By Tim H. Martin & Ryan Noffsinger
In December of 2017, Buckmasters Art Director Ryan Noffsinger had a scary incident while climbing into an old metal ladder stand on his property.
Years before Millennium became our trusted sponsor, a member of Ryan’s hunt club had erected an off-brand ladder stand on seemingly firm ground during the dry Alabama summertime. The ladder portion of the stand came in three sections.
No one had hunted from this stand all season, so Ryan had high hopes for success there during the approaching rut.
Just before the hunt, heavy rains had saturated and softened the ground. Over time and unbeknown to Ryan, the feet of the stand had begun to gradually work their way into the soil. This relieved tension on the joints and made it possible for the male and female connections of the ladder to separate.
Before climbing, Ryan gave the stand a hard shake to ensure it was still secured to the tree. No problem.
He’d successfully climbed the first two ladder sections when suddenly, the downward pressure from his weight caused the ladder’s feet to sink several inches into the soil, completely separating the top ladder section from the lower ones.
Luckily, Ryan had a solid grip on the upper section of the stand, which was ratchet-strapped to the tree.
This left him clinging to the ladder rungs of the top section, while his boots balanced precariously on the swaying lower section. Thankfully, Ryan was able to somehow slowly descend and hop off without taking a nasty tumble.
Ryan learned several valuable lessons that day, which he’s promised he won’t neglect.
First, use your safety harness and invest in LIFELINEs. The entire Buckmasters crew uses Hunter Safety System’s products for a reason, and the LIFELINE would have been perfect for this scenario. We cannot recommend this system highly enough no matter what style treestand you use.
Inspect your stands before each season. Just because a stand has been a faithful device for years does not mean it will remain that way forever. And if someone other than you erected the stand, do not assume it is safe to climb without a thorough inspection.
To prevent ladder separation, use heavy-duty zip-ties to pull connecting joints together.
From my own decades of experience with ladder stands, I will add another valuable tip.
I’ve hunted from ladder stands long before treestand companies existed. We had to build them ourselves from treated lumber. By necessity, we learned an easy way to keep the feet of the stand from sinking in wet weather and prevent the ladder legs from rotting.
Before raising my ladders, I used a skill saw to cut up a 1x6 slat of exterior privacy fencing into approximately 10-inch-long sections. But any flat scrap of treated wood will do.
First, I cleaned and leveled the ground where the ladder’s feet would be placed. After the stand was hoisted roughly into place, I slid the slabs of wood beneath the feet. The wooden slabs create a foot for the ladder, thus preventing sinking and rotting.
Tacking a few 8-penny nails through the ladder’s legs and into the new feet ensured the legs wouldn’t slip off, and ratchet straps pulled the ladder firmly into place.
For modern ladders, metal feet are available at many sporting goods stores or online. Search “ladder stand feet.”
Lastly, just because it’s a ladder stand, don’t assume it’s foolproof in terms of safety.
Ryan and I hope his story and these tips will prevent other hunters from having similar incidents with ladder stands.
– Photo Courtesy of Ryan Noffsinger
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