Safety comes first for bowhunters

Monday, October 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

When archery deer season starts Oct. 1, bowhunters should take extra care to ensure that the 2000 season is a safe and enjoyable experience.

Though one of the safest outdoor pursuits, bowhunting has some inherent risks that result in a number of accidents every year. Most of those are not caused by mishandling a bow or misidentifying a target, but from falling out of treestands. More than half of Oklahoma's bowhunters use treestands to gain better visibility over their hunting areas, said J.D.

Peer, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, allowing hunters to elude the sharp senses of whitetailed deer by getting above the animal's line of sight and smell. Unfortunately, there's always a risk of danger when you leave the ground, so it's not surprising that some hunters suffer severe injuries every year by falling from their treestands. "Most bowhunters in Oklahoma hunt out of some sort of elevated stand, and a number of things can happen that could result in an injury-producing accident," Peer said. "By taking a few extra precautions, hunters can virtually eliminate the threat of hunting-related accidents this autumn. All it takes is some common sense and paying a little extra attention to detail."

The most important aspect of treestand safety is to use a safety strap or harness. They cost between $20 - $60 and are considered standard equipment by all hunters who use elevated stands.

"A safety belt or harness is cheap life insurance," Peer said. "If a mishap occurs in a stand, these devices can save you from death or severe injuries. I strongly recommend them for anyone who hunts from any kind of elevated stand."

Many hunters use portable treestands, but some hunters erect permanent stands on their own property or on leased property. However, stands that aren't built from treated lumber will deteriorate over time and become unsafe, even though they appear structurally sound.

"No matter how long you've been hunting a certain stand, you always have to check it out before you start using it," Peer said. "Quite a few hunters have been hurt over the years from falling when they leaned against a rail or grabbed a rail and it collapsed."

One way to reduce the chance of an accident is to avoid carrying gear into the stand. Before climbing into a stand, tie a rope to your gear and leave it on the ground. Once you're safely in your stand and have secured your safety belt, use the rope to pull your gear into the stand.

Also, bowhunters should remember that any mishap involving broadhead arrows can be serious. To eliminate the threat of injury, Peer recommends carrying arrows in a case that secures the broadheads.

"Anyone who's ever bowhunted has dropped an arrow at one time or another," Peer said. "If you drop an arrow, go down and get it, even if deer are moving. Arrows can land with the head pointing up, and if something happens that causes you to land on it, you could bleed to death before you can make it to your pickup."

Fortunately, bowhunters rarely shoot one another. However, the possibility still exists when you consider that bowhunters are usually attired in camo from head to toe. In low-light situations, an inexperienced hunter could make a bad decision. To avoid making a tragic mistake, bowhunters must be extremely careful and observant before they pull the string. First, know your limits and your abilities. Never shoot at anything beyond your range of confidence. Most importantly, identify your target before shooting.

Other tips to improve safety during bow season include: * Wearing blaze orange when entering and leaving the woods. You can put the garment in your pack when you reach your destination. * Never carry a deer across your shoulders when removing it from the woods. In fact, Peer said it's also a good idea to drape some sort of blaze orange garment over a deer before moving it.

* Hunt with a partner. If you hunt alone, tell someone exactly where you're going to be hunting and when you expect to return. If you haven't returned after a reasonable amount of time, they'll be able to call someone to look for you.