Wildlife Watch: Tree stand safety for Vermont hunters

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 6:18 PM EDT
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WOODBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - If you haven’t put your tree stand up, Vermont Fish and Wildlife says now’s the time!

“You want to put it up before the season so the animals can get used to it,” said Hannah Phelps of Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

But what is a tree stand and why would you use it?

“Tree stands are basically platforms that you can put up into trees to hunt from. For white-tailed deer especially we will talk about because the bow deer season starts October 1st. Deer have spotty eyesight and they have really good noses. And the number one way a hunter will get detected in the woods is by a deer smelling their scent. Tree stands are great because they put you up above the nose of a deer. They are not going to be climbing up and sniffing up in the air. So if you are above them, your scent is also above them. It gives you an advantage because you can get closer because bows have a shorter effective range than maybe a rifle would,” Phelps said.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: Are tree stands only used for white-tailed deer and bow season?

Hannah Phelps: Nope, you can hunt from a tree stand pretty much any season, any time of year. It’s all personal preference.

They are allowed on public and private land, but on public land, there are certain dates they are allowed, your contact info must be on the stand and you’re not allowed to drill into the tree. Private land it’s up to the landowner. The three most common types of stands are climber, platform and ladder.

“What stand works best for you, what works best in the location you are hunting in,” Phelps said.

The climber is a little more work but easy to move around.

“It moves up in down the tree, so you stand on this bottom platform here and you physically move it up the tree. You climb the tree in this stand,” Phelps explained.

The platform stand is one of the most common that will be found in the woods.

“The important thing with this tree stand is when you are setting up your steps, you want to make sure that the highest step that you set is above the actual platform here. So normally you would have a few steps here, so I’m going to hoist myself up so I’m up above it. I’ll be stepping down into the stand, that way you can test that weight just like the climber and once you know it’s secure, you can put your full body on to it,” Phelps said.

A ladder stand can take some work to set up.

“It can be bulky. If you are going really far into the woods, this probably isn’t the best option to use. But once it’s set up, it’s really sturdy, it’s really safe,” Phelps said.

Ike Bendavid: Not an alone project?

Hannah Phelps: Not an alone project. The other ones can be but this one you need a couple friends to help out.

But no matter what stand you use, officials urge you to watch your safety and use a harness when you get up in the tree.

“The full-body harness is really important,” Phelps said. “It’s going to keep you safe. It’s going to keep you attached to the tree so if you do fall out of the tree stand, that will catch you and keep you safe there. And it’s important to have full-body, so five points of contact, shoulders, hips and legs.”

The goal is to prevent injuries.

Hannah Phelps: Nationally, the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation put out numbers that 2019 there were about 2,000 injuries from tree stand falls which is down 65% since 2010. Which is crazy. So there used to be a ton more. And they attribute that decline to hunter education and tree stand safety education.

Ike Bendavid: And I’m sure many are not reported.

Hannah Phelps: Yes, probably I’m sure. So we don’t have a real number on how many happen but we know they happen every year.

Click here for much more on tree stand safety from the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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