Sponsored by Mountaineer Sports (maker of the life-saving Rescue One ‘CDS’ Controlled Decent System)
By: Daryl R. Clair
At 10:20 AM on an unusually warm November morning in 2008 I was enjoying the excitement of watching an impressive 7-point buck approaching my stand as he responded to my doe-in-heat call. I came to full draw, aimed carefully, and then let the arrow fly. My immediate assessment was that I hadn’t been successful, and a quick descent of my tree and an even faster walk to the spot where that buck had stood only minutes before proved that no tracking was necessary this time. The arrow had missed its mark. I retrieved it and headed back to my tree to resume the day’s hunt.
The ensuing ascent in my climber gave me a new and unexpected perspective on hunting from a tree stand. The sound of metal-on-metal from the top part of my stand unexplainably and with great force sliding down the tree to meet the bottom section echoed through the hollow. I suddenly found myself hanging upside down, supported only by the webbed straps securing my boots to the bottom of my stand and the back of my knees draped over the bar where I had been sitting only a few seconds before. In my haste to check out my failed shot I had made the monumental decision to leave my anchor strap on the tree at “hunting height” in order to save time when I returned. Approximately thirty minutes of attempting to hoist myself back into the stand left me exhausted and with the clear understanding that I was going to need some help.
I suppose it was the sound of my car keys hitting the ground that triggered my next thought. I wondered if a cell phone would make a noise landing on oak leaves, because mine was one pocket above where the keys had just departed. If there was a better time for my luck to take an upward turn, I couldn’t imagine it. The phone was still there! I knew that I could get through to my buddy, Mickey, so I hit #6 on speed dial and waited for him to answer. I knew I could reach Mickey was because he had been off work for the past two months with an injured back. Mickey lives about twenty-five minutes away from where I was hanging, but he promised that he would get to me as soon as he could.
To reduce some of the pressure on my feet and legs, I held onto the bar of my climber for as long as my hands could take it. With my phone safely tucked away again to keep it from joining my keys on the ground, I literally held on for dear life . . . until my phone began to ring. It’s not easy fishing a phone out of a hunting coat pocket while suspended from a tree, so the extra care I took to keep it from falling had kept me from answering in time. I have no way of checking this, but I’ve got to be the first person to ever get a voicemail from 9-1-1 asking to call them back when I got the message. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Mickey called his friend to ask him to provide assistance as he drove to help me. Todd, who is a Pennsylvania State Trooper, told Mickey that he wouldn’t make it to me in time. He advised Mickey to hang up and call 9-1-1 to provide information on my location and to give them my phone number.
When I returned the call the 9-1-1 dispatcher proceeded to carry on a conversation with me for what seemed like an eternity until rescue workers swarmed onto the scene where I was hanging. The “companionship” had been comforting, but I was unable to hold onto the bar of my stand while holding the phone. As a result, the pressure on my legs and feet became increasingly difficult to bear. My legs and feet had gone from uncomfortable to painful, and then they had gone numb from the knees down. Breathing was also becoming somewhat of a challenge because of my lungs getting internal pressure from being upside down. Help had arrived approximately one hour and fifteen minutes after my situation had begun.
Two ladders, some rope, about ten rescue personnel, and approximately twenty minutes later I walked from my tree to my mother’s back yard without any assistance. The time that I had tried to save by ignoring basic tree stand safety procedures had cost me the second half of the day’s hunt. Without some good luck and speedy rescue personnel, it could have cost me my life.
Several weeks later I had the opportunity to meet Todd and personally thank him for his help in rescuing me. In a measured and somber delivery, Todd told me that I was a lucky man. Todd let me know that he had dealt with three other incidents like mine during his years on the job. Two of those hunters had come out of the woods in body bags, and the third had both of his legs amputated at the knees due to the loss of circulation while hanging from his stand.
I learned two very important lessons from this ordeal that I would like to pass along to other hunters who hunt from treestands: 1) Always use your Full Body Harness, and 2) Always use your Full Body Harness.
The following may save your life;
I once read a magazine report that said 1 out of 3 treestand hunters would eventually be involved in an accident. In spite of the fact that I was a self-taught treestand hunter, I never considered that I would eventually be included in the 1 because I was “always careful”. That philosophy proved to be life-threatening the one time that I chose to put caution aside by using a quality climbing treestand without attaching myself to the tree during my ascent. Luckily I survived the resulting ordeal.
I recently had the opportunity to view the DVD Safe Treestand Hunting Strategies by the National Bowhunter Education Foundation. Watch this important instructional by clicking this link… http://www.treestandvideo.com/treestandvideo.html The information in this DVD is detailed and specific regarding the precautions necessary to make each hunt safe. The Safe Treestand Hunting Strategies DVD emphasizes the need to be attached to the tree at all times, demonstrating the potential for injury or death if that safety measure is ignored. Properly using my Full Body Harness as described in the DVD would have prevented me from becoming suspended upside down by making it impossible for me to fall backward from the top section of my stand. I failed to remain connected to the tree at all times.
Some might say that you live and learn, but following the safety measures outlined in Safe Treestand Hunting Strategies will help hunters to learn and live. I now wear a Rescue One Harness. It not only offers all of the benefits of a certified Full body harness but it also has the unique ability to lower you to the ground.