Skip to main content

Tree stand safety a serious issue

  • Empty
    Contributed photoNorthern Catskills Hunting and Wildlife Expo Co-Chairman Glenn Howard presents a check for $4,000 to Russ Burton of the Wounded Vets Program.
  • Empty
    Contributed photoA view of the Northern Catskills Expo.
November 4, 2017 06:00 am

After two deaths and one serious physical injury in just one week from hunters falling from tree stands, it’s time to take a renewed look at safety.

On Oct. 27, first responders located a missing 59-year-old Connecticut man who died in the woods after falling from his tree stand while bow hunting in Schoharie County.

The deceased hunter, whose name has not been released, was found at the base of his tree stand on his property off Weller Road in the Town of Richmondville. The coroner determined the cause of death to be blunt trauma.

Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond stated, “The straps securing the stand to the tree had been there for a while, were worn, and gave way while the hunter was in the stand.”

The bow hunter was not strapped in with a safety harness to tether himself to the tree. Sheriff Desmond recalled an incident in 2010 where a Charleston, NY man hunting from a tree stand in Central Bridge, died after being crushed by his tree stand after falling to the ground. The hunter in that case also did not use a safety harness.

In another incident, John Henchen, 35, of Greece, NY died this week, several days after sustaining injuries from a fall from his tree stand while deer hunting in Clarkson.

Earlier that same week, a third bow hunter, Wade King, 21, of Brookfield, broke his back after falling 16 feet when the strap holding his stand to the tree broke.

As reported by David Figura (, of Central NY Outdoors, Wade was not using a safety harness which would have allowed him to strap himself to the tree, likely preventing the fall.

King stated, “… he just got lazy and didn’t bother bringing it.”

Wade King’s “…message to others who hunt from tree stands: ‘To the manly man who has kids at home and doesn’t need no harness, wear the damn thing. I wish I did.’”

Thankful he was not paralyzed by his injuries, “Wade King considers himself one lucky deer hunter who learned a very important safety lesson-the hard way.”

Unfortunately, as the reports above reveal, and a quick check on the web will confirm, deaths and serious physical injuries from tree stand falls while hunting are not at all uncommon. It’s imperative we all do our best to follow basic tree stand safety guidelines.

The obvious take away from the accidents described above is to properly use a safety harness and tether yourself to the tree.

Equally important is avoiding neglect of your tree stand. Many use tree stands in multiple locations that may not be regularly maintained. While we are sure to check our trail cams on a regular, if not daily, basis, when is the last time you changed or checked the ratchet straps on your stand?

While it’s recommended you change straps exposed to sun and weather on tree stands each year, at the very least, before you next climb into your tree stand add a new ratchet strap or cable to avoid dangerous and potential fatal falls.

It’s also a good idea to keep a cellphone handy in an accessible pocket in case you need help in the event of a mishap. Also, manufacturers of tree stands and safety harnesses often provide important safety information on the web, a provided DVD, or owner’s manual. Take a look at them to learn their safe use.

Here are some highlights of tree stand safety tips from DEC:

• As soon as you get in a tree stand — strap in. A body harness is better than a plain safety belt, but a belt is a whole lot better than nothing. If you just have a safety belt, attach it high — around your chest — to avoid injury from the belt if you fall. A short tether connecting you to the tree to prevent a fall is safer than a long one to catch you after a fall. Also, a short tether can make you a better shot. It lets you concentrate on shooting instead of balancing.

• Use a safety belt for climbing. Most falls happen when going up and down the tree, and in and out of the stand. Good commercial climbing belts are available.

• Never try to carry guns or bows up and down trees. They get in the way of safe climbing; they get dropped; and climbing with guns can result in hunters shooting themselves. Always use a rope to raise and lower bows and guns — Unloaded.

For more tree stand safety tips and hunting strategies go to:

News and Notes

— The Northern Catskills Hunting & Wildlife Expo Inc. presented a check for $4,000 on Thursday to the Wounded Vet Program at a regular meeting of the Catskill Mountain Fish & Game Club. The money was raised at the Northern Catskills Hunting & Wildlife Expo held on Oct. 7 at the Westkill/Lexington Community Center. Expo Chairman, Taris Charynsyn explained the gathering, saying it “gives hunters in the region a chance to show their North American big and small game trophies while enjoying the camaraderie of other hunters and viewers and gives all of us the opportunity as a community to give back to the Wounded Vets Program.” Taris and his organization wish to express thanks to the community for their support of the event and thank all our military for their service.

— The Kalicoontie Rod & Gun Club turkey shoot at 333 Schneider Road in Livingston is Sunday, Nov. 5 at 10 a.m. 12 and 20-gauge shotguns with birdshot or slugs and .22 rifles and pistols plus any caliber rifle or pistol can be used. Bring your own slugs and centerfire ammo as only 12, 20 gauge and .22 ammo is supplied by the club. First prizes include turkeys, hams and pork loins. For more information and any questions call Joe at 518-537-3997 or Scott at 845-757-2252.

Happy Hunting, and Fishing, and be safe until next time.

You can also share any comments with our sports department at

*If you have a fishing or hunting report, photo, or event you would like to be considered for publication, you can send it to: