If you are scouting a location or trimming shooting lanes and putting up your tree stand, even on a trial basis, use the same precautions you would during hunting season: Use a full body safety harness, maintain three points of contact when climbing, follow manufacturer instructions, have an emergency signal, and tell someone where and when you plan to go. Also remember to use a lineman-style belt in addition to a full body harness (Fall Restraint Device) when first putting a tree stand in place. This minimizes the chance of falls and potential injury.
As with any piece of equipment, tree stands need inspection before use. Long-term placement, such as leaving your tree stand up from one season to the next, has some inherent problems that outweigh any convenience. Exposure to the elements will damage straps, ropes and attachment cords, and potentially lead to breakage and failure. Also, trees are living, growing things and change over time, affecting stability. “If you have a tree stand that has been in place for an extended length of time, take it down,” Casper said. “Inspect it. Replace rusted bolts, frayed straps or, if needed, buy a new tree stand. Your life could depend on it.”
When I teach Hunter Safety classes, I ask attendees how many hunt from tree stands. When hands are up I then ask how many do not use a safety harness. Of those remaining I ask, “Why not?” The most common response is they are restrictive and not comfortable. I then ask the rhetorical question, “Which is most restrictive and uncomfortable, a body harness or a wheelchair for the rest of your life?” If you fall from a tree stand you will be hurt, period. You’ll be lucky with just a broken bone. You can permanently damage your spinal column leading to lifetime paralysis. And worst of all is death, something not uncommon each hunting season. Are a few hours of comfort worth never being able to hunt again? Be safe; use a Fall Restraint Device.
Safety doesn’t just apply to deer hunters. With dove season starting soon, upland hunters also need to be safety aware. Remember, everyone in a dove field is usually wearing some form of camouflage which means they are difficult to see. When you first arrive at your stand, walk a few yards in both directions and see how far away your neighbors are. Then walk out into the field to see who is on the other side or out in the middle of the field. Know your surroundings.
The most important safety precaution for dove hunting is not to shoot low flying birds. Early in the season, particularly opening day, dove aren’t used to being shot at and can come in low and slow to a feeding area. You have to resist shooting at them to avoid shooting other hunters. It is amazing how far a #8 pellet can travel. My rule of thumb is to shoot birds only above a 45 degree angle. By the way, don’t be afraid to call out someone shooting at low birds. Sometimes they do not realize what they are doing. Nonetheless, the practice is dangerous and cannot be tolerated in the dove field.
Speaking of dove, the US Fish and Wildlife Service allocated twenty additional days to the overall dove season in each state. The NC WRC added a portion of that to each of the splits in the season. The initial season is September 1 through October 11. The second half of the season is nearly 45 days starting November 27 and running through January 15. Shooting hours are ½ hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is 15 birds with a 45 bird possession limit. Also remember the September resident Canada goose season is expanded as last year with a 15 bird daily limit, unplugged magazines, and use of electronic calls.