Editor’s Note: Parrish Elliott is an accomplished bowhunter, who is a member of the PSE and Mossy Oak Pro Staffs. During deer season he lives in trees, but his career as a bowhunter nearly came to a tragic end recently.
I've been bowhunting and climbing trees for 30 years. I've never fallen, I've never had an accident, and I consider myself a very-safe bowhunter. I had tried safety harnesses before, but I felt like they were very restrictive and got in the way when I was trying to turn, draw and shoot. To be honest, I never felt like I needed to wear one. When I was younger, I always thought I was 10-feet tall and bullet-proof.
I went to a Mossy Oak Pro Staff meeting a couple of years ago and met the people from Hunter Safety System (www.huntersafetysystem.com). The company had one of its new harnesses at this meeting, I tried it on, and this fall-restraint device didn’t feel as restrictive as the old harnesses had. I started thinking that I was getting older. My wife worries about me climbing trees, especially when I'm hunting by myself. So, I made the decision to start wearing a safety harness. The first time I went up a tree with a Hunter Safety System harness I did feel safer. I felt I could be braver too while wearing it and standing and moving in my tree stand.
I hunt out of chain-on stands. I learned I could lean out a little farther without being concerned about falling, because the harness held me to the tree. I normally climb 22- to 24-feet high in a tree. In the past 2 years, I’ve taken 15 deer wearing the harness. I’ll be honest. I had to wear the harness a couple of times before I got accustomed to it. But then after about my third trip to the woods, I didn’t feel like I had on the harness. The harness just felt like I was wearing another shirt. I also started using the life line that kept me attached to the tree from the time I left the ground through transitioning from my climbing steps into the tree stand, and all the way back to the ground when I finished hunting. I like the life line, because I use climbing sticks to get into my tree stand. After a rain, I know that my feet easily can slip off the sticks, and I may fall. I feel the life line is one more step in keeping me safe and secure. If I fall, the life line will stop me before I hit the ground.
On October 4, 2014, I climbed into my tree stand like I had just about every morning during deer season for 30 years. Once I felt secure in my tree stand, I put the tether that would hold me and my safety harness to the tree a little bit above my head. I sat down for a few minutes to cool-off from my walk to my stand. Then I stood up and leaned out to get my pull-up rope that I had tied to my bow before I’d left the ground. For some reason, I put my foot over the end of the stand. The next thing I remember I was dangling on the side of the tree. Immediately, I said to myself, “Oh, crap, I just fell out of my tree stand.” I took several seconds to compose myself and think about what I had done. Then I began to think about getting back into the stand. I was able to grab hold of one of the climbing sticks with one hand, put the other hand on the platform of my tree stand and climb into my tree stand. When I sat back down on my seat in the tree stand, I said, “Thank you, Lord, for saving my life.”