-By Randy Cooper
“Wish me luck honey; I’ll be home by supper.” Tragically, that’s the last words some wives ever hear from their husband. As more and more people go to the woods hunting each year we’re starting to hear of more accidental shootings, falls from tree stands and even the more bizarre events like 4-wheeler wrecks and hunters getting lost.
I usually hunt alone. My wife is always concerned, but has come to understand that I take my safety in the woods very seriously. I’ve said it before in my entries but it bears repeating: I love my wife’s husband and want to see him come home safe and sound to hunt again another day! I take a pretty commonsense approach to my safety by using some tried and true methods I’ve learned over the years of hunting with clubs and on private land.
On clubs that I’ve hunted with, we have a sign-in box that everyone has to use before they can hit the woods for a day’s hunt. Inside the box is an enlarged plat of the property complete with the road systems, property lines and all major drainages and creeks running through it. Every hunter has to mark his or her tree stand location with a colored dot and their initials on it. When they sign in, there is another board where they write their name, date and time in. When they leave the woods they are to sign out. If someone doesn’t come out within a reasonable time after dark, we have enough information on the sign-in board to know where to begin searching for them. It’s safe and effective. We take it so seriously that if a hunter fails to sign in or out three times in a season, he is refunded his prorated dues and told to go somewhere else to hunt.
Many times because of my work schedule, I’m hunting alone during the week when no one else is at the property. When I hunt the club I sign in and out but when I’m on private property, I tell my wife which stand I’ll be hunting and what time I intend to come out. I also call the landowner and let them know the same thing. I insure my safety by charging my cell phone and keeping it with me in my pocket instead of in my backpack. If I were to fall and be separated from my pack I wouldn’t be able to call for help. I pack a whistle because it is effortless to blow and makes a lot of noise. You can become hoarse to the point that you can’t talk if you have been yelling for help. I have bottled water and trail mix bars in the event I get hurt and have to spend a lot of time waiting on help.
Simply, you need to anticipate the unexpected and prepare for it. Some items you need to keep with you include: a rain suit, lighter and fire starter cubes, paper and pen, extra clothing, headache medicine, fluorescent surveyor’s ribbon for trail marking, a sharp knife, rope, a flashlight and extra batteries, commonsense and a cool head. It only takes a second to get into deep trouble. Give yourself, your wife and your family the feeling of security by taking steps to be safe in the woods.
I use a full body harness when hunting from a tree stand. When the sun gets to hitting you in the back of the neck on a cold morning, especially when you haven’t had much sleep the night before, it’s easy to dose off. I’ve caught myself on several occasions leaning over after I’d passed out and just like I’d planned, the safety harness tether caught me. That thing is worth its weight in gold. It’s a good idea to take along a first-aid kit with the basics in it. A GPS unit is an amazing tool to have along to lay down a way point that will show you the way out of the woods if there is any doubt or you get turned around.
Take some good advice and do as the Boy Scout motto says: BE PREPARED. Your life may depend on it.