Treestand Hunter Dies

Sponsored by: Whitetail University, Bear Archery, Dries Visser Safaris, ATSKO, Mountaineer Sports

Like clockwork the internet begins to rack up the tally from this year’s hunting season. Gravity never blinks. That is the issue that most of these unfortunate hunters encounter when they fall from their treestands. It is predictable that some hunters will collide with dirt every fall but there may be a relatively simple solution. Stay attached to the tree with a full body harness from the moment you leave the ground until you return to the ground. Yet there is one more risky time that you need to know about.

Dr. Norm Woods demonstrates a test fall while using his Rescue One CDS harness.

I just Googled – (local treestand accident) and got a few pages of recent deaths and catastrophic injuries this season. One detail that I was able to pick out was that there were two death by suspension issues on the first page. This is a part of the equation that many hunters are overlooking. Suspension Trauma is kind of a backdoor killer that has been overlooked. Only recently did the state agencies and national Hunter Ed groups like the Bowhunter Education Foundation begin to address this killer. The NBEF and TMA actually began to address this issue 5-6 years ago and I was part of the team that developed and now teaches methods and procedures to confront and minimize suspension trauma issues.

Suspension trauma occurs when a person is suspended in a full body harness and the leg straps constrict the legs. When blood is pumped into the legs the constriction stops the blood from flowing back to the heart. Blood pools in the legs. This results in a drop in blood pressure followed by unconsciousness. A study by the US Air force discovered that a victim hanging suspended motionless in a harness can loose consciousness in as little as 5 minutes. This condition can then lead directly to death if the victim is not rescued.

If you ever find yourself hanging suspended you should immediately signal for help then employ a number of procedures to get that blood moving out of your legs. These may include: pumping the legs and moving them into a horizontal position but may a short term solution. The best solution is to get the pressure off of those leg straps. One method is to use a strap to make a looped step to stand on by attaching the ends to either side of your waist of your FBH. Loop it down to about shin height and stand on it. It’s not comfortable but it can relieve the pressure.

The best way to confront Suspension Trauma is to use a little technology developed by a friend of mine who is a medical doctor and bowhunter. Dr. Norm Woods developed a device called a Rescue-One ‘CDS’. The ‘CDS’ is an acronym for Controlled Descent System. With this harness the suspension trauma solution is built in. Here is how it works. If you fall and can’t regain footing and get back onto the platform you can deploy 30′ of mountaineering rope that is cleverly stowed on a lightweight rack concealed on the back of the harness vest. By pulling a rip cord/release you can engage the decent device and lower yourself slowly to the ground.

I have used it during a testing regime and it worked perfectly the very first time I tried it. I was at 30-feet in a hang-on style stand and staged a planned fall that left me dangling over 3 stories up. The leg straps in any harness take the bulk of your weight and I could feel the pressure cutting off the normal circulation of blood out of my legs. I deployed the ‘CDS’ and by applying pressure to the descent controller strap I was able to lower myself to the ground.
Here is Dr. Woods demonstrating the system.

The harness arrests/stops your fall then you deploy a strap that when pulled lowers you slowly to the ground. the system can be repacked and reused. A great investment if you are a treestand hunter.

The best part of this rescue harness is that it costs no more than a deluxe Hunter Safety System Harness and weights less, yet it has all of the pockets, bells/whistles. The one thing it does have that a Hunter Safety System harness lacks is a built-in solution that can be employed to save you from suspension trauma. There can be no better solution than the option to return to the ground safely and go home.

The RESCUE-ONE ‘CDS’ II available through major catalog retailers and online at You can Google- Rescue One ‘CDS’ and read about it. Save a life of a loved one this Christmas. Get them a Rescue One ‘CDS’.

The author, Wade Nolan, is a Master Treestand Safety Instructor and project leader for the NBEF Treestand Safety production.