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Standing Safely

Joe, my deer-hunting buddy, has a tree stand on his farm that we call Widowmaker. After I nearly took a tumble from it in the pre-dawn hours one season, we decided that it’s aptly named.

With modern gun season for deer starting statewide in a couple of weeks, it’s a good time to think about tree stand safety.

Deer hunters use platforms perched on trees to elevate themselves above the whitetails’ line of sight. If the deer can’t see you, then they’re likely to come closer, allowing you to make a good, clean shot.

Drive through almost any rural area of the state and you’re likely to see an old tree stand. Usually these homemade stands consist of 2×4 lumber steps nailed to the trunk, and a small platform atop a high fork of the tree.

The biggest problem with these stands is that wood rots. A step or platform may look fine, but the inside of the board may be crumbling. While climbing the steps of Widowmaker at 5:30 one morning, I had a board pull off in my hand about eight feet up the tree. Fortunately, my other hand was still on a lower step and I didn’t lose my balance.

If you are using a homemade stand, don’t wait until opening day to inspect it. Do it now, so you can replace any weakened or loose boards and still have time for the area’s deer to settle down before the start of modern gun season on November 14.

Better yet, if you’re handy with a saw and nails, replace those steps with a wooden ladder. These are safer and easier to climb, and you can brace them against the trunk with a strap and ratchet.

My best advice to hunters, however, is to go with a store-bought stand. They are sturdy and safe. You don’t have to find a forked tree for your stand, which means you can put it in the best hunting location.

Whatever type of tree stand you use, always wear a safety harness—even if you find it annoying. This will prevent you from falling out when in midmorning the overwhelming urge to sleep hits you.

Finally, let me add one more tip: never take off your orange hat or vest when you’re in a tree stand. This color doesn’t pop out to a deer, but it sure lets other hunters know you’re there. Hunt safely this season.


Your purchase of a hunting or fishing license funds wildlife conservation and management. Even if you don’t hunt or fish, show your support for the outdoors by wearing an orange hat wherever you go on November 14. Or to purchase a license, go online to

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