Monday, August 6, 2018

Are You Out of Peanut Butter?

Several years ago, a friend of mine who is now deceased and I were having a conversation about why some of our mutual friends had stopped attending church with us. She said, "I guess they must be out of peanut butter." I was confused by her comment, and I guess she could tell by the look on my face so she followed it with - "That excuse is as good as any." Her point was - there really is no good excuse.

In today's world I am still amazed at the number of hunters I talk to who refuse to wear a safety harness. Each year as an outdoor journalist, I receive reports of  hunters who fell from a tree stand. Either while hunting, climbing or descending. Far too often, those hunters who fall do not live to hunt another day. Instead, they leave a wife and kids without their husband and father. (No offense to the women out there - but statistics show that women hunters are five times more likely to wear a harness than a man is)  The DNR does not track treestand accidents that occur while hanging a stand or removing a stand. Only accidents that occur while in the actual act of hunting. This dramatically skews the data. There are far more accidents that occur in hanging and removing stands than while hunting.

As a warning, I am not officially on my soapbox.

I have had a lot of conversations with hunters who do not wear a safety harness and the response is either - "They are too expensive" or "I am careful."

In the dozens of people who I have personally interviewed who have fallen out of a stand at some point, not one of them ever told me they intentionally fell. Each time, it was an accident. Four individuals lost their footing, slipped or a limb they were trusting suddenly gave way. Seven fell while hanging or removing a stand. Five of these said it never occurred to them to wear their harness while working on the stand.

Six individuals, four of whom are either paralyzed or permanently disabled fell because the tree stand broke in some fashion. (I couldn't interview the dead ones, but investigations showed - old frayed straps on climbing steps and strap on stands, homemade climbing stands with broken welds, and one poor soul, just fell out of his stand. Three times, I talked with hunters who admitted they fell asleep and fell out of their stand. Anyone who says they have never fallen asleep while hunting is lying.

Two years ago, I made it mandatory on the property I own and manage, if you are going to hunt with me, you will wear a full body safety harness. If I catch you not wearing it, you will not hunt with me again. I care too much about your safety to let you climb a tree without a harness.

Honestly, with the bevy of brands out there that offer safety harnesses, there is no real reason not to wear one. I like Hunter's Safety Systems (No I am not paid by, nor sponsored by them). I like them because of the simplicity and I like the vest that holds my rangefinder. I love the multiple hook points for using a lineman's belt while hanging the stand, and the lifeline that will secure me from the ground up. I just clip in and start up my climbing sticks and never have to change, unhook or anything. At around $100 dollars it is cheap insurance.

Other good harnesses include Muddy Outdoors, and Summit, Gorilla Gear

One of the other elements that confound me is the same guys who complain about a harness being too expensive, drive up in a $40,000 truck pulling a $12,000 UTV, wearing $300 camouflage and toting a $1,200 bow. All while hunting on a lease that costs him $2,000 per year not to mention all of the extra stuff that goes into it. But they cannot afford a $125 safety harness?

I tell my children all of the time. There is a big difference between an excuse and a reason. There is absolutely no good reason that hunters are not wearing a safety harness. They only have an excuse, and none of them are good enough. "I guess they must be out of peanut butter."

Be an example for your kids and your fellow hunter. Wear your safety harness.

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