Treestand Safety Tips

As fall quickly approaches, most, if not all of us are dreaming of killing that big buck we’ve been chasing.  Some of us will be successful, most will not.  In fact, statistics show, we are more likely to experience a fall from a treestand in our lifetime than we are to kill a Boone & Crockett caliber deer.  Yet treestand safety remains an afterthought for so many hunters.  I won’t try to tell you that I haven’t cut a few corners here and there when it comes to safety preparation in my days, but coming home safe to my family is priority number one when I hit the field, even more so than killing a big buck.

Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear; The most important piece of hunting gear you should have is a full body harness!  There are several great harnesses you can use, I personally use the Muddy Safeguard, and have used this model for several years.  I have had one fall from a stand and not only am I still alive, I experienced zero injuries.  That has been one fall over the course of almost 20 years, but that one experience alone made all the of the money I’ve spent on safety harnesses worth while.  Simply wearing your harness is not going to keep you safe.  In fact, I’ve known more than one person who fell from their treestand who had their harness on.  The process you take from the minute you step off the ground until you return makes all the difference in your overall safety.  In this article, I’m going to lay out the basic steps I use hanging a stand, as well as what I do on a normal day of hunting.

Everything I do with a treestand, whether I’m hunting or hanging, now involves a LifeLine system.  This is basically a long rope that is attached to your tree above your treestand and hangs all the way to the base of the tree.  A LifeLine is used often with lock-on tree stands, but can also be used with a climbing stand if you plan on hunting the same tree multiple times.  Best of all, a LifeLine can double as a lineman’s belt saving the need for carrying more gear with you than necessary.  For anyone who has ever used a lineman’s belt, you know they can be a little bit of a pain. However, they not only keep you from falling during the treestand hanging process, they also allow you to focus more on hanging your stand instead of preventing a fall.  The end result is a more securely hung treestand.  If you are hanging a ladder stand or individual steps for a hang-on stand, the lineman’s belt is my preferred safety mechanism.  If you are using a climbing stand, I find that simply sliding your standard safety rope up the tree as you climb is the simplest processes.  Whatever option you choose, practice and make sure you are comfortable so that you can be safe and silent in the woods.

As I mentioned previously, in place of a dedicated lineman’s belt you can use a LifeLine to assist in hanging.  When you do, you will need a second prussic knot and carabiner in order to fix the LifeLine in place.  To do this, tie a basic knot around one of the hip loops on your harness (use the bottom of the LifeLine without the loop), and then wrap the rest of the LifeLine around the tree and use the prussic/carabiner combination to clip onto the opposite hip loop on your harness.  After you get your stand hung, pull the remainder of the LifeLine up to you and wrap the other end of the rope around the tree.  Reach through the loop at the end and grab the rope pulling it through.  Next, you will attach the second prussic/carabiner to the rope below the loop and attach your primary safety harness strap.  At this time, you are secured to the tree and you can unclip the section of the rope you were using for the lineman’s belt and pull the rest of the rope through allowing it to hang down the tree.  Now, you have killed two birds with one stone.  You have safely hung your treestand, and you have also secured your LifeLine.

With your LifeLine in place, you now have a quick and safe system to climb up and down your tree when you are ready to hunt this fall.  To use a LifeLine, you attach your safety harness to the LifeLine while standing on the ground.  As you climb, slide the prussic knot up the rope as you go.  If the process I laid out for hanging your stand and LifeLine at the same time seems to complicated for you, then simply use a regular lineman’s belt and attach the LifeLine at the end.  The most important piece of information I can share with you is, NEVER TAKE A STEP OFF THE GROUND WITHOUT FIRST SECURING YOURSELF TO THE TREE!  When at all possible, take helpers with your to hang stands.  Even if you hunt private property with permission only for yourself, often times a landowner understands the concern for safety and will allow you to bring assistance with you for this one task.  In my case, my helpers are my main reason for wearing a safety harness in the first place.

 

The last bit of advice I have is to make sure you position your LifeLine in a way that in the event of a fall, you can safely get back into your stand or safely climb back down to the ground.  The easiest thing to do is make sure the top of your LifeLine or safety harness strap is high enough that if you lose your balance in your stand, you are unable to fall below your stand.  I like to keep my harness attached as high as possible in the tree so I can still sit, comfortably turn 360 degrees, and step far enough away from my tree that I can turn and shoot at any angle.  Finally, at the base of the tree I like to tie the end of the LifeLine close to the ladder so that no matter where I am when I fall, I will end up close to my ladder. This allows me to easily get myself back into a safe position.  This might seem trivial, but it is equally as dangerous to hang for too long in your safety harness as it is to fall and hit the ground.  Suspension Trauma is a real thing and kills just as assuredly as a broken neck.

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Carter Enterprises – Wise Choice Thumb Trigger Release Review

I have been shooting Carter releases for years.  Often I am asked, why don’t you try Brand X, or have you ever shot Brand Y?  And in truth, I have.  It’s been a few years, but there was a short period of time that I tried several different release manufacturers.  There were a few I liked, and a few I liked really well, but I was never able to find anything that made me want switch.  For the past 6 years, I have never gone into the woods or stepped on the target range without my Carter release.

Someone could make the argument that a release is just a simple device.  As long as it clips on your bowstring, and releases when you want it to, no release is better than any other.  From strictly a functionality standpoint, it would be hard to argue with them.  That is after all the primary purpose of a release.  However, for anyone who shoots their bow more than a few times a year, you know there is a little more to it than that.

There are two major factors that determine how well I like a release, the first being fit and the second is adjustability.  The Wise Choice by Carter performs excellent in both of these categories. The fit of the Wise Choice is perfect for my hands.  My hands are not small, but I don’t have large hands by any means.  I find that the finger groves on most releases are either too wide, or not pronounced enough.  On the Wise Choice, I can shoot well without gloves, and when the temperatures begin to drop in the fall, I have no issues with a lighter pair of gloves which are typically worn all deer season long.  I’ve heard of others using one type of release during summer shooting and early season when it is warm, but then switch to another release as temps drop and they wear thicker gloves.  I like to hunt with what I practice all year-long with, so having a release that fits me is extremely important.  The Carter Wise Choice also comes with an index finger hole that further assists with consistent grip placement, another major plus in my opinion for this release.

The thumb trigger is easily adjustable and rotates by loosening a single Allen head screw, which is important to get the trigger positioned exactly where you need it.  When I start hunting with gloves later in the fall, I like that I can fine tune the placement of my trigger so that it feels the same as it did without wearing gloves.  You can adjust the tension of the thumb trigger just as easy as by turning the tension set screw.  This allows you to quickly decrease or increase the amount of tension needed to set off the release.  I find this very helpful as gloves tend to decrease the sensitivity in your thumb.  For that reason, I like to slightly increase the tension in my release when deer hunting to avoid prematurely releasing an arrow.

Last but not least, the Wise Choice comes equipped with and adjustable lanyard.  I had never used a lanyard on thumb trigger releases in the past, but now that I have one, I could not imagine using my release without it.   When I’m walking to retrieve my arrows, or walking to my hunting spot, I like to attach my release to my belt loop so it is always readily available.  When I am on a spot and stalk hunt, I like that my release is right at my hand while still being able to grab binos or a range finder without the release being in the way.

If you are familiar with Carter releases, you know that every little detail is well thought out and each release design is extensively tested before a release ever hits the market.  The folks at Carter make the best releases available in my opinion.  Best of all, their customer service is unmatched in the industry.  To check out the Wise Choice and all other Carter releases, check out their website at www.carterenterprises.com.

 

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2017 Ohio Turkey – Hunting the Roost

After having success at Dad’s farm in Indiana on April 28th, I was eager to get home and see if I could end my Ohio Turkey drought. It had been 3 years since I had last tagged a bird in my home state, and I had no intention of going another year without doing so. I had recently acquired permission to hunt a portion of my neighbor’s property; a long bottom field adjacent to a wood lot where at least 2 toms roosted almost every night. For 2 weeks I spent every possible morning doing my best to coax one or more of these toms into my decoy spread, but nothing I tried worked. They had no intention of breaking their morning routine, which included flying down and immediately heading to some big agriculture fields to the south. On May 16, with just under a week left in the season, I decided to see if I could get permission to hunt the remainder of my neighbor’s property. After a quick conversation, permission was granted, and my hope was restored.

Though this was the first year I had permission to turkey hunt on this property, I had shed hunted on it the last two years, so I was already familiar with the lay of the land. Based on the location the birds were roosting and what I already knew about the property, I figured that they were using an old logging road to get in and out of the river bottom. From there, they would cross a large hardwood flat and make their way to the fields they spent the rest of their day in before returning to the roost each night. But this knowledge was all for not if I were to spook these birds before even getting started. So the first thing I did before setting up my blind was take a quick drive and try to locate the flock prior to making any moves. As expected, I located them a short distance from where I would be hunting, and based on previous information gained in the days prior, I knew these birds would not leave this field and the larger field to the south until close to sunset. Quickly, I returned home and gathered all my gear, returned to the property and got set up for the next morning.

The next few days played out very similar to one another. I saw birds on the roost, heard plenty of gobbling, but they slipped past me no matter what I tried. I moved my blind a few times in an effort to narrow the distance between myself and where they were roosting, but as close as I came, I just couldn’t get the job done. These turkeys were very practiced in their morning habits, and even the sight of a DSD Upright Hen wasn’t going to slow them down. On the morning of May 20, my 7-year-old daughter went with me, and we had a great hunt. I thought we might get it done when we had the two toms within 40 yards of the blind, but a group of 4 jakes came in a busted up the party. I think she was a little bummed that we didn’t put a tag on one of the jakes, but I used it as a great opportunity to explain to her that harvesting an animal was only a small part of the experience we get from hunting.

May 21st was the last day of the Ohio season, and the weather was calling for storms all day. It was time to pull out my backup plan and get aggressive.  At around 4:30 PM that afternoon I made my way down the old logging road for the last time. My plan was simple. I knew where these birds were, and I knew where they were going; My blind was getting setup directly in between the two locations. I would be approximately 55 yards from their roost trees, and there would be no getting out undetected. I had no decoys and no calls. It was just me, my blind, and my bow. It was officially deer season for turkeys, as I like to call it.

The first hour was quiet. I wasn’t 100% sure what time these turkeys made their way into the timber, but I was sure the storms moving in would speed things up a little. Around 5:30, thunder boomed and a shock gobble immediately followed. Moments later, another thunderous boom from the heavens, and another shock gobble.  This time much closer! By my estimation, the bird was only 100 yards from me now. I grabbed my bow and got ready. Less than 10 minutes later a lone tom popped out from behind a large beech tree. I had played this out in my mind countless time, but it still caught me completely off guard. I tried to range him a few times, and then realized how silly that was knowing full well he couldn’t be more than 10 yards. I drew back my bow, steadied the pin on my Hogg Father, and for the second time this season sailed my arrow well above my intended target. I was in complete disbelief. I had set my pin to 30 yards expecting a further shot. In all the excitement, I never even thought to adjust it. That was it, I had waited all this time just to screw up. I watched as the big tom slipped down the logging road, and moments later he flew up into one of the big sycamores below me. My plan had worked flawlessly, but I had failed to execute. I could not believe I had put in all this time, and my season was going to come down to a miss.

As I sat quietly in my blind, frustrated and angry with myself, a gobble caught my attention. In the moments leading up to my miss, I thought to myself it was odd that this bird had come in alone. Never since I first laid eyes on the pair of toms I was after had I seen one of them without the other. Maybe my season was not over yet. Perhaps I would get another chance. Another gobble, still in the same place as before. I hurried to nock another arrow and ready myself for a second opportunity. 10 minutes later, the two toms popped up over the ridge. They were about 60 yards away, just on the other side of the property line, but they were slowly making their way towards me. As they crossed the fence line I adjusted my sight and came to full draw. I attempted to take aim, but I could not make out my pin. It was too dark due to the cloud cover and thick foliage above. I tried to convince myself I could make the shot, but I knew it would not be ethical. I let my bow down and watched as the two toms disappeared down the ridge towards the river bottom. Seconds later, the two toms emerged side by side, in a small grassy meadow. Out from under the cover of the trees, there was more than enough light to take a shot. I quickly ranged the closest bird, adjusted my pin and let my arrow fly. The unmistakable thud of my arrow impacting its target followed! The tom furthest away took flight while the bird I had shot hobbled out of sight further into the bottom. I knew I had made a fatal shot, but it looked like it might be just a little far back. With more storms approaching, I wasted little time getting out of my blind and taking up the trail.

When I got to where the bird was standing when I shot, I found a few small drops of blood but nothing more. He had made his way along a deer trail into endless amounts of waist-high stinging nettles. Now I was worried. There was a good chance if this bird got off the trail, I would not find him. I tried not to let that discourage me and began my search. I weaved back and forth along the width of the grown up river bottom but I could not find any sign of my bird. I continued on a few yards further when I came upon the downed tom. At first he seemed hesitant to flee, but then he took off at a slow run. I gave chase, and was instantly thankful I had never had to run down a turkey before. Even fatally wounded, he was quicker than I, and it was all I could do to keep up. As I started to close the distance, he suddenly disappeared. I approached the location I had last seen him, though I failed to notice we had come to the edge of the river. Before I had time to react, I was sliding down an 8 foot embankment straight into the water. Luckily, it was only about 2 feet deep, and I was not hurt in the fall. I continued my pursuit, and as I started catching up to the bird I could tell he did not have much left in him. Half way across the river, I was finally able to reach out and grab him. I was completely out of breath and soaked to the bone. I was tired and barely able to make it back up the river bank. As I sat there with my first Ohio turkey in 3 years, it dawned on me I had dropped my bow in the river when I fell. All I could do was laugh. My bird was a mess, I had no idea where my bow was, but I was happy!

He was a great bird, with 7/8″ and 1″ spurs, a 9 1/2″ beard and coming in right at 23 lbs, I could not be more than happy.

Never have I had such a wild ending to a turkey hunt. Although it was certainly memorable, I hope that was the last time I go swimming for a turkey. I owe this turkey in part to my wife and good friend Brett Bueltel, as they both encouraged me to stay on these birds long after I was ready to give up on them. Persistence was key as was the ability to adapt and try a new approach. This was the first time I have hunted birds near the roost, and I learned a few valuable lessons for the next time.

Bird Stats:

  • 23 lbs.
  • 9.5″ beard
  • 7/8″ and 1″ spurs

Rich’s Gear:

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2017 Virginia Turkey – Run & Gun

After years of chasing Eastern toms around Indiana and Virginia, my recent success in Osceola County, FL reminded me how quickly luck can switch when chasing the ghost of the woods.  The weekend after my return from the Florida trip, I went back to the drawing board to finally tag my elusive Eastern tom.  Given I had not had a chance to do much scouting in the prior weeks, I decided to try to mimic the technique I had successfully used in fooling my last tom:  Run and gun.

Since I would be hunting on private ground, the less-pressured birds would be more likely to come into decoys than the Osceolas I had been chasing the week earlier.  Feeling optimistic, I decided to bring my Hoyt along with hopes of a preoccupied tom offering an easy shot.

Thirty minutes before sunrise, I had settled into a natural pinch point between a fence row and large section of woods.  While I was enjoying the early morning scenery, several toms erupted to the north.  If they were headed to the fence row, they would have to pass by me.  I let out several soft clucks and purrs which were met with an immediate response.  Taking cues from my last tom, and more exposed than usual without my Double Bull Doublewide, I decided to shut up and wait.

DSD Breeding Hen

My DSDs were set up in front of me along a service road in the woods, and I had imagined that these toms would be traveling down this road on their way to the fence row.  After a few minutes, I could hear something approaching from that direction… but then it stopped.

Main Camera Screenshot 2017 Jake WM

Slowly turning my head, I could see a Jake following closely behind a hen about 50 yards away from me in the woods, towards the fence row.  Too thick for a shot, I let them pass and make their way across the road to the private land to the south.  He’s safe for now.

After waiting another twenty minutes without a gobble from the other toms, I made an educated guess where the others might be heading.  I’d have less chance of bumping anything if I were to follow the rock road back to the other area, so I hit the rock road at a brisk walk.  Imagining my next setup, I was blankly staring at the rocks paying attention barely enough to keep myself from tripping.  About halfway along the five-hundred-yard trip on the rock road, I am awakened from my hunt planning by the sound of flapping wings.  That beard disappeared over the treetops from the middle of the road a mere twenty-five yards from where I stood.  That’s it. I’m calling it a day.

My next opportunity to hunt would be the following Friday before work.  Given I had only a couple hours—and no chance to roost a bird due to my late flight in—I decided to try the same run-and-gun approach but to use an actual gun this time.  I was not going to let yet another year pass without punching a tag on an eastern.  Especially if he decided to travel through the woods like list time.

I found myself sitting in roughly the same spot where the tom and hen passed a week ago, decoys set up offering the most visibility in the woods possible.  Shortly after shooting light I hear the bittersweet sound of a gobble (across the road on private property).  Wind not in my favor, I let out the largest yelps I could muster. No response.  Either way, I switched the pop-up blind to that side to give me a visual break if he did decide to cross my way.

Gopro Screenshot 2017 Jake WM

To my surprise, I heard footsteps to my left from the direction of the road.  I quickly switch on the camera, and pan as far over as possible.  Out pops the red head of a jake who appears to be completely enthralled by my DSD Jake.  He’s visibly not quite sure what to do, but dead-set on beating up this intruder in his woods. He got in a few good hits before giving me the shot window I had wanted.  Boom!   Just like that the third species towards my grand slam was in my hands with some unforgettable memories.

Bird Stats:

  • 14 lbs.
  • 3.5″ beard
  • 1/4″ spurs

Calvin’s Gear:

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Sharing the Outdoors – A Family Hunt and an Ohio Gobbler

It was Friday, April 28th.  My wife and I had just made it back from our last vacation as a family of two a couple of days prior, and the Ohio turkey season was already underway.  My wife was, at the time, 33 weeks pregnant with our first child, and I had finally talked her into coming out to turkey hunt with me.  Luckily the hunt didn’t disappoint.

I had been getting several pictures on my wireless Covert trail cameras of a few longbeards working the field on the property I hunt on a pretty consistent basis.  With that information, I knew where we had to be setup when season opened.  It was a pretty long hike to get back to the spot I wanted to be setup, so I decided it would be good to get my Xenek Apex blind setup a couple of weeks early.  Not only would this reduce the amount of gear we’d have to carry in for the morning hunt, but by setting up the blind early we could get setup closer to the roost, and give the birds some time to get used to the new blind.  I set the Xenek blind off the edge of the field a few feet and staked it down well in preparation for the spring storms that typically move through Ohio.

The night before our hunt we gathered our gear in preparation for the following morning, charged up the camera batteries, and hit the sack early.  The alarm sounded off bright and early at 4:30 AM and without hesitation both of us popped out of bed.  After getting dressed we threw our gear in the truck and headed on our way; anxious for what the morning may have in store.  Since this was the first turkey hunt I had taken my wife on, I did a quick run down on what to expect during our drive.  We arrived at the farm plenty early, packed up and started our trek to our setup we had prepared weeks before.  The weather was perfect and I just had a feeling we’d be in for a good hunt.

After getting to the blind, I quickly setup the DSD decoy spread consisting of the Strutter, submissive hen, and the feeding hen with the Motion Madness kit installed while Abby situated the gear inside the blind.  I placed a few GoPro’s around the decoys in hopes of capturing some good 2nd angle footage before finally climbing in the blind.  It was still plenty dark outside as I prepared my bow and started setting up the primary camera.  I had just started getting my wireless mics setup when all of a sudden GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE!  I immediately looked over at Abby and she looked at me and we both got a big grin on our faces.  The bird had fired off less than 50 yards from where we were setup.  I hastily setup the rest of my camera gear and recorded a pre-hunt interview.  The gobbles of the bird in the tree near us set off a chain reaction and soon another was gobbling about 150 yards away.  It was only 6:15 at the time so we figured we had a little while before they flew down for the day.  We settled back in our blind chairs and soaked in the sights and sounds of daybreak.

Shortly after legal shooting light, Abby taps me on the leg and points off to our left…”There’s a turkey!”.  I looked out of the blind and sure enough, about 80 yards away in the neighboring field was a gobbler.  Seconds later the gobbler that was gobbling his head off behind our blind pitched down in the field to join his buddy.  Birds were everywhere it seemed.  In the distance you could hear another gobbler sounding off, hens were clucking and yelping nearby, and a third gobbler had now joined the other two in the field.  My preseason preparations appeared to pay off; We were setup in the perfect spot.  They could see the white-faced DSD Strutter decoy and all it took was a few purrs on my Tom Teasers slate call and they were hooked.  The trio of gobblers bee-lined straight to our decoy setup and I reached for my bow as I worked the camera.

The lead gobbler struck first as he wing slapped the DSD Strutter.  Fighting purrs ensued as did the physical assault to the DSD.  I wasted no time and settled the top pin of my Spot Hogg double pin sight and released.  In a bright green flash (Firenock) buried into the side of the gobbler and he took off back in the direction they came from.  The other gobblers didn’t know what had happened and continued to harass the DSD Strutter decoy for a few minutes.  Not wanting to let the opportunity pass, Abby pulled out her new DSLR and started snapping off pics of the gobbler in the decoys.  After about 10 minutes or so, the gobblers finally made their way off back to our left and out of sight.  It was time to go and retrieve our bird.

Anyone that knows me, knows how passionate I am about hunting and the outdoors.  Being able to share my excitement with my beautiful wife and unborn daughter was an exhilarating experience.  The excitement in her eyes when she heard the first gobble of the morning, and getting to see the longbeards at less than 10 yards was something I’m sure she’ll remember for quite some time.  I know I will.

“April 28th…a turkey hunt that I will remember forever.”

Bird Stats:

  • 20.5 lbs.
  • 10-5/8″ beard
  • 3/4″ spurs

Brett’s Gear:

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