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MD: Safety Harness saves hunter's life

December 1, 2010

Hunter Safety Harness saved my son's life--in front of my eyes

George Wooden is a retired state trooper and a hunter who has passed the tradition along to his son. In a split second on the opening day of deer firearm season last Saturday in the woods near Conowingo, he watched helplessly as his son almost fell 25 feet from a tree stand.

He told me: "I was just like everyone who saw the stories, read the articles but always thought it was just a commercial... The only thing saving his life was that harness. This is a very real-life story, please pass it on to your friends, your hunting buddies and everybody in between.

Here's his story:

My son Georgie was born on Nov. 28, 1995--opening day of Maryland's deer firearms season--so you could say he was born into hunting one way or the other.

Each year, my wife has had to plan his birthday parties around everyone going hunting. At least one of his birthday presents is camo or hunting equipment of some type. On his 8th birthday, he begged me to take him hunting instead of having a birthday party. Well, he shot a 7-point buck (he graduated hunter safety the week before).

This year was like any other. My Uncle Andy arrived and we got ready. Just before he climbed into the truck, he pulled his hunter safety harness out of the truck and asked me to help him put it on.

It a bit tangled but after a few minutes, he had it on. I wanted to just say, "Forget it, we're late," but I untangled it and helped him put it on. I have to admit, I had mine stolen a few years ago and never replaced it, but bought him one the moment he asked to begin to hunt out of a tree stand.

We arrived and began our long hike to the spot that I thought would give him some action. George is a tried-and-true waterfowler but for some reason this year, has suddenly been bit by the deer-hunting bug.

It was a long hike with our tree stands, wrapped up in layers of clothes, but once we were there I hooked his climber onto the tree and up he went. As he started up, I hooked another tree stand underneath and climbed up--slightly below and to his right--so we could whisper. I looked up and watched him briefly hooking his harness onto the tree above him. We got settled and began to hunt. Uncle Andy was about 100 yards away behind us.

About 20 minutes later, George said to me (which I will hear for the rest of my life), "Dad I feel like I'm going to faint."

I was startled because he has never fainted and now we were 20 feet up the tree. I began to coach him, telling him to breath, but his voice came back nervous and weak, "Dad I'm gonna faint."

My brain raced I grabbed him at the back of the neck by his hunting coat. All of a sudden he made a grumbling noise, sat straight back and his legs kicked out and fluttered. He passed out. He slid down from the climber, from the seat section, like a snake and slid off the front of the stand section with me holding onto to him for dear life.

I started screaming for Andy at the top of my lungs while holding on tightly. As he slid, he came to a sudden stop at the edge of the stand section, with his butt off the stand. I noticed the harness section was tight and the strap was holding him.

Now you have to know, my 14- (now 15-) year-old son is a very big kid--230 pounds, nearly 6-feet tall, with a size 13 shoe. I could have never held him. I would have watched my son fall to his death. But the safety harness stopped his descent, his fall and kept him safe when he--and I--could not.

He was out for about five minutes. He woke up and wanted to know what happened. With a little help from me, he was able to climb back onto the stand. We climbed down, with me hugging him as soon as we could. We packed up and walked out.

Later that evening, as I was laying in bed, the scenario played through my head once again, which now, broke me down in tears. I have been through a lot in my life. I was a Marine and an undercover officer for 9 1/2 years of my career, but this by far was the the scariest thing I have ever been through. To watch this happen right in front of my eyes has changed my life forever.

I am forever grateful for the inventor of the Hunters Safety System Harness because honestly, without my son alive and well, there would be no reason for me to go on living.

I urge each and everyone--whether young or old, man or woman, girl or boy, novice or expert big-game hunter--PLEASE, I repeat PLEASE do not hunt in a tree stand without a safety harness of some type. It may save your life, or in my case, a life more important then mine, my child's.

Thank you for reading this,

George's Father.

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