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Category Archives: Safety

Firearm Safety

by Marti Davis

Marti-Davis

Safety, safety, safety

Firearm safety must always be our number one priority. Always remember to treat every gun as if it is loaded. That means always pointing the gun in a safe direction. Make sure you’re using the proper ammunition for the firearm. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

When you’re hunting from an elevated stand, never climb with the firearm. Use a rope to raise and lower the unloaded gun after you’re safely strapped in to your stand. You can never be too careful or safe when it comes to handling and hunting with firearms.

Marti-Davis-rifle

Know right from wrong

Before you do any kind of hunting with a gun, you must familiarize yourself with the state’s game laws and regulations. Even if you’re a seasoned hunter, you need to refresh your memory and check for any changes in the regulations that might affect your hunt. If you know and follow the regulations, when you do have an encounter with a conservation agent, you won’t have anything to worry about.

And while we’re on the subject of conservation agents, if you happen to get stopped by an agent, be courteous. It will take only a few minutes for the agent to check and see if you have the proper licenses and tags. Conservation agents have a job to do, and this is just a small part of it.

Cleaning and Maintenance

While some firearms take more cleaning and maintenance than others, you should take proper care of all firearms. If you do, they will last for many years, with the possibility of being handed down from generation to generation.

I like to use a combination cleaner-lubricant-protectant, such as Break Free CLP. A quick wipe-down at the end of a day afield is sufficient, unless you’ve been out hunting in rain or snow, or in extremely dusty or brushy conditions. In that case you probably need to break down the firearm to a certain extent. Remember to follow all manufacturer’s instructions on breakdown and reassembly. Never skip any steps the manufacturer recommends.

I also like to use a bore snake for a quick pass-through on my barrels. I use a little of the Break Free CLP on the snake and pull it through two or three times. It’s a great time saver for those quick, after-hunt wipe-downs between the thorough cleanings that require breaking down the gun.

And don’t forget that new guns need thorough cleaning when you first get them. Most come packed with a coating of heavy grease.

When it comes to maintenance on your firearms, I highly recommend that you find a reputable gunsmith in your area to take care of any malfunctioning firearms. For safety’s sake, never shoot any gun that is not in perfect working order. When in doubt, consult your gunsmith.

Sighting in or Patterning

Before going afield, you must take the time to sight in your rifle or pattern your shotgun. Even if you’re going out with the same deer rifle you’ve used for several years, take the time to make sure your gun is still zeroed in. Even the smallest of bumps can sometimes knock sights or scopes off zero.

With shotguns, make sure to pattern them to see which load works best with which choke. Once you get that figured out, make sure to use the same load each time you hunt with that shotgun and choke.

To be an ethical and responsible hunter, you have to know your own and your firearm’s limitations before you step out in the field. As ethical hunters, we always want to make the quickest and most humane kill shots we can.

Marti-patterning

Transporting your firearms

Transporting can be as simple as using a sling to throw the gun over your shoulder, making it easier to carry in the field.

In a vehicle, I highly recommend a case of some sort when transporting firearms, whether it’s a simple zip-up, soft-sided case or a padded, hard-shell transport case. For one thing, a case protects the gun—for another, in some states it is the law. This is another area where it’s necessary to know the regulations and laws in the state you are hunting—or even just traveling through. Some states also require firearms to be cased when transporting them on all-terrain vehicles in the field.

Marti-Davis-truck-copy-2

Follow-through

When throwing a ball, you must follow through to complete the action. The same applies to shooting a rifle or shotgun. Once you make the shot, you must follow through. If you’re shooting a bolt-action or pump-style rifle, follow-through includes working the action and chambering a fresh round. Be ready to make a follow-up shot if necessary. The same goes for shotguns. After you complete the shot, get another shot shell into the chamber and be prepared to make a quick follow-up shot. Of course if you’re using an autoloader, the gun does this for you. Just stay on the gun and be ready in case you need to take another shot.

Storage

After the hunt, be sure to unload and store your firearms properly. As I mentioned when discussing cleaning and maintenance, wipe down or clean your firearms prior to storage. Always make sure to store all guns beyond the reach of children or anyone else you don’t want having access to them. Always store ammunition separately from all firearms.

Marti-and-Barb-afield-copy

These safety rules need to become second nature, yet always in the forefront while you are working with firearms, especially while hunting.

IMG_2075-e1429190999379

Marti Davis

Marti Davis is a staff member for Browning Trail Cameras, WoolX and Mossy Oak.
She is an authority on most types of hunting in North America, and very active in
mentoring the next generation of young hunters.

 

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Checklist for Backpacker’s

Checklist for Backpacker’s

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Hunter Fends Off Grizzly by Shoving Arm Down Its Throat

Grizzly

Sticking an arm down the throat of a bear is regarded by some as an effective last-ditch tactic for fending off an attack.

There are few animals in North America as frightening as an adult grizzly, and if one of these massive animals get it in their heads to attack you, your day just suddenly got a whole lot worse. Twenty-six-year-old Chase Dellwo was expecting to bag some elk in the Montana back country near Choteau last Saturday, but a chance encounter with a bear ended with him sticking his arm into its roaring mouth instead.

That decision may have saved his life.

According to the Great Falls Tribune, Dellwo was bowhunting near a creek bed with his brother Shane. Strong wind and intermittent snow and rain kept visibility to a minimum, but the brothers heard elk bugles in the area and Dellwo was eager to make his first elk harvest of the year. The hunter had been steadily driving the animals toward his brother, but the weather also hid a sleeping grizzly, which Dellwo practically tripped over. At less than three feet, there was little that Dellwo could do before the animal charged him.

“I had an arrow knocked, and I put my bow up in front of me and took two or three steps back,” he told the Tribune. “There wasn’t any time to draw my bow back.”

The grizzly knocked Dellwo off his feet and bit him in several places across his head. It then reared back and gave what the hunter later described as the loudest roar he had ever heard, before attacking him again and biting his right leg. It was at this point that Dellwo recalled that an old survival tip about how bears have sensitive gag reflexes—so the hunter plunged his arm down the animal’s throat.  The bear promptly left.

Dellwo is not the first person to have stuck their arm down a bear’s throat and lived to tell the tale. The trick is commonly regarded as a last-ditch defense against bear attacks. As recently as last November, a hunter in British Columbia used to same trick to disable and ultimately kill a large grizzly sow near Fernie. According to CTV News, Wilf Lloyd was seriously mauled by the bear before he was able to stop its biting by jamming his hand down its mouth. While the bear was still on top of the man, Llyod’s son-in-law arrived and shot it dead with a rifle.

Lloyd also received a bullet in the leg during the chaotic struggle, but he did not blame his hunting companion in the least.

“The man saved my life,” Lloyd later said. “What Skeet did and because of his fast reaction, the shots, I had maybe fifty stitches in my hand and that’s it. So I was very fortunate that way.”

Dellwo echoed Llyod’s sentiment after his own bear encounter. Shortly after the attack, he was able to reunite with his brother and was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated for various cuts and punctures on his head and right leg. Dellwo expects to be back in the woods later this year for rifle season.

Officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks are currently investigating the case and believe that the bear involved was a 400-pound male. Experts added that the brothers seemed to have done everything correctly and that the bear will likely not be tracked down since the attack was not predatory in nature.   By: Daniel Xu

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The Wrong Turn

survival3

 On Aug. 31, Bill Lawrence, 40, got separated from his hunting partners and remained lost for five days. As told to Colin Kearns.

Wednesday. I’d just killed my first squirrel when I glanced over for my friends Russell and Cris. They were gone.

Russell was the only one who’d hunted these woods, Meeman-Shelby Forest north of Memphis. We’d been hunting for 20 minutes and were deep into the forest. Russell and Cris stuck together, while I drifted to their left. I tried to stay within eyesight of them, but I was also watching for snakes. The last time I saw them, it looked like they were continuing in a straight line. Then I stopped to shoot the squirrel.

I thought I had an idea where they were, but an hour later I wasn’t any closer. I shouted, but the thick woods only swallowed my cries. So I turned to hike back to the truck, but an hour later I was even more lost. I kept walking, though, figuring I’d find a way out.

I walked, stopping to rest now and then, until it started to get dark. I’d fired a couple of shots but got no response. It never got cold, which was good because I had nothing to build a fire with. I doused myself with bug dope, then lay down. With my vest, I was able to cover my face and roll up the bottom end to use as a pillow. That dead squirrel in the pocket added a decent cushion.

I heard helicopters but they couldn’t see me through the trees, and I wasn’t going to run through the woods in the dark. I just prayed they’d find me tomorrow.

Thursday. I finished the last of the two water bottles I’d brought with me that morning. The days were hot, and I was walking and sweating a lot. I needed to stay hydrated. Fortunately, it rained that morning, and I managed to catch a half bottle’s worth of water.

I mostly squirrel hunt, but I have enough experience hunting deer and rabbits that I can identify tracks—and I know that if you follow those tracks, they’ll often lead to a water source, which in my case was a puddle in gumbo mud. I dipped my empty bottle and watched it fill with gray, grimy water. I didn’t want to drink it. I worried it’d make me sick. But what choice did I have? I was already getting dehydrated.

The taste was nasty—dirty and sandy—but the dip of mint Skoal I had in my mouth made it at least drinkable. I figured I should eat something, too, even though I wasn’t starving. I turned a dead stump over and found some nightcrawlers. They tasted about as bad as the gumbo water. I don’t know how many I ate—only that I’d never eat another one.

The rest of Thursday was a lot like Wednesday: Walk, then break for a nap. Walk, then nap. That second day, as I was walking—with no real end in sight—is when I started talking to God. Why is this happening? If I don’t make it out, will you take care of my wife and kids?

imagesTJNT6CHZThat night I awoke to a WHOOSHWHOOSHWHOOSH. Dazed, it took me a moment to realize that it was another chopper—and that it was right above me. I stumbled to find the flashlight in my vest. But by the time I turned it on, it was too late. After the chopper left, my flashlight burned out.

Friday. I kept moving and praying—all day. Walking gave me a purpose. Praying gave me strength. I truly believe my faith is what kept me from ever panicking. That afternoon I stumbled upon some persimmons. They were the most delicious things I’d eaten in a long time, and they were just sitting there on the ground, perfectly ripe, waiting to be found.
Saturday. I heard a low-flying chopper that morning. I took the T-shirt I had on under my camo shirt, tied it to the barrel of my Mossberg, and rushed to the nearest open area where I waved it around. But it never got close enough.

I was weak and tired. My body ached. For the first time I started to think I might not get out. I had started with 15 shells, and by then I only had four or five left. I’d been firing them and leaving the shells at spots where I rested. But on Saturday I decided to fire the rest I had at once. I didn’t know how much more of this misery I’d have to suffer, and I didn’t want the option of taking my own life.

Later that afternoon, as I was resting, I heard two sounds: a Harley-Davidson and a chain saw. I decided to stay put for the remainder of the day and save my energy. Tomorrow, I’d travel toward those sounds. I just knew that if I didn’t get out on Sunday, I never would.

Sunday. I came to a hill that I wasn’t sure I had the strength to climb. I sat down on a nearby log and prayed for strength. When I finally got up and walked to the hill, I glanced to the left where I saw a trail. And I took it.

Two miles later I hit a blacktop road. I fell to the ground crying. I flagged down a couple of motorcyclists who came down the road and told them who I was. “Son,” one of them said, “there’s a lot of people looking for you.”

They drove me to the camp the search team had set up nearby. Just as they got me on the stretcher and were about to drive me to the hospital, I was given a satellite phone. Kim, my wife, was on the other line. My eyes welled. “Hey,” I said. “I’m alive.”

Survival Analysis
Bill Lawrence had no method of striking fire, carried nothing to signal with but his shotgun, and possessed no tool to navigate to safety but his brain. When he became lost, he had nothing to eat but nightcrawlers and no means to disinfect water. He was unfamiliar with the country and carried no map. To sum up: He struck into the woods about as unprepared as a man can be. But before you criticize him too harshly, take a look at yourself. Have you ever been similarly unprepared for an emergency, using the excuse that you only plan to be gone a few hours and won’t stray more than a few hundred yards from the road? I know I have.

Lawrence’s ordeal should be a cautionary tale for all of us, emphasizing the importance of carrying basic survival gear every time we go afield, no matter how small that field we intend to hunt. A compass, a whistle, a sparking wheel, Tinder Tabs, and chlorine tablets weigh about as much as a tin of Altoids, and easily fit inside one. S - - t happens. Have a hat for it.

Lawrence’s reaction to being lost was to walk and then walk some more. By doing so, he disobeyed the four steps that almost ensure survival: Stop. Shelter. Signal. Stay. Had he stopped walking, tied his undershirt to a treetop or placed it in an opening where it could be seen or, better yet, spelled SOS in a clearing with branches or stones, then hunkered out of the wind to wait, he probably would have been found quickly after being reported missing. Ninety percent of search-and-rescue operations are resolved during the initial hasty search, usually within 10 hours.

One thing that Lawrence did do right needs to be emphasized: He never panicked and was determined to survive. The right attitude is one positive that can make up for a lot of negatives in any survival situation.

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Firearm Safety

by Marti Davis

Marti-Davis

Safety, safety, safety

Firearm safety must always be our number one priority. Always remember to treat every gun as if it is loaded. That means always pointing the gun in a safe direction. Make sure you’re using the proper ammunition for the firearm. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

When you’re hunting from an elevated stand, never climb with the firearm. Use a rope to raise and lower the unloaded gun after you’re safely strapped in to your stand. You can never be too careful or safe when it comes to handling and hunting with firearms.

Marti-Davis-rifle

Know right from wrong

Before you do any kind of hunting with a gun, you must familiarize yourself with the state’s game laws and regulations. Even if you’re a seasoned hunter, you need to refresh your memory and check for any changes in the regulations that might affect your hunt. If you know and follow the regulations, when you do have an encounter with a conservation agent, you won’t have anything to worry about.

And while we’re on the subject of conservation agents, if you happen to get stopped by an agent, be courteous. It will take only a few minutes for the agent to check and see if you have the proper licenses and tags. Conservation agents have a job to do, and this is just a small part of it.

Cleaning and Maintenance

While some firearms take more cleaning and maintenance than others, you should take proper care of all firearms. If you do, they will last for many years, with the possibility of being handed down from generation to generation.

I like to use a combination cleaner-lubricant-protectant, such as Break Free CLP. A quick wipe-down at the end of a day afield is sufficient, unless you’ve been out hunting in rain or snow, or in extremely dusty or brushy conditions. In that case you probably need to break down the firearm to a certain extent. Remember to follow all manufacturer’s instructions on breakdown and reassembly. Never skip any steps the manufacturer recommends.

I also like to use a bore snake for a quick pass-through on my barrels. I use a little of the Break Free CLP on the snake and pull it through two or three times. It’s a great time saver for those quick, after-hunt wipe-downs between the thorough cleanings that require breaking down the gun.

And don’t forget that new guns need thorough cleaning when you first get them. Most come packed with a coating of heavy grease.

When it comes to maintenance on your firearms, I highly recommend that you find a reputable gunsmith in your area to take care of any malfunctioning firearms. For safety’s sake, never shoot any gun that is not in perfect working order. When in doubt, consult your gunsmith.

Sighting in or Patterning

Before going afield, you must take the time to sight in your rifle or pattern your shotgun. Even if you’re going out with the same deer rifle you’ve used for several years, take the time to make sure your gun is still zeroed in. Even the smallest of bumps can sometimes knock sights or scopes off zero.

With shotguns, make sure to pattern them to see which load works best with which choke. Once you get that figured out, make sure to use the same load each time you hunt with that shotgun and choke.

To be an ethical and responsible hunter, you have to know your own and your firearm’s limitations before you step out in the field. As ethical hunters, we always want to make the quickest and most humane kill shots we can.

Marti-patterning

Transporting your firearms

Transporting can be as simple as using a sling to throw the gun over your shoulder, making it easier to carry in the field.

In a vehicle, I highly recommend a case of some sort when transporting firearms, whether it’s a simple zip-up, soft-sided case or a padded, hard-shell transport case. For one thing, a case protects the gun—for another, in some states it is the law. This is another area where it’s necessary to know the regulations and laws in the state you are hunting—or even just traveling through. Some states also require firearms to be cased when transporting them on all-terrain vehicles in the field.

Marti-Davis-truck-copy-2

Follow-through

When throwing a ball, you must follow through to complete the action. The same applies to shooting a rifle or shotgun. Once you make the shot, you must follow through. If you’re shooting a bolt-action or pump-style rifle, follow-through includes working the action and chambering a fresh round. Be ready to make a follow-up shot if necessary. The same goes for shotguns. After you complete the shot, get another shot shell into the chamber and be prepared to make a quick follow-up shot. Of course if you’re using an autoloader, the gun does this for you. Just stay on the gun and be ready in case you need to take another shot.

Storage

After the hunt, be sure to unload and store your firearms properly. As I mentioned when discussing cleaning and maintenance, wipe down or clean your firearms prior to storage. Always make sure to store all guns beyond the reach of children or anyone else you don’t want having access to them. Always store ammunition separately from all firearms.

Marti-and-Barb-afield-copy

These safety rules need to become second nature, yet always in the forefront while you are working with firearms, especially while hunting.

IMG_2075-e1429190999379

Marti Davis

Marti Davis is a staff member for Browning Trail Cameras, WoolX and Mossy Oak.
She is an authority on most types of hunting in North America, and very active in
mentoring the next generation of young hunters.

 

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WEB   RATES     FISH    HUNT    CABINS    PHOTOS
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SAFETY Gun Storage

Modern firearms are powerful tools that experienced shooters understand need to be treated with respect. While a gun is in use, we carefully follow a set of common sense rules to keep everyone safe. But how do we practice firearms safety when the shooting or hunting sessions are over? Most of the guns folks own will spend the majority of their working life at rest, placed in one state of storage or another, until the next shooting event. Since they remain powerful tools between trips to the range, it’s very important to store them properly.

cannon-safe

A wide variety of safe gun storage accessories and containers are currently available. However, there is no universal solution to fill every role, or to fit every budget. Safe storage options are intended to perform one or more of the following tasks, which they do with varying degrees of effectiveness depending on how much money you’re willing to spend:

1. Prevent a gun from firing
2. Protect a gun from physical damage
3. Act as a theft deterrent

It’s much easier to consider the pros and cons of each storage system when they can be compared side by side. The following discussion is a walkthrough of the most common safe gun storage options, starting with the least expensive:

Trigger Locks
Trigger locks fulfill a single safe gun storage objective: Prevent the gun from firing. Most new guns now arrive from the manufacturer with a trigger lock of some kind or other in the box. Trigger shoes clamp and lock around the trigger housing to prevent the trigger from being pressed. They should not be engaged on a loaded gun because they come in contact with the trigger as they are installed and removed. Cable locks allow the shooter to run cable through the barrel or action of a firearm. Since the cable blocks the action from being closed, the gun cannot be loaded or fired with the cable lock in place.

lever2

If these two lock options are not available, a simple household padlock can be looped over the trigger guard with the hasp set behind the trigger. This will prevent the trigger from completing a firing cycle. Although trigger locks are inexpensive (or even free), and can successfully prevent a gun from firing, they do nothing to protect the gun’s finish or to deter theft.gunvault-breechvault

Soft-Side and Hard-Side Gun Cases 
Most sporting goods stores have entire aisles dedicated to affordable handgun, rifle, and shotgun cases. The options available range from padded fabric sleeves to rugged foam-lined plastic cases. The primary role of this kind of affordable carry case is to protect guns from physical damage. While they do a good job of preventing dings and scratches, their role as a security device is relatively limited.

s-l1000Most soft and hard side cases can be “legally” locked for transport to and from the shooting range (check your local regulations). This could be a luggage lock through a soft case’s zipper pull, or a padlock through the handles of a hard case. This security system may be enough to keep small children out as well. However, the materials these cases are made of are easily defeated by ordinary edged implements. These low-cost cases also have a low theft deterrence value since they are light and easy to move. They have to be hidden or locked inside of another container to protect them from theft.

Strong Boxes and Metallic Gun Cases 
In an effort to strike a balance between the security offered by a locking gun cabinet and the portability of a gun case, several companies offer portable strong boxes and metallic gun cases. Metal gun cases usually incorporate a reliable locking system or the means to attach heavy padlocks. Strong boxes, usually intended for handguns, offer mounting systems for permanent attachment to a fixed surface. Some boxes are fitted with quick-opening locking mechanisms, including electronic push-button access and fingerprint scanners.

gunvault-microvault

Strong boxes and metallic gun cases are the first products discussed so far that start to fill all three mandates of a safe gun storage device. They can effectively protect against unauthorized access because of the difficulty in opening these units without a key or lock combination. These containers will effectively protect a gun’s finish from damage. And, if they can be attached or locked to a fixed object or surface, they offer some level of theft deterrence. But with features to fill all three mandates, the price starts to go up. It may be necessary to purchase batteries or extra mounting hardware to take advantage of all the storage device’s available features.

Locking Steel Gun Cabinets
Remember that grand wooden gun display case that your great-uncle had in his den? Looking through the engraved glass panes of the double doors, you could see his beautiful vintage shotgun collection. Sometimes he would retrieve that little brass key to open the doors so you could get a better look. While this kind of locking gun cabinet looks wonderful, it does not offer any truly viable level of safe gun storage, accept against small children. To secure firearms, a locking steel gun cabinet is a more secure choice.

86034

Cabinets differ from gun safes in several respects. They follow a less-is-more design. The thinner gauge of steel, a simple locking mechanism, and the lack of fire-proofing insulation greatly reduces the cost. Because they are light enough to be safely carried by one or two people, they can be set up in apartment buildings or second-floor rooms where a gun safe would simply be too heavy or difficult to install.

Cabinets are a big step up from metallic gun cases or strong boxes when it comes to storing multiple firearms. They offer a much larger storage capacity and more configuration options. Cabinets can be securely bolted to a wall or to the floor. However, they do not offer the same level of theft deterrence as a gun safe. If you have the cash for a high-end cabinet, and the room to store it, you may want to spend a little more and purchase an economy-line gun safe.

Gun Safes
Simply stated, gun safes are the most secure gun storage option available to the average gun owner. Even the basic units have terrific advantages over any of the other gun storage units described so far. A locked safe will definitely prevent a gun from being handled or loaded. The upholstered interior and built-in gun racks will help to protect the finish of the firearms while allowing air to circulate. And, best of all, they are an effective theft deterrent.

browning-pro-series

Much like automobiles or personal computers, gun safes are available with a wide variety of features, locking systems, and finishes, all of which affect the bottom line cost of the unit. These cost-changing features include the gauge (or thickness) of the steel used to construct the safe, the strength and reliability of the locking mechanism, the level of fire resistance (if any), the extent of the warranty, shelf and rack configuration options, as well as the color and quality options for the exterior finish.

ID54-interior

Because all gun safes are relatively expensive (compared to other gun storage options) it makes sense to consider what you want very carefully before you buy. First-time safe buyers should be careful to avoid two common, but serious, mistakes. The first thing to avoid is buying a safe that’s too small. A unit that’s a perfect fit for your collection today may not serve your needs in ten years. A bit more expense up front may save you the trouble of changing out or adding a second safe down the road.

The second mistake is waiting too long to buy one. Yes, gun safes are big, heavy, difficult to install, and expensive to pay for. But they are well worth the trouble if you have a gun collection you care about. How do you know it’s time to invest in a gun safe? If the guns you have are worth more (sentimentally as well as financially) than the cost of the least expensive safe you would be willing to purchase, then it’s time to start shopping for one.

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YES, I’M STUPID!

by M.R. James

I’VE SAID IT BEFORE and I’ll say it again. If you hunt from a treestand without wearing a safety harness, you might as well wear a great big sign that reads “Yes, I’m stupid!” Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Only this morning I read another news account of a bowhunter found dead at the base of his tree stand. And while he reportedly had a safety harness with him, it was in his pocket. So what happened? No one will ever know the details of why and how he died. But he’s dead and that’s a damn shame.

Somehow I can’t help but believe that like some folks now reading these words, the guy believed it could never ever happen to him.  But it could and did.

He was wrong. Dead wrong! And so are you if you think you’re bulletproof.

Treestands can be a deer hunters best friend and worst enemy. Hunting from trees is the most consistently successful method to tag game, but each year falls injure and kill hunters.

STATISTICS SAY ODDS ARE one-third of bow hunters are destined to take a tumble while climbing into, out of, or while in elevated stands. Think about that. Can you name anyone who’s fallen? I sure can and so can most of the veteran bow hunters I know. It can happen to anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.

Believe it!

Wearing a safety harness is mandatory when hunting from elevated stands. It’s also smart to wear a climber’s strap or safety line when climbing into and out of stands.

A friend of mine, who was with me when I arrowed my first Montana bull elk, died of a broken neck years later while hunting bears from a tree stand. No one knows why and how he fell, but somehow he did and he’s dead.

Another friend fell while hanging a stand. He survived but suffered severe injuries – and still walks with a bad limp. Another guy I know is paralyzed and “lives” in a wheelchair because he’ll never walk again. And even though I wasn’t hunting at the time, I once lost my balance and jumped backwards from an eight-foot stepladder while trimming tree limbs, cold cocking myself when I banged my head on the ground. This list of accidental falls could go on and on. Sadly, it does.

SO HOW DO WE STAY SAFE? We begin by recognizing the fact each and every one of us is vulnerable and we must never climb without wearing a fall restraint safety harness. Ever! If we won’t do it for ourselves, we should do it for family and friends who would have to attend our funeral, visit us in the hospital, or feed, dress, and to tend us because we’re paralyzed and we can’t do it for ourselves.

When hunting alone, we also make sure a hunting buddy or family member knows exactly where we’ll be and when we expect to be home. We slip a cell phone and a whistle into our pocket or pack in case we fall and can’t walk to get help. And we take pains to be safe each and every time we climb a tree, especially in cold, wet, or icy weather. We not only wear a safety harness but add a lineman’s climbing strap or treestand lifeline for use when climbing up and down to and from a stand. We never climb while holding our bow or other hunting gear, raising and lowering hunting tackle with a haul line. We always keep three of four contact points (hands and feet) with the ladder or steps when climbing into or out of stands. And once in the tree stand, we immediately buckle ourselves in and do not unbuckle until just before climbing down. This is the most dangerous time frame we face while hunting from elevated stands.

Here’s a hunter’s-eye view of a couple of feeding does. Knowing you’re securely buckled in allows you to focus on making the shot, not fretting about falling.

Finally, prior to using our hang-on or climbing stands, steps, and ladders, we inspect them for any sign or wear or damage. We check support cables and tighten bolts and screws, if necessary, and double check all straps.

BACK WHEN I RAN BOW HUNTER MAGAZINE, I repeatedly included little reminders designed to make readers think of safety. One of my favorites was, “Bow hunting Safety Is No Accident!”

It was true then and it’s true today.

But the bottom line is we are the ones responsible for keeping ourselves safe. We are the ones who must recognize the need to be proactive in doing whatever is necessary to avoid injury or death. We are the only ones who must admit that a life-changing or life-ending accident could happen to us.

Because doing anything less is downright stupid!

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