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Memories and lessons learned

OUTDOORS WITH JAKE

Sometimes bad memories are hard to get rid of and the best we could hope for is to have learned something from them. Take for example a bad experience of falling out of a tree stand during a deer hunt. That would probably be forever imbedded deep into the pages of your memory and take it from personal experience, it is. There are several things that remind me about my tree stand hunting accident from a few years ago. I think about it every time I walk by a rickety old wooden tree stand. My incident took place when my daughter Kristen and I were hunting out of a well maintained wooden tree stand. I leaned on a board that wasn’t designed to take the weight and the next thing I know I was in the ambulance wearing a neck brace and an air splint on my arm.

I also think about that day every time I look at the six inch scar on my forearm. Hidden underneath the skin is a two inch by six inch steel plate holding the two bones together in my arm. I can now forecast the weather on any given day by the aching associated with a storm front. There is one thing for certain. I have learned a lot from that experience and this week was a true test. Armed with my bow and arrow, I headed into the field for a deer hunt. My climbing tree stand was strapped to my back with my supply bag hanging from it. I was heading to an area that my previous scouting trips convinced me I should hunt. Once at my location I started strapping my tree stand to the tree, tied my pack and bow to a hoist rope and prepared myself for a climb. That’s when it hit me, I had my first fifties moment of the season. After all the planning and carrying I realized I had forgotten my tree stand safety body harness.

Years ago I might have tried to jimmy rig a strap from a piece of rope and the belt from my pants. I might have even climbed up without one at all. But the older much wiser Don Jacobs declared those notions to be stupid and unsafe. I simply took everything off the tree, hid it under some brush and hunted from the ground instead. They say that experience is the best teacher but I hope that anyone reading this will learn from my mistakes of the past and practice safety and common sense first. It is more important to return home safe and sound rather than playing Russian roulette with your life.

The early deer hunting seasons are now in full swing. There are four weeks left to the archery season. Yesterday started a weeklong antlerless deer muzzleloader season and this Thursday is the start of a three day antlerless season for youth and senior hunters. I for one will be spending a lot of time in a tree stand over the next few weeks in hopes of filling an antlerless deer tag or harvesting a trophy buck. I have collected a few safety tips to follow if you plan on hunting out of a tree this season.

The first tip I can offer from personal experience is to check out everything screwed too and attached to your tree stand. Be sure that all straps are in strong working order and the welds holding the stand together are sturdy and without cracks. Here are a few safety tips for bowhunters and tree stand climbers provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Make sure someone knows where you’re hunting and when you expect to return home. Leave a note or topographic map with your family or a friend. Pack a cellular telephone for emergencies.

Always use a fall-restraint device - preferably a full-body harness - when hunting from a tree-stand. Wear the device from the moment you leave the ground until you return. Don’t climb dead, wet or icy trees. Stay on the ground on blustery days.

Get in good physical condition before the season starts. Fatigue can impact judgment, coordination and reaction time, as well as accuracy. Staying physically fit makes a difference.

Always carry a whistle to signal passersby in the event you become immobile. A compass and matches or lighter and tinder also are essential survival gear items to have along. An extra flashlight bulb also can be helpful.

Use a hoist rope to lift your bow and backpack to your tree-stand. Trying to climb with either will place you at unnecessary risk.

Don’t sleep in a tree-stand! If you can’t stay awake, return to the ground.

Always carry broadhead-tipped arrows in a protective quiver.

If you use a mechanical release, always keep your index finger away from the trigger when drawing.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for all equipment and check your equipment before each use.

Practice climbing with your tree-stand before dawn on the opening day of the season. Consider placing non-slip material on the deck of your tree-stand if it’s not already there.

Safety is also a concern on the ground. Remember that hunters must wear a minimum of 250 square inches of fluorescent orange while small game hunting. This is also true for deer hunters during this week of the early muzzleloader season and youth/senior antlerless season. Many sportsmen will be out and about since there are plenty of other things to hunt for this week. The woodcock, duck, grouse and squirrel seasons are all open now. The general small game season including rabbits and pheasants open next Saturday, October 22. The fall turkey season begins one week later on Saturday, October 29. It’s all happening now. I wish you a memorable and productive hunt and by all means don’t forget safety.

Be sure to watch Pennsylvania Outdoor Life tonight at 6:30 on WNEP-TV. We’ll take you to a youth pheasant hunt held right here in our area and we’ll update you on the statewide pheasant restoration program underway in parts of the state. Have a great day!

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