Merely climbing into or out of a tree stand or other elevated platform to hunt puts you at risk. Long hours spent waiting in a stand, as well as poor safety techniques, can lead to accidental falls. To protect yourself, use good judgment and follow these recommendations, always putting safety first.
› Purchase a commercial stand that is manufactured, certified and tested to industry standards
› Read the manufacturer’s instructions and watch the video that accompanies the stand. Review this information each season before using the stand
› Attach your fall arrest system to the tree while at ground level, and keep it attached throughout your hunt — from the time you leave the ground until you get back down
› Use a tree stand only during daylight hours
› Practice first with your tree stand and fall arrest system at ground level, using all safety devices that were included with the stand. Then continue to practice, gradually going higher
› When climbing into or out of a tree stand, always use three points of contact with your hands and feet
› Keep a firm hold on the climbing system as you enter or leave a platform, and don’t let go until you’re certain you are secure
› Get enough sleep to ensure that you are well-rested before using a tree stand
› Carry a signaling device, such as a whistle, radio, or cell phone, to let others know if you have a problem
› Take your time and plan every move you make while installing and using an elevated stand
› Check your stand carefully prior to each use. Do not leave a stand attached to a tree for more than two weeks
› Never exceed the weight limit of your stand or fall arrest system. Remember that the weight includes you plus your equipment
› Do not climb with anything in your hands or on your back. Use a haul line
› Raise and lower all hunting equipment on the opposite side of the tree from your climbing route
State officials remind hunters that most tree stand falls occur when a hunter is climbing up or down a tree. Be sure to use a fall-arrest system at all times when off the ground
Source: Tennessee Hunter Education Course, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
A Tracy City, Tenn., man died Saturday in an apparent fall from a tree stand while hunting near his home.
Family members found Michael "Moty" Nunley dead at the bottom of his tree stand about midday Saturday after he failed to come home, Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum said Monday. The fall happened near Clouse Hill Road, northwest of Tracy City.
Nunley was an avid hunter, said Shrum, who knew him personally. Nunley was the father of two children and worked for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the sheriff said.
"Everybody knew him as 'Moty.' He was from a good family," Shrum said. "It was just a tragic accident."
Shrum said it appeared the fall happened when Nunley was finished hunting for the day. Nunley had driven his four-wheeler to the tree stand, which was older and consisted of a ladder and platform, Shrum said.
"He had already lowered his weapon to the ground. It appears that he fell out of the stand trying to come down the stand," the sheriff said.
Family members knew something was wrong when Nunley didn't return from the woods to eat breakfast with his mother, his routine during hunting season, Shrum said.
"He lost his footing or his hold and landed on his back," Shrum said. Nunley landed on his gun when he hit the ground, but it didn't discharge.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials said there have been two tree stand accidents this season in the agency's Region 3, which comprises most of the counties in Southeast Tennessee.
The other accident happened around Nov. 20 in Sequatchie County.
Cleveland, Tenn., resident Steve Wilson, 44, was found dead at the bottom of his tree stand on a remote tract of property on Lewis Chapel Mountain, said Sequatchie County Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock. Wilson had been hunting on private property that was being leased for hunting and had "signed in" on a specific tract, which gave emergency crews a good idea where to look. Authorities said they believed Wilson to be an experienced hunter.
TWRA spokeswoman Mime Barnes said it's important that hunters take all recommended precautions when using tree stands.
"The No. 1 thing hunters can do to be safe in tree stands is wear a safety harness," Barnes said. "They should also follow the safety instructions for their particular brand of tree stand and let someone know their plans for their hunt."
Hunting season is still open, so it's important for hunters to remain vigilant about safety, Barnes said.
Deer hunting gun season — as well as archery and muzzle-loader seasons — are open now until Jan. 8, she said.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton @timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.