Conservation officers emphasize tree-stand safety

September 3, 2014

Hunting from a tree stand is a popular way for hunters to enjoy their season, but nearly every year a Michigan hunter is seriously injured or killed falling out of a tree stand. Conservation officers at the Department of Natural Resources remind hunters of the top safety tips when it comes to tree stands.

Before a hunt, know your equipment:

  • Read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings before using a tree stand and harness.
  • Check the stand, straps and chains before you go out for signs of wear and tear or missing parts.
  • Practice at ground level with your tree stand and harness with a friend or family member.
  • Learn how to properly use your harness. The DNR recommends a full-body harness.
  • Waist belts or upper body-only harnesses can cause serious injuries or death in a fall.

When scouting for a tree: 

  • Choose a healthy, straight tree that is the right size to hold you and your stand.
  • Check the tree beforehand for insect nests or animal dens.
  • Avoid using climbing stands on smooth-barked trees, especially during icy or wet weather.
  • Clear debris from the base of the tree to minimize injury from a fall and to ensure a sturdy base if using a ladder stand.

During your hunt:

  • Tell a reliable person where you are hunting and when you can be expected to return.
  • Wear a full-body harness and make sure it is connected to the tree at all times. If using a ladder stand or climbing sticks, attach the harness before securing the platform to the tree or stepping onto it.
  • Climb higher than your stand and always step down onto your platform.
  • Wear boots with non-slip soles.
  • Never carry equipment when climbing – use a haul line to raise and lower equipment, unloaded firearm or bow. Do not attach the line near the trigger or trigger guard of your firearm.
  • Have emergency equipment – a knife, cellphone, flashlight and/or whistle.


“DNR conservation officers responding to tree-stand falls see the same mistakes over and over – not using a harness or a haul line,” said Sgt. Tom Wanless, supervisor of the DNR hunter education program. “Nationally, 82 percent of hunters who fall from a tree stand are wearing a harness, but it’s not connected. And 86 percent of tree-stand falls take place during the climb up or down. Harnesses and haul lines save lives.”

For more information about tree stand safety, go to the Treestand Manufacturers Association website at For more information about hunting in Michigan, visit the DNR website at


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