Sunday photo

Four young, happy fishermen

These four youngsters, from left, Nicholas England, 11, of Alexandria; Pierce Boy, 12, of Lafayette; Taylor Hancock, 8, of Picayune, Miss.; and, Kabeb Aucoin, 10, of New Iberia took home new 14-foot bateaus rigged with Mercury outboards after catching either a speckled trout or a flounder measuring at least 14 inches long in the 2019 CCA Louisiana's Statewide Tournament and Anglers Rodeo — the S.T.A.R The young anglers had their names drawn from entries weighed in four areas along the Louisiana coast from the Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. They picked up their boats at Thursday's banquet held at Live Oak Arabians in Baton Rouge and were among two dozen winners from the summer-long event.

Editor's note: First in “Surviving the Season” series.

Broken backs, broken necks, broken arms, broken legs, broken ankles.

Severe lacerations and puncture wounds.

Paralysis.

Weeks upon weeks spent in rehab.

Loss of wages. Families in crisis.

All because guys fell from tree stands.

The day began with promise, cool and crisp — finally a break from Louisiana’s intense summer heat — a chance to commune with nature, and, maybe, get a shot on that massive buck that’s been haunting your dreams for the past three seasons.

For nearly 150 Louisiana hunters since 2015, the day didn’t end that way. It ended in an emergency room — if they were lucky.

It’s only been since then federal folks have been keeping tabs on hunting accidents, including tree-stand incidents, and only in the rarest instance was there no reported “serious” injury.

Know now there have been fatalities: shock, puncture wounds after falling on razor-sharp arrows, hunting knives, and whatever there is on the ground under a tree stand have dealt mortal blows.

After sitting in on a session with Jay Everett from Hunters Safety Systems, it was clear how detailed accident reports have become: “We know 86% (of tree-stand accidents) are the result of falls while getting into and climbing from stands,” Everett said. “That leaves 14% of the accidents coming from falling from a stand.”

True, Everett was pushing HSS products, like hunting harnesses, and there are enough lines out there to warrant a look-see for the newest in safety equipment. Just Google “hunting harnesses,” and you’ll have enough to make a good choice.

But is goes beyond adding something new to your hunting bag.

Safety begins long before the season, and, for most hunters, weeks before primitive and modern firearms are carried into field and forest.

So, before you go, here’s a checklist compiled from several sources to help you come home from the hunt — and survive in the trees:

  • Check climbing stands for chains, fasteners, seats and bases, and fixed and homemade stands for rust, weak or rotten wood, fasteners and chains or ropes. Make sure the ladder and the stand’s deck and sides can support your weight.
  • Select a strong, healthy tree for your stand. Check stands for insects like bees, termites and ants.
  • Never carry a weapon — any weapon — while climbing into or leaving any stand, and make sure weapons are unloaded. Use a rope to raise and lower unloaded weapons and gear into and from your stand.
  • Use the three-point system when climbing into fixed stands: Keep two hands and one foot or both feet and one hand on the ladder at all times.
  • For all open stands, use a safety harness to climb to, sit in and climb from a stand. Tying into a stand can prevent a sleeping hunter from a fall — and don’t tell anyone you haven’t slept in a deer stand 'cause they’ll know you’re lying.
  • Stow a whistle in the top pocket of your shirt to alert other hunters if you have a problem. Two-way radios and cell phones help, too.
  • Leave a hunt plan at home or camp with exact hunting locations, start time and when you plan to return.