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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Far more hunters are injured in tree stand mishaps than from guns

Far more hunters are hurt in tree stand accidents than from mishaps with guns.

While deer hunting is a relatively safe sports compared to others, there still are too many injuries -- most  which could be easily avoided.
To the surprise of many, most deer hunting injuries are not caused by guns or bows. They result from accidents caused by improper use of deer stands.
There aren’t a lot of statistics on the subject--and it may be a bit hard to believe--but if viewed over a person’s hunting lifetime, a hunter has one chance in three of receiving a serious injury from tree stand use.
For as long as I’ve been aware of deer hunting with tree stands. the possible dangers associated with them have been in the back of my mind. However a number of years ago, the danger became impressed on my mind.
While visiting a patient in Indianapolis’s Methodist Hospital a number of years ago, a nurse became aware of my outdoor writing. She asked me if I had time to visit a couple of patients on another wing. “I know they would appreciate it,” she said. “Both are hunters.”
The nurse explained both were hospitalized due to unrelated accidents. Both had fallen from tree stands and both were at least temporarily, partially paralyzed from their falls.
Both hunters were upbeat about their situations, but both also wanted people to know about the dangers of tree stands, if proper caution isn’t used.
Already this fall, I’m aware of at least three serious falls in Indiana, and read that a Pennsylvania man died in a mishap.
It is difficult to know just how many hunters are injured every year. Not all accidents are reported, and not everyone who falls required medical attention. And, not all tree stand accidents are recorded as a category at hospitals. There also is no national collection of data.
A nearly 20-year-old study by a deer hunting magazine found that 37 percent of tree stand hunters some time will fall from their stand, and about three percent will suffer some sort of crippling injury.
Three-quarters of the accidents happen while the hunter is climbing up or down on the stand.
Also especially telling was that most hunters injured were not wearing a safety harness or vest.
Whenever a person uses a tree stand, they should be familiar with the equipment and associated safety. Most commercial stands come with instructions, and there also is a quick safety test on-line at Also, Kalkomey Enterprises has an on-line hunter education course which contains a section on use of tree stands. ( Check it out.
Here are some safety items recommended by the Pennsylvania Game Commission:
Do not set up in a dead or dying tree because those are the unsafe tress. If the bark is already slipping off it it, don’t set up there.
Read the directions before you put the tree stand together. Manufacturers know best about how to put your new piece of equipment together, make sure to follow their guidelines.
Inspect the stand before you sit in it, especially, if it’s been sitting out all year and the season has just started. The straps should all still be secure and the nuts and bolts should be tight.
Pay attention to the weather. If it’s too windy that day, it might not be a safe day to go hunting.
Use a tow rope to haul up gear once you yourself are safe and secure in the stand.
And last, but surely not least, wear a harness, the ultimate lifesaver. If you think a harness may be costly, think of the cost of medical care and time spent away from work.
And, the following are a couple rules, I would add:
Always hunt with a plan, and if possible, with a buddy.  Let others know your exact hunting location, when you plan to return and, who you are hunting with.
Always carry emergency signal devices, such as a cell phone, whistle, walkie-talkie, signal flare and flashlight on your person at all times and within reach, even when you are suspended in your tree stand. 

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