When thinking of a whitetail hunt, one tends to think of the deer they might be after, the weather conditions or where they might sit, but not typically the overall safety of that hunt. Until this day, tree stand safety crossed my mind on occasion, but it only took two minutes on a cool evening in October to change that. On October 17, 2017 as my husband and I packed our gear, we were looking forward to a great evening in the woods, hoping to get me a shot at a mature whitetail! We had a few shooters on camera coming out early to our food plot and the conditions were perfect, with the wind in our favor. It was looking to be a great evening in the stand sitting with my husband, who has taught me everything I know about hunting. We sit in the same tree, but he positions his stand just above mine and over so he can film, offer advice, etc. This calm October evening would soon be an evening neither of us will ever forget.
I followed him up the climbing sticks and onto our stands and immediately fastened by Hunters Safety Harness to the tree. We sat for about an hour before a small six point, who was known to travel with one of our potential shooters, slowly made his way into the food plot. Like I always do, I stood up in case a mature whitetail was following him. As I was watching him, I continued to look to the woods for another buck to come out. I had no interest in harvesting this 6 point buck as I try and shoot 2.5 year olds or better, so I was not nervous or anxious at all (I say this because most people think this episode was caused by nerves). Suddenly I started to feel dizzy. Having passed out before in my life, I knew the symptoms I typically have. Tingly mouth, light headed, hot and over all just weird. I decided to break protocol and sat down in my stand immediately. I had a branch to my left that came out at head level, so I instinctively wrapped my arms around the branch hoping this would help ward off this awful dizzy spell. That is the last thing I remember.
I woke up to my husband yelling my name and felt him pulling me by the back of my harness back onto my stand. I had passed out and fell from my tree stand. Thankfully, I was wearing my Hunters Safety Harness or I would have fell 20 feet to the ground below. It is very scary to think of the possible outcomes of that fall. My quick thinking husband saw me moving and happened to look down just as I slumped over and rolled from that branch to the right and off my tree stand. He reacted so quickly and moved from his stand to mine in seconds, pulling me back onto my stand. When I fell, there was a branch just below me that stopped my body from swinging and left one heck of a bruise on my right shin. It took awhile for me to come to and understand what had just happened. When I was finally fully conscious, I was sitting on the foot platform with my feet dangling off the side, very hot and disoriented. When everything returned to normal, we SLOWLY got down from our stand, unsure of what caused me to faint. I did go to the doctor and basically they said it was a fluke and was likely the "perfect storm" of events.
My fall completely changed our way of thinking while hunting from tree stands. My husband has never been a consistent safety harness user until that point. He saw the fall from an entirely different perspective than I did and how quickly your life can be altered. He saw my life flash before his eyes and we have both realized not wearing a harness is not worth the risk. We will not hunt without our safety harnesses on ever again as things happen that are out of your control. No matter how many times you think, "Oh that wouldn't happen to me," believe me, it can.
Everyone knows of someone who has fallen from a stand and I am fortunate that my story did not have a tragic ending. No matter what the reason, there is no excuse not to wear a safety harness. Think of the ones you love. Use my example and realize that you are not always in control. If I had not worn that harness, my kids would potentially be motherless and my husband wifeless. It is still very scary to think about and believe me, getting back into that stand was one of the scariest things I have ever done. I had to talk myself through it, but I prevailed and even shot my first buck with a bow later that season. Tree stand safety is not to be taken lightly. One mistake and your life can change forever. It takes two seconds to attach your harness to a tree, but only one second for your life to change should you fall. Be safe this season, wear a harness.
Hunter Safety Systems offers a variety of styles of harnesses for women, men and children, and are available at retailers across the country and online at http://www.huntersafetysystem.com/.
Follow Teka Doyle on Instagram at @tekadoyle_outdoors.