What To Do When You Fall From A Tree Stand
Every year hunters fall out of their stands. According to the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation (TSSA), 3,000 people suffered tree stand-related injuries in 2018 alone. Falling from a tree stand is very dangerous.
All stands have their risks, and hunters fall from every type of stand. Hunters should always use an approved safety harness. However, even falling from a tree while wearing a harness can be deadly. A condition called suspension trauma can set in. This is when blood flow is cut off from the legs and slowly causes a person to faint. Symptoms of suspension trauma include nausea, lightheadedness, and fatigue. According to osha.gov, suspension trauma can cause death in as little as 30 minutes. So, if you fall out of your tree stand and you are hanging 20 feet of the ground, you need to put together a plan quickly.
You have fallen out of your tree stand. What now?
Step 1) Do Not Panic
The most important thing you can do is not to panic. Stay calm so you can think clearly. The fall was probably rough, and you may be a little shaken up and bruised, but you will be okay if you can stay calm. If you begin to go into shock, your body can shut down, and you will act instinctively to try to get down. This is not what you want. Try to take deep breathes in your nose and exhale through your mouth until you can calm down and think rationally about your situation.
Step 2) Analyze The Situation
There are two possible ways to get out of your situation: climb up or fall to the ground. To make the right decision, try to notice everything in your surroundings. Does your harness have a built-in release? Are there any strong limbs close enough to climb onto? See how far away you are from your tree stand, so you know if it is possible to reach it. If you use a continuous rope to attach to your harness, you can tie a loop in the line and put your foot in it so you can stand up. Now it is time for the most important step:
Step 3) Call For Help
Before you try to make an escape attempt, you need to call for help. Hopefully, you have your phone on you, and you did not lose it in the fall. Whoever can get to you first is who you should call. If you have a friend close by who knows the woods, call them. Otherwise, call 9-1-1. Try your best to explain where you are and how you intend to get down. As the search for you begins, yell or blow a whistle if you have one. If you do not have a way to contact anyone else, take action to get out of your harness before you become unconscious.
Step 4) Consider Your Options and Make a Plan
Recognize that no matter what you do, if you choose to stay in the tree, you will likely pass out. So, after you have analyzed the situation and you know what your options are, you can either climb back to your stand or cut the rope (if you have a knife). If your options are limited, you will have to be resourceful. Think about all of your options and move to step 5.
Step 5) Take Action
You know your options and which direction you are going. It is time to act. Your plan should end with you being safe, either in the stand or on the ground. In case you pass out, it is critical that you have already called for help (step 3).
If you choose to return to the stand (recommended), you should turn around and face the tree. Try to reach the bottom part of your climber and lower it to you until you can stand on it. This is a very physically demanding task, but you will have plenty of adrenaline pumping through you. Remember, the more physical activity you do, the faster your heart pumps, and the quicker you could pass out. So, when you decide to make your move, do it quickly and precisely. If you do make it back to your stand, do not immediately climb down. Stay in it for a minute and sit down. This will allow your blood flow to regulate again so you will not pass out. The last thing you want is to get back in your stand and pass out on the way down and fall again.
Choosing to cut the rope and fall can be the most dangerous option. If you dropped anything (like arrows), they will be waiting for you at the bottom. Plus, a 20-foot fall can injure or even kill a person. Make sure you roll into the fall and fall away from obstacles. Land on your toes and roll forward; this will cause the least amount of damage to your body.
Step 6) Get Checked Out
Once you are safely down from the tree stand, either by your hand or from the help of someone who arrived, you should seek medical attention. If you get down before help arrives, wait for them. Suspension trauma can have lasting effects, so it is important to see a doctor or EMT.
Step 7) Replace Your Harness
Most harnesses are rated to withstand one fall. If you are unsure of your harness rating, then you can check the tags or call the manufacturer. If you are still unsure, check the equipment. Never use a harness that is torn or badly frayed.
It can be hard to keep your wits about you but if you stay calm and plan ahead you can make it through to your next hunt.
Patrick Long is an avid outdoorsman and conservationist from the great state of Georgia. He has been hunting for more than 15 years and loves to pursue all types of game. Most of his articles revolve around the world of whitetail deer, but he also writes about many other species. His goal is not only to research and learn as much as possible about the world of hunting but to also teach every reader something they did not already know in each piece of content he makes.