We spend the entire summer launching arrow after arrow, tweaking our loads and planning our sets. By the time the season starts we have read a library’s worth of hunting magazines.  If our employers actually knew how much time we spent daydreaming about cool October morning with our bow and deer drives with our family, the unemployment rate would triple.

How can it be a group who is this detail oriented, this dedicated to what they love, is so flippant about the most important aspect of any hunt?

Finding nationwide hunter treestand falls and fatalities numbers can be a bit of a challenge. Each state keeps individual statistics, and a quick search by your state can be as alarming as it is revealing.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources indicates that 1 in 3 hunters will experience a treestand fall during their hunting lives. These falls result in roughly fifty fatalities nationwide and hundreds of permanently debilitating injuries yearly.

While the amount of elevated treestands appears to have been on a steady climb over the last 25 years, so too has the technology associated with them. Stands today are safer and sturdier than they’ve ever been. Harnesses continue to become less cumbersome and bulky. The advent of the tree-to-ground safety line has made it easier than ever to ensure that hunters are “Buckled in” throughout the entire ascent and descent.  Most treestand manufacturers include a FREE adult harness with each tree stand sold.

With so many forces conspiring to keep us safe, how is it then that hunters still aren’t properly utilizing them?

The most common complaints seem to be that the harnesses themselves are too bulky and cumbersome to employ in complete darkness. While vest style harnesses have remedied that to a degree, trying to get your harness can still be a bit like working on a frigid Rubix cube in the dark.

The honest truth is that some people just don’t want to. Regardless of any statistical justification or emotional pleas, some can’t be convinced of their necessity.

I once counted myself among their ranks. My testosterone-laced bravado couldn’t be swayed until I spoke to someone who’d fallen 20’ feet from a stand that he’d climbed into countless times over the years. He’d lacerated a kidney, cracked ribs and broken his pelvis. The injuries were major, though they certainly could have been worse.

What stuck with me from that encounter was how grateful he was to simply be alive.

In the end that is what we are talking about. This can no longer be viewed as a discussion about ease and comfort. This topic is nothing short of life and death.

We speak at great length about our responsibility to the game that we chase while ignoring the responsibility that we have to our families. Each time we enter the woods they trust us to come home with all of our limbs attached and functioning. When we climb a tree we take our life into our own hands but it’s incredibly selfish to act as though we’re the only ones affected by our decisions.

With every hunting season that passes more wives get the phone call that their husbands will never be coming home. Little boys learn that their father will never be able to play catch with them again.  Fathers, now confined to a wheel chair, must come to grips with the fact that they’ve hugged their children for the last time.

There are few things in this world that rival harvesting a whitetail but at the end of the day our most precious trophies are waiting for us to come home.

Be safe, hunters.

[editors note: The most recent fatality in a tree stand fall was just three days ago.]