A fallen treestand is a scary situation; what should you do?
When deer hunting with a portable climbing stand, it is easy to get over confident in your abilities, especially if you've had your stand a while and are pretty familiar with it.
Often, as hunters, we tend to get too relaxed when using a stand we've had for a while and that can spell trouble. To be completely prepared, hunters must consider how to handle the worst-case scenario before ever climbing the first tree of the season.
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Portable climbing stands are dangerous. No matter how they're built or what promises their manufacturer makes, there is always the possibility of something going wrong while they're in use. If a portable stand is used exactly the way it was intended and the hunter never makes a single mistake during a hunt, that should be considered an exception.
The problem is hunting never goes entirely as planned. Anyone who has hunted more than once knows this to be an undeniable fact.
We've All Been There
You may hunt for 30 years without ever hearing that sickening sound of your foot platform working its way down the tree without you. If you do, then great: you've done an outstanding job.
However, for the rest of us, who know that sound from at least one bad experience, dealing with a missing foot platform creates a serious problem. If you lose your bottom platform, you have no choice but to figure out a way to safely get down the tree in order to prevent an uncomfortable situation from turning into a trip to the hospital, or worse.
Portable stands are great, but they will inevitably fail if you pick the wrong tree or shift your weight the wrong way. When this happens, it's incredibly easy to panic. More than likely, you'll find yourself sitting on the seat part of your stand with your boots hanging out in the wind.
Hopefully you're wearing a safety harness or belt and not in danger of falling, but even so, you're faced with that question we all hate. Now what? How do you get down the tree without your platform?
Call a Buddy
The invention of cellphones has given hunters a lifeline that often saves the day, especially in a situation where something like this happens. The minute you hear your platform head down the tree, call a friend. Tell him where you are and wait. Have him bring another portable stand and some rope, if you don't have any.
When he arrives, have him tie a rope to your platform (off the tree) and climb up to you. He can hand you the rope and you can pull your platform up together. Let him help you reattach the platform to your tree and you will be able to climb back down behind him.
This is the perfect situation to reiterate the importance of a good hunting buddy. Buy him a drink after this happens; he's earned it.
What if you don't have anyone you can call? You left your phone? You're completely on your own and the clock is ticking. Now what?
You have to fight back your instinct to panic. Yes, you're in a bad situation and there's no way around that. However, to keep a bad situation from turning into a horrific one, you have to stay calm. Panicking will get you hurt.
First Things First, Unload Your Weapon
Before you do anything, take a few seconds to think. You need to get down from the tree without falling, so you have to account for your weapon, gear, and yourself. The first thing you need to deal with is your weapon. Unload it. Get rid of the added threat of a loaded weapon.
If you have a pull rope attached to your seat or if you have rope in your gear, then lower your weapon slowly to the ground. If you don't have a pull rope, use your sling.
That's a good reminder, and should be obvious: make sure you've got a sling on your firearm or bow so you can use both hands in a case like this. If you're bowhunting, try the Primos Neoprene Bow Sling and you won't have to worry about your cams bumping against the tree.
Carefully sling your weapon over your shoulders after you unload it. You have to get it out of the way before you attempt to get down from the tree.
Down You Go
After you have eliminated your weapon from the mix, it's time to get moving. If you keep a cool head and practice calm, slow movement, you have a better chance of getting down the tree without mishap.
If you have gloves or extra clothing, put them on to help with friction. You'll have to leave your seat where it is and come back for it once you're safely on the ground.
You can start your descent one of two ways, either by turning to hug the tree from a sitting position or by standing on your seat and reaching up. No matter which way you choose, remember that both ways are dangerous. Move slowly and carefully. There is more than one way to get down a tree, but all trees are different, as is every fallen treestand situation.
Release your safety vest, and immediately grip the tree in a bear hug. Wrap one leg around the side of the trunk, and shift your body to that same side as to avoid the seat.
If you've started in the seated position, it may be difficult to then lift the other leg over the seat. This might be a good enough reason to opt for standing on the seat, but again, each situation is different and you'll want to think these factors through before you decide exactly how you'll get down.
As soon as you can get your other leg past the seat, wrap it around the tree as well, and lock your ankles together if the trunk is small enough.
RELATED: Treestand Safety Checklist
You'll almost certainly begin to slide, and will want to maintain as strong of a grip as possible with both your arms and your legs. There's really not many more technical aspects we can share, you're going to slide, you may start sliding quickly, and you may very well fall.
It's tough to say "Here's how you can get out of this sticky situation" when every one of these moments is unlike the last. Do you have any other tips to pass on, perhaps learned from your own fallen treestand?
Leave your thoughts below in the comments.
Photo by Toby Bridges