-off piece of equipment known to a deer hunter is a safety harness. We didn't have those 20 years ago, although some of us tied a rope around our waist. Now every treestand worth owning comes with a harness. And the Cadillac of all that is the Hunter Safety System vest, that takes all the hassle and adds all the safety.
As an old bowhunter, I like telling stories of sliding down trees. At one time it was a rite of passage. Today, that has entered the realm of bone-head ignorance.
I'd rather live to hunt another day, preferably without a limp.
-- Steve Bowman