By Tim H. Martin
Back in my younger days, during the off-season from chasing whitetails, I spent some time scaling rock walls, mountain climbing and rappelling off mountainsides for fun. It was also a great way to stay in shape for all the tree climbing I'd be doing during deer season.
In my training classes, I learned valuable rock climbing safety tips that I was able to apply to deer hunting.
One of the cardinal sins of rock climbing is to allow both hands to drop below head level at the same time.
Climbers want a solid handhold — preferably two — above their heads at ALL times. In case of a slip, this puts the climber in the strongest possible position to correct the fall immediately or hang on longer until a foothold can be regained.
The same principal holds true for deer hunters who use tree steps, ladders or climbing sticks.
If a slick, muddy boot were to slip off a tree step, it's not a big deal if you have good handholds above your head. If both hands are below your head, you have your body's momentum to deal with, and big problems.
Statistically, getting in and out of treestands is where most treestand accidents occur, so having a place to grab above your head at all phases of your climb is very important. Think about this when setting up treestands.
I always bring extra screw-in steps to put in places above my head, where maneuvering in and out of treestands are the most treacherous.
In addition to proper climbing techniques, we at Buckmasters highly recommend the use of a lifeline and harness, such as models made by Hunter Safety System. This gives you added peace of mind and safety.
So remember, keep both hands above your head as much as possible when climbing and give yourself extra screw-in steps as handholds for making your climbs safer and easier.