Stressing safety helps, but remain vigilant

One thing that has constantly been stressed in this column is safety in whatever endeavor you might be pursuing.

September is Tree Stand Safety Awareness Month and through the years the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation (TSSA) has helped in drastically lowering the number of falls while hunting from a tree. Safety has been a concentrated effort across the outdoors and hunting industries. Because of that, the falls have declined. In the last four years, the estimated number of tree stand falls requiring emergency care has dropped 40%.

Hunting from a tree stand is a safe and enjoyable experience when basic safety principles are followed. September has been designated for tree stand safety because it is when a majority of hunters head to the woods for archery seasons nationwide. Ohio’s archery deer season begins Sept. 24. The new archery season in the Lima area begins Sunday in the Disease Surveillance Area (DSA) in Hardin, Wyandot and Marion counties.

This fall, TSSA has expanded the ABCs of tree stand safety to include the letter “D.” The “D” stands for share your “destination.” Each year there are reports of where hunters involved in tree stand incidents could not be located for hours and for some not until the next day. In a trauma or medical emergency every single minute counts.

The ABCs are:

• Always remove and inspect your equipment

• Buckle on your full-body harness

• Connect to the tree before your feet leave the ground

• Destination, share your stand location before every hunt

“By practicing these four simple steps, you can fully enjoy your tree stand hunting experience and come home safe to your family and friends,” according to TSSA President Glen Mayhew. “If you don’t have your full-body harness, don’t climb and hunt from the ground.”

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Combining boating with outdoor activities in the fall also requires certain safety measures. There are different types of risks that cold water and air temperatures bring if you are fishing, hunting or checking out the fall colors.

The BoatUS Foundation offers some key safety tips, including:

Any time you are going on the water, you should have a float plan. With fewer boats on the water (potential good Samaritans) after Labor Day, a float plan ensures rescuers will be notified if you ever fail to check back in after your outing.

Falls overboard led to the most number of deaths in 2021. Have a plan to get back into your boat if possible. If your boat has a ladder, use it because cold water can quickly sap your strength. If your boat doesn’t have a built in-ladder, a compact emergency ladder or even a looped line attached to a cleat, pre-rigged with foothold loops every few inches and hung over the transom, can substitute. If you have a smaller boat that capsizes, at least hang on to it until someone rescues you.

It’s understandable if you are hunting while you might wear dark green, tan or black camo patterns. However, wearing a life jacket with high visibility would make the job of finding you easier if you had fallen into the water. Make sure to wear the life jacket.

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Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) positive deer have been confirmed in 13 Ohio counties. Those counties include: Athens, Butler, Champaign, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Highland, Madison, Perry, Preble, Ross, Union and Warren counties.

EHD, one of the most common ailments affecting deer, has been found in deer in the Lima area in recent years, but none have been found this year. The disease occurs in the late summer and fall in deer herds across North America. Outbreaks are often associated with drought. Ohio saw a rise in cases beginning in mid-August this year.

EHD virus is not infectious to people or pets and is not spread from animal to animal. It is transmitted by the bite of small insects called midges, so EHD-associated deaths in deer can occur until the first frost of the year causes a decline in midge activity.

Once infected, deer show symptoms within five to 10 days, and many deer die within 36 hours of the onset of symptoms. According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW), deer in the Midwest are at a higher risk because they lack herd immunity, among other factors. The wildlife agency says there is little that can be done to protect wild deer from the virus.

According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, EHD does not pose a serious threat to livestock and infections are likely to be mild. Deer infected with this virus may show symptoms including lethargy, head hung down, loss of fear of humans, swelling of the tongue, head and neck, difficulty breathing, and excess salivation. Affected deer are often found in or near bodies of water, likely because of fever and dehydration.

Sightings of sick or dead deer should be reported at or to a local Ohio wildlife officer so the DOW can track incidences and perform tests.

To be cautious, never kill or eat a sick deer. Depending on the actual illness, the deer may be unfit for consumption. Without testing, it cannot be certain what a sick deer is suffering from.

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Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL