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Hunting's hidden danger: Tree stand injuries

When you hear the phrase "hunting accident," what's the first thing you think about?

If you're like most people, it's probably someone getting shot after being mistaken for a deer -- not someone falling from a tree stand or having a tree stand that's worn out just give way under their feet.

However, tree stand accidents account for about 1 out of every 10 hunting injuries -- making them a highly significant source of trauma and death among hunters. Tree stands are usually elevated platforms around 15 to 30 feet above the ground. Therefore, any fall from either the ladder or the platform could result in permanent brain or spinal cord injuries. That's if the injuries aren't outright fatal.

To protect yourself and anyone who hunts with you this season, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of injury:

  • Wear a safety harness and insist that others wear one as well. When purchasing your harness, make certain that you get a full body harness that can catch you if you accidentally step off the stand. Properly used safety harnesses could prevent about half of all tree stand injuries.
  • Keep emergency gear on you at all times. It can be deadly if you fall and then get stuck or tangled in the branches above ground. A phone should always be in a pocket (that is zippered closed so that it can't fall out). A knife is essential in case you need to cut yourself free.
  • Prohibit drinking by those in your stand or hunting party until after the day is over. One study found that up to 18 percent of those injured by a tree stand were drinking.
  • Use a basket and a rope to send equipment up and down the stand instead of trying to climb with the equipment in your hands. It could fall, endangering anyone below, or you could fall.
  • Check each harness and your stand prior to use at the beginning of hunting season. Replace anything that's worn, seems weakened or looks unsafe.

Anyone who loses a family member in a hunting accident due to a poorly made or poorly maintained tree stand should consult an attorney about the possibility of a wrongful death claim.

Source: Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting, "Tree Stand Injuries -- interesting statistics," accessed Sep. 14, 2017

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