Outdoor Safety for Hunters Isn’t Just About Tree Stands
When most outdoorsmen think about outdoor safety, their minds go directly to tree stand safety. Falling out of a tree is a very common accident that happens year after year during hunting season. Wearing a harness is essential every time you go up a tree. While that is an extremely important subject, I want to talk about some of the other outdoor safety hazards that can be present.
In the spring of 2011, I was doing what most avid hunters do during the first week in March. I was out looking for the elusive shed antler, and I was having a lot of luck that day. With about a half a dozen nice sized horns tied to the back of my pack, I decided to cross a ditch to get to some better bedding grounds. I chose to cross at a deer run that had just began to thaw, but it still had ice under the surface.
After a slip and a slide to the bottom, I realized that the loud “POP” I heard at the bottom was the sound of my leg snapping in two places. I was lucky to have a friend accompanying me that day and he was able to help me out of that deep ditch. I was able to reflect on my carelessness in the woods over the next several days as I sat on the couch waiting for the swelling to go down.
Outdoor Safety Starts At Home
Outdoor safety starts at home. Before I leave the house, I always let someone know where I am going and what time I plan to be done. I even downloaded the hunting app that I use on my wife’s phone. She has all of my hunting maps synced with her app so that she can quickly locate me. Every time I leave, I tell someone to expect a call from me when I’m done. If they don’t hear from me by a certain time, they know to come looking for me. Leaving with a freshly charged phone is always a good idea. You never know when you need to call for help. Hopefully you will be calling to get your buddy to help you drag your buck out of a ditch!
It is crucial that you pay attention to the ground condition and your surroundings while you are hiking. Remember my story about frozen ground? Had I been more careful that day, I could have saved myself thousands of dollars and a lot of pain. Loose, rocky soil can be a hazard when you are scaling a creek or ditch. Icy terrain can be a slipping hazard. I’ve also had some close calls with ditch silt or “quicksand.” A walking stick is great for testing the terrain ahead of you, and it can also help you keep your balance.
Have Adequate Lighting
When walking in the dark, make sure you have adequate lighting. I have tripped more times than I can count while walking in the dark. If you are going to and from your stand or blind, clear trees and debris ahead of time. Use small reflective tacks or ribbons to help you find your way. The first step to avoiding an accident is to eliminate potential hazards. I learned that in my OSHA 30 class.
Thorn trees are my kryptonite in the woods. I have learned to avoid locust trees at all costs. I don’t care if it’s the best tree for miles, I will not put a stand in one. If you don’t have trees with thorns around your hunting area, consider yourself lucky. Clearing shooting lanes or entry routes will generally demand me to cut a small tree or limb with thorns. I will not touch one without thick leather gloves. If a thorn sticks in and breaks off, you will have an infected area that will bother you for days. You must see your doctor and get antibiotics or the area will become infected.
Ensure You Have A Good, Sharp Knife
“A dull knife is a dangerous knife.” I learned that the hard way when I had a knife slip out of a doe’s rib cage and stick into my thigh. Not only do you need to keep a good, sharp knife, you should always practice good knife handling skills. Always cut away from yourself. Be careful and take your time. Remember that cutting across hair is the quickest way to eliminate a good edge.
Keep care of yourself while you are in the outdoors. Some outings will demand that you walk a long way and use a lot of energy. Stop and take a break once in a while. Take a supply of water to keep yourself hydrated. Make sure you take some sort of “stick to the gut” food when you are hunting all day. If you are planning on a long rigorous hunt, condition yourself ahead of time.
No matter how serious the accident, I have learned from all of mine over the years. Staying mindful of my surroundings, taking the proper supplies, and letting people know where I am going are second nature to me now. I hope that you can learn from my mistakes and have a safer hunt next time.
Please share any other outdoor safety tips you might have with us.
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