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The Descender - Emergency descent device a valuable product for hunters

Rampant in the hunting industry are products so obviously important that they make hunters want to slap their foreheads and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

There are products to mask your scent, using ozone air purifiers to kill odor-creating particles caused by sweat and bacteria. There are sights for firearm and archery equipment that also function as range finders. There are trail cameras which can send an instant image to a cell phone or computer.

But new to the market is a product with the most important feature of all – it will help you get home alive.

The Descender, by Primal, is an emergency descent device that works in conjunction with a full body harness. It comes with its own strap for attachment to a tree (up to 25 feet high). It includes a carabiner, making it simple to attach the tech for your safety harness.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – if you are hunting from a tree stand, you must be wearing a full-body harness. The waist or chest belt are ineffective – they may keep you from hitting the ground, but they will also undoubtedly cause further injury.

A full-body harness will hold you suspended in an upright position if you fall, but – and this is a huge “but” – the longer you hang in the harness, the greater your chance of injury or death because of interrupted blood flow to and from your legs. It’s called Suspension Trauma, and it’s a serious condition.

In 1968 research lab scientists of the United States Air Force did some testing using paratrooper harnesses and five volunteers who were in good health. One lost consciousness after 27 minutes but regained consciousness once placed on the floor. At the time, the researchers attributed the loss of consciousness to “venous sequestration in the lower limbs.” The results of the experiment weren’t published for 20 years.

Similar study attempts were quickly aborted. During a series of suspension tests in France in 1973, the experiment ended rapidly when all subjects reached unconsciousness. In 1992, volunteers wearing caving harnesses were suspended, but quickly stopped when two volunteers became unconscious in seven minutes. It’s important to point out that these volunteers were healthy and young, either paratroopers or cavers, assumingly fit individuals.

Some things you should know about The Descender – you can get one and try it out, but it is one-time use only. If you want to try it out and have one to use, you’ll need to buy two. The company sent me two, I tested one and it worked perfectly. The descent was at a controlled speed – the device uses some sort of internal friction braking system.

The weight capacity for The Descender is from 120 to 300 pounds; the weight capacity of the Primal full-body harness is 300 pounds. The majority of full-body harnesses are rated to 300 pounds, but Hunter Safety Systems makes a full-body harness with a greater weight capacity.

If you weigh more than 300 pounds (and consider the weight of your hunter gear too), you shouldn’t be using a standard tree stand anyway; you should be in a heavy-duty ladder stand with a greater weight capacity. Most lock-on style tree stands are rated to 250 pounds. There are single person and “man and a half” ladders that are rated to 300 pounds, and two-person ladders usually have a 500-pound capacity.

The Descender device kit itself weighs 2 pounds. Primal sells the product by itself and in combination with the company’s full body harness. By itself, the kit retails for about $50.00. That is so, so reasonable for a product that will help you get safely to the ground.

Of all the new products available for hunters this year, the most important one could be the product that would help you get to the ground safely in the event of a fall from a tree stand. The Descender attaches to a tree, and a hunter would attach the tether strap of a safety harness to The Descender. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS