It was February 1, 2011, a Tuesday morning. The ground was covered by a layer of frozen snow and ice. The temperature was 29° and the forecast was bleak, with freezing rain on the way that evening. Like so many mornings before I headed for my treestand at 0 dark:30. Finding it was easy without the aid of a flashlight with the white of the frozen snow.
I had placed the treestand that September in a silver beech tree along a creek where the deer cross. This was the first year I decided to put a rope that would bear my weight from head high at the treestand to the first treestep at the base of the tree. Then using a Prusik knot I would be able to ascend and descend the tree using my safety harness and sliding the knot as I went.
As I arrived at my tree I started my ritual of putting on my gear. I always dress and undress in a particular order so that I can reach into my backpack and pull out what I need without the use of a light or forgetting something.
- First I put my binoculars on that are on a shoulder harness.
- Then my full body safety harness.
- Then a fleece hand muffler, it doubles as a pocket to hold my facemask, grunt tube, and gloves.
After I got myself together I hooked my harness to the ascent rope, donned my cotton gloves, you know the ones with the little gripping rubber dots on them and up I went. I got up onto the fourth step when my hand slipped off the treestep. Because of the cold the dots on the gloves became hard and slick. I fell backward away from the tree and would have most likely landed flat on my back. Luckily the Prusik knot worked flawlessly. It cinched down on the leading rope and held me from what might have been a catastrophic fall. As I dangled there for a brief moment I said a quick THANK YA JESUS! I grabbed the tree again and thought, well that knot is probably so tight I’ll have to cut the rope to get myself back to the ground. But because of the simple design of the Prusik knot all I had to do was pull the coils in reverse and it opened easily to slide and let me back down to the ground.
After regaining my composure and checking to see if I didn’t have to change or shake anything out of my underwear I removed the gloves and climbed the tree once again this time without incident.
As a former Hunter Education Instructor I always opted to do the “Treestand Safety” part of the class. I had vowed to never become a statistic in the state incident reports given out every year. I urge everyone to learn to tie and to use this simple knot. Please ALWAYS attach your safety harness while going UP and DOWN a tree, not just after getting to the top.
How to tie a Prusik knot:
Follow the steps as shown. Also ensure you have a minimum of 2″ of rope past the knot on the Prusik cord.
MAKE SURE your prusik hitch has 6 (six) loops! MAKE SURE your prusik hitch locks to the drop line
when it is pulled down by the double knot.
Also see Curt Briskey’s response to this article, It’s Not a Knot