Going Overboard…A Treestand Disaster

By: Paul Murray
By: Paul Murray

Through blurry eyes I saw short flashes of the ground and the tree that was supposed to be supporting my treestand passing through my mind as if it were a dream. I have to say that I have no memory of sound for this time. This time, which is frozen in what seems to be suspended animation, haunts me on occasion. How did I get there?

Prior to these events someone told me I was going overboard with my preseason preparations. Frequent scouting trips, frantic preparations and checking trail cameras before the upcoming season are just part of the game we all play as whitetail hunters.

All I planned to do this day was climb into a few treestands to screw in some bow hooks and tie off some bow lines. It sounded simple enough and it was going to rain that night so it would be perfect. The rain would wash away any miscellaneous scent I had left behind. I have been climbing trees for as long as I can remember and never took a fall. Some would say I was due, maybe overdue.

My work schedule changed suddenly and I found myself with the next day off. I knew all of my hunting buddies had to work. I figured it was no problem as it wasn’t like I hadn’t done this a hundred times before. That night I packed my car and set my alarm clock for 5:00 am. When the alarm went off I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. Soon I was flying down the thruway to our property in the southern tier of Western New York. After opening the windows and the doors to vent out the cabin I headed to the woods. The plan was to start at the furthest stand and work my way back to the cabin. I should have been able to get everything done in a couple hours provided I did not get hung up.

When I arrived at the first stand I climbed up the climbing stick and onto the stand after checking that it was secure I screwed in my bow hook and tied off the bow line. I was well on my way to the second stand within five minutes. I was off to a good start.

I was off to a good start and then I was suddenly hanging upside down, disoriented and in pain.
I was off to a good start and then I was suddenly hanging upside down, disoriented and in pain.

When I arrived at the second stand location I screwed in the tree pegs and climbed on to the stand and made sure it was secure. I was trying to screw in my bow hook but the maple tree the stand was in was hard and I just couldn’t get the bow hook to bite. I was really leaning on the hook trying to get it to bite into the tree limb when I heard CRACK! The bow hook snapped in my hand and I lost my balance. As soon as it did my head hit the limb that I was trying to put the hook into. I tried to take evasive actions but it was too late or I was too slow. I still don’t know which it was. The only thing that probably saved my life that day was the tree stand I was in. When the bow hook broke and I began to fall, my leg somehow got caught and twisted in one of the cables that support the stand.

As I hung there upside down for what seemed to be an eternity, panic set in. I started to notice an increasing sharp pain in my forehead. Not to mention a sharp pain from my lower shin of my right leg from where the 1/8th inch diameter cable twisted around it, holding all of my body weight.

Fortunately I was coherent enough to grab on to a limb, pull myself back to the main trunk of the tree and climb back up the side and sit on a limb that I had previously cut off a foot from the trunk of the tree weeks earlier when I hung the stand. When I kind of got my bearings I managed to get out of my hung up boot and catch my breath for a bit. After a few minutes or so of sitting there I untwisted my boot from the cable and noticed the considerable gash that was torn through the shin of my rubber boot. That was about the time I glanced down at my jeans to see a red spot in the same location as the hole in my boot and watched the white sock on my right foot slowly turning red.

No matter whether you are setting up a stand or hunting. If you’re up off the ground secure yourself to the tree. Remember, were all out there for fun, but your safety has got to be #1…
No matter whether you are setting up a stand or hunting.  Make sure that if you’re off the ground you secure yourself to the tree. Remember, were all out there for fun, but your safety has got to be #1…

I dropped the boot to the ground, took a deep breath and rested my head on the tree for a few more minutes. When my head started to clear I decided it was time to move. I looked at the tree where my head was resting and there was another red spot. I slowly and carefully climbed up a couple limbs and back onto the stand. I was just about to get down and start heading back to the cabin when I remembered my bow line. I reached into my pack and got out the line and tied it off. By the time I reached the base of the tree, blood, was dripping off my forehead and across the bridge of my nose. My jeans were also starting to stick to my leg.

After I got out of the tree and got my boot back on, I sat down again to collect my thoughts. I sat there in the middle of the woods with the closest person probably a mile away. The real kicker was nobody even knew I was going to the cabin to do this work. I never told anyone where I was going or what I was doing. It didn’t take me long to realize that was not a smart thing for me to do.

Let your family and friends know where you will be and what time you are expected to return from the woods. Here the author is pointing out where he will be hunting on an aerial photo to his Fiancé Amber Dearing. And make sure you have a cell phone.
Let your family and friends know where you will be and what time you are expected to return from the woods. Here the author is pointing out where he will be hunting on an aerial photo to his Fiancé Amber Dearing. And make sure you have a cell phone.

A word to the wise for all who will take it:
If you’re getting ready to climb into a tree to place, remove, work on or sit a stand make sure you are properly connected with a safety strap or preferably a fall restraint harness from the minute you leave the ground. Do not climb up into a stand and then put your safety strap or harness on. Most treestand accidents happen getting into, or out of the stand. Do not let your ego or laziness get in the way of your safety, your season or your life. You can’t buy a tree stand now without getting a safety strap with it. Simply put; use them because they save lives every year and your family needs you. I shared this story with my friends and family and they all said more or less the same thing, “You are one lucky son of a gun.” Another tip I cannot stress enough when discussing treestand safety is to always let your friends or family know where you are going whether it be scouting or hunting. So if you should have a problem they will know where to start looking for you. I also recommend taking a cell phone with you too.

Remember there is nothing wrong with going a little overboard when it comes to chasing whitetails. I know how it gets into your blood. Just don’t put your life in danger or let yourself get hung out to dry. I was lucky my mistake wasn’t worse. Don’t make that mistake.