By Cole Daniels
If you ride motorcycles you have no doubt heard the phrase, “If you have a five dollar head, protect it with a five dollar helmet.” The point is if you value your life, you should protect it. The same philosophy resonates with treestand safety harnesses. I know of several bow hunters who think nothing of spending a thousand dollars on a new bow but pinch pennies when it comes to their safety harness. Once in a while we’ll hear a story about a guy who survived by killing his would be predator with his bow. However, there are thousands of people still alive because of their safety harness. Many of those stories go untold. A full body harness is the best way to prevent a falling injury or fatality.
There are dozens of fall arrest systems on the market. The first step in buying a one is to go try some on. You can’t tell if a harness is right for you by looking at it online or checking out the box. Retailers should have samples of all the brands they carry. The right safety harness fits like a great boot. Don’t expect to wear it in. If it’s not comfortable in the store, it is not going to be comfortable in the treestand. Wear the same clothes you will wear in the treestand. Harnesses are typically worn under your shell but over your base layer. Once the harness is tightened down simulate drawing your bow. Make sure you are comfortable and you don’t catch your sleeve on a buckle or snap. Don’t forget to check the weight rating too.
Once you’ve found a harness that fits well, take a good look at it. Is the stitching straight and tight? Is the webbing sewn in well? If it looks frayed or cheap, check out some other harnesses. Is the hardware of high quality? Can you unbutton buckles with your gloves on? Also, keep in mind you’ll be wearing your harness while hunting deer… it needs to be silent too.
Before laying down some greenbacks for a new harness be sure it meets the Treestand Manufacturers Association (TMA) standards. The TMA promotes treestand safety and has established a set of criteria required for harness certification. TMA standards also require harness companies to list the date of manufacture. There is a three-to-five year expiration date on safety harnesses. The clock starts clicking the day the harness was made, not the day you bought it. If the harness has been sitting on the shelves for a while, avoid it. Fabric and stitching begins breaking down after time.
There are a lot of hunters who still won’t wear a harness while in a treestand. The latest models offer a wide variety of safety and comfort features that make them look and feel invisible. When you consider the risks involved, more hunters are injured by tree stand falls than shooting incidents, there really is no excuse not to wear one.