According to the dictionary an accident is "an unplanned and unfortunate event that results in damage, injury, or upset of some kind." Based upon that definition, there is no way it should describe the unfortunate event of anyone who falls from a treestand without wearing a fall-restraint system while hunting during the upcoming statewide archery deer season, which opens Saturday, Oct. 5.
That is not to suggest that all accidents associated with installing and using a treestand are possible to avoid, but falling out of one because of not wearing a safety harness is being stubborn at best. Then again, if laws are needed to make it illegal to text and drive, perhaps it is just a matter of time before civil laws are put into place to protect hunters from themselves.
Ron Koch, who hosts the television program "Outdoor Buddies" on the Comcast cable system and owns an archery and taxidermy shop on Route 895 between Auburn and Summit Station, said convincing bowhunters to invest in a safety harness is becoming an ever-increasing easier sell. He believes this can be contributed directly to the emphasis placed on treestand safety by hunter-education instructors since it was made part of the Pennsylvania Game Commission basic course in 2000 and the subliminal messages that are being sent by hosts of outdoors television programs who are seen wearing safety harnesses by Hunter Safety System and other manufactures.
In addition to being a lifelong bowhunter, Koch is a professional video producer of hunting DVDs. As such, he learned years ago about the importance of using fall-restraint systems long before they gained their current popularity.
"I would never think of sitting in a treestand without wearing a safety harness," Koch said. "And when I say "harness," that's exactly what I mean, and I'm not talking about wearing a safety belt around my waist.
"There was a time when the only thing available for hunters to wear in a treestand was a safety belt, and while they prevented falls, they could be dangerous. It was possible for them to slide up under the arms, and if a hunter fell out of their stand while wearing a belt, they could dangle upside down.
"With both compound and crossbow packages selling anywhere from $350 to $1,200, it shouldn't even be a consideration when it comes to spending as little as $40 on a safety harness. Of course, that's the basic harness, so a lot of hunters go to those made by Hunter Safety System, which is the top of the line."
For many bowhunters, Hunters Safety System Pro Series provides the ultimate in safety and versatility because the ventilated mesh vest portion of the product has eight large pockets for storage that eliminates the need to carry a backpack. Newer models are lighter and quieter than earlier solid-body models that had noisy, metal buckles and they have built-in straps to attach binoculars and rangefinders.
There is also a solid reversible model with camouflage and fluorescent orange sides and scaled-down models designed for women and for youth. HSH also offers an Ultra-Light Extreme model that is only a safety harness for those long, pack-in hunts when full backpack of gear is necessary and weight is a consideration.
Hunters have an easy and enjoyable way to test themselves on treestand safety by accessing the Pennsylvania Game Commission website at http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/ and taking the free "Online Treestand Safety Course." Simply place the cursor on "Education" in the menu bar under the banner, then on "Hunter Education" in the drop-down menu list and then click on the course in the drop-down menu list.
"Treestand safety has evolved over the years as new research and statistics become available," PGC Hunter-Trapper Education Division chief Keith Snyder said. "What were once considered to be "safe" treestand safety practices 10 years ago are simply not considered to be safe today.
"By reviewing this 15-minute interactive, narrated treestand safety course, a hunter will learn about the latest Treestand Manufacturers Association's safety standards and guidelines. One of the key messages is the importance of having and using a full-bodied fall restraint device or harness, as 82 percent of treestand-related deaths were attributed to the fact that the hunter was not using a fall-restraint devise."
Unfortunately, those incidents were not so much accidents as much as poor choices in now wearing a safety harness.