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Hunters fall from trees

Article published Nov 4, 2005

Be careful when hunting in treetops

Randall W. Czachowrski is a smart kid.

He wears his tree-stand safety harness.

He will probably hunt again.

Unfortunately, there are no future hunting plans for a couple of other Michigan deer hunters after tree-stand falls this fall.

They weren't wearing safety harnesses.

Czachowrski, 18, was attaching his stand to a tree near Mount Pleasant when he lost his balance and fell. He ended up tangled in the stand and hanging upside down. The good news was he had his cell phone in a jacket pocket and used it to call the Isabella County Sheriff Department for help.

The bad news was he wasn't exactly sure where he was, so deputies had to spend an hour and a half looking for him. It's important to know where you are hunting and to tell someone before you go, so the firemen know where to bring the ladders.

David Carson, 43, died two weeks ago after a fall from a homemade tree stand in Van Buren County.

Michael Ayotte, 35, died in Roscommon County a week ago. His family and police dispute whether he fell from 30, 35 or 40 feet up. His father and brother did agree, however, that he never used a safety harness while hunting from a tree.

I don't know if Ralph Shackelford sometimes used one. He didn't Sunday, and that evening he was found dead on the ground beneath his stand.

Trees have taken quite a toll already this fall.

There are big advantages to hunting from trees. Hunters can see better and farther from an elevated platform. The height moves hunters up where deer won't usually smell or see them.

But trees have their disadvantages, too, and death and dismemberment from falling aren't the only ones:

Hauling stands into and out of the woods is heavy, noisy work. So is putting one up and taking it down.

Being tied to a tree, or using any fixed stand, always makes it hard to find a better spot.

Shooting from up there - and hitting a deer in the vitals - is more complicated.

If you can deal with those, the safety issues are easy to overcome. Just use a safety harness and good sense.

While anything is better than nothing, a harness that supports your weight on your legs and chest and holds you upright is better than a single chest strap.

Always wear your fall-restraint system, including while going up and down. Czachowrski is alive because he did.

Some experts suggest climbing no higher than you'd be comfortable jumping down from.

The safest stands are climbers. Homemade stands are the most dangerous.

Don't climb with your weapon. Use a haul rope to raise and lower your bow or unloaded firearm after you're comfortably seated.

Climb only straight, live trees. A safety harness will do you no good if the tree falls.

Pay attention to your stand and all its little warning stickers. Twenty feet up is no place to discover loose bolts.

Stay awake. Don't climb if you're tired or under the influence of alcohol or medications.

And it can't hurt to keep a cell phone in your jacket pocket - set to "silent" mode.

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