Climbing tree stands have revolutionized hunting. You’re no longer limited to a single tree but can use the same stand to rapidly ascend and descend tons of different trees without needing a ladder, climbing sticks, or other extra devices. But does this convenience come at the expense of safety?
Experts suggest climbing tree stands are safe when used correctly. Key safety tips include warming up before climbing, using safety harnesses, inspecting the stand, and avoiding climbing while intoxicated.
I have been lucky enough to never suffer a fall or even a slip from my climbing tree stand, nor has anyone among my friends or family. This shows that climbing tree stands are a safe and convenient way to hunt a wider range of spots without putting yourself in danger.
Nevertheless, some of the burden is on you to use your climbing tree stand safely. When I use one, I follow specific tips from hunting and medical professionals, and this is how I’ve avoided injury.
Are Climbing Tree Stands Safe? What the Experts Say
Experts like Curt Sinclair from the University of Illinois consider climbing tree stands as safe, if not more so than ladder and hang-on tree stands, as long as they are used correctly.
It’s true that tree stands are one of the biggest sources of hunter accidents, with the Mayo Clinic citing 3,000 to 4,000 injuries from falls each year. However, experts believe that the vast majority of these accidents are preventable. They happen because hunters weren’t following proper safety procedures and using their tree stands correctly. For instance, they may hunt under the influence of drugs or alcohol or forgo basic practices like using a safety harness.
For climbing tree stands in particular, the experts recommend several basic safety practices. In my experience, they make hunting from a climbing stand safe and effective.
10 Tips for Climbing Tree Stand Safety
1. Warm Up
Scaling a tree in a climbing tree stand takes a bit more athleticism than other types of tree stands, and you don’t want to pull a muscle. Not only is it painful, it could make you fall. Warm up before climbing by doing a few body-weight squats, rotating your shoulders, and doing some stretches.
2. Follow Manufacturer Instructions
Climbing tree stands are a bit more mechanically complex than other models, and they fit together in a couple of different ways: sit-and-climbs and hand climbers. Sit-and-climbs take less work since you lift with your legs, but it still requires a specific technique. Make sure you’ve followed the tree stands manual for setting up the stand and climbing up the tree.
3. Choose Your Tree Carefully
Picking the right tree is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe in a climbing tree stand. The tree should be sturdy enough to hold your weight—not a young sapling or rotting stump.
Curt Sinclair recommends a tree between eight and 14 inches, though many tree stands are rated for trees up to 18 or 20 inches in diameter. I feel best if the tree is at least as wide as my chest.
4. Always Use a Safety Line and Harness
A safety line and harness is the best way to stay safe in a tree stand, regardless of which type. For a climbing tree stand, you should not begin climbing until you’re secured to the tree, and you should remain secure while you’re sitting in the stand by clipping your harness to the stand or a tether line.
Most climbing tree stands you can buy these days come with a safety line and harness included. If not, a standard linesman climbing rope works well. It should have a prusik knot that connects to your harness via a carabiner. This knot lets you move up the rope but will catch on it if you fall.
5. Get Plenty of Sleep
Climbing tree stands are usually pretty small compared to other stands, and dozing off can be dangerous. You should stay alert, both while sitting in the stand and climbing the tree, so get your eight hours the night before. Since whitetail deer hunting involves being in the tree well before dawn, this may mean going to bed a lot earlier than normal.
6. Inspect the Tree Stand Before Each Use
Climbing tree stands involve complex mechanical parts that can wear down over time. You should check that nothing is broken and that everything is working correctly before each hunt.
The day before a hunt, I like to take my climbing tree stand into the backyard and attach it to the tree just a few feet up. I get into it and make sure the climbing mechanisms are working, and the traction bands are keeping me secure against the tree.
7. Check Your Points of Contact
Most experts recommend keeping three points of contact at all times while climbing into a tree stand. Unfortunately, you can’t do that with a climbing stand. In fact, you can’t keep any point of contact with the tree—the tree stand does that for you.
That said, you should still be constantly aware of the lower and upper’s contact with the tree. Only detach one part of the stand from the tree at a time, the other part firmly attached and secure.
8. Don’t Climb With Your Kit
Whether bowhunting or rifle hunting, you shouldn’t climb with your weapon in the stand. You shouldn’t wear your rucksack or carry anything up with you but your clothing. Instead, attach all of your kit and gear to a rope or two that you attach to your belt. Once you’re settled in your stand, raise everything up.
9. Tell Someone Where You’re Going
In the worst-case scenario, ifyou do fall out of the tree stand and are severely injured, you need to have someone who knows where you are and can send help. Tell a friend or family member when you’re going hunting, your general location, and when you should return.
These days, you can also bring your cell phone to stay in contact with the outside world. However, many remote hunting locations don’t have service, so you should still tell someone where you’re going.
10. Don’t Climb Intoxicated
Don’t use a climbing tree stand if you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I wish I didn’t even have to say this, but intoxication is actually one of the primary reasons people fall out of their stands. It lowers your reflexes, coordination, and judgment and encourages risky behavior.
Leave the beer at home, follow these tips, and stay safe.
Climbing tree stands have indeed transformed the hunting experience, offering versatility and mobility in selecting optimal hunting spots. While they present an undeniable convenience, their safety remains paramount.
Fortunately, if utilized with caution and adherence to recommended guidelines, these tree stands can be both safe and efficient. By following expert advice, warming up before climbing, maintaining the tree stand, and practicing other precautionary measures, hunters can significantly minimize risks.
Remember, a successful hunt is not just about the catch but also about ensuring a safe return. Thanks for reading!
For more, check out How to Bowhunt From a Tree Stand | All You Need to Know.
Christian grew up in the Ozarks where he spent much of his childhood on his grandparents’ homestead learning about guns, hunting, and the great outdoors.
An avid traditional bowhunter, much of his writing covers this and other similar topics, but he also covers just about everything from history and economics to motorcycles.
See more of his work at ChristianMonson.com.