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While I was writing this article, my friend had to leave town and tend to care for his dad. His dad suffered a bad accident from falling out of his treestand breaking his femur in the process. Luckily, he’ll be alright long term. This literally happened the same day I was finishing this article.
So, what is the number one danger to hunters? It’s not your gun and it’s not anything you’re actually hunting. Nope, the number one danger to you while hunting is where you sit, your treestand.
Since the 1970’s, treestands have become a staple for deer hunters. They’re used to gain a better vantage point as well as to better conceal hunters. Thousands upon thousands of hunters take to their treestands each year with the hopes of bagging that big buck. For the majority of hunters, there are only positives to this situation and in their minds, what could really go wrong?
But evidence has suggested that using your treestand is the most dangerous part of hunting.
Yup, that’s right, your treestand is statistically speaking the most dangerous aspect of hunting. Studies have shown that hunters are 2 – 3x more likely to sustain an injury from falling from their treestand than from their firearm. And because of the height at which many hunters fall from, this can lead to very serious injuries including leg fractures, spinal cord injuries, and death.
In the early 1900’s, firearms were by far the highest cause of injury and death when hunting. There were little regulations and gun safety was not yet a huge concern. According to a study done by the University of Wisconsin, in 1914 one in every 3,100 deer hunters was accidentally shot, leading to 24 deaths that season. Today, that number is down significantly; in 1912, only one in 95,143 deer hunters was accidentally shot and only one died due to gunshot.
Deerstand accidents on the other hand, have risen and far surpassed firearms as the leading cause of injury and death when hunting. Between 2015 to 2020, Michigan alone recorded 38 injuries and 18 deaths due to deerstand accidents! According to the University of Wisconsin and the University of Alabama, 55% of treestand-related falls resulted in spinal injuries.
Usually, these accidents happen while hunters are ascending/descending and stepping into/out of their deerstand (and this includes elevated blinds). Many times, a fall occurs when a hunter is climbing out of their deerstand after dusk.
Simply put? Most deer hunters just don’t listen to the advice out there and forego wearing a safety harness. The same study from the University of Wisconsin found that only 33 percent of bowhunters and 23 percent of rifle hunters wore a safety harness all of the time. A decent chunk of hunters don’t even own such devices.
And again, a lot of hunters are well aware of the dangers present. It’s pretty obvious – if you go up in a tree 20+ feet and hang out on a small platform, it’s clear to most everyone that it could lead to a pretty ugly fall. But it’s such a common thing that hunters have been doing their whole life, that it just really doesn’t seem that big of a deal to them. Anyways, what’s the big deal, it’s as easy as climbing a ladder and sitting, right?
Unfortunately, that’s just not the smartest way to think. And I get it, I’ve been there before and done stupid stuff. But with today’s harnesses and clip-ins, this should be a no brainer.
The idea that “it just won’t happen to me” is great, right up until it happens to you. So why not just avoid that ever being a possibility to begin with?
The first thing to do is to recognize that it is an apparent risk you’re taking by going up into a tree stand and falling and injuring yourself could indeed happen to you. No one is above it. Awareness, and not being “above” or “too cool” safety measures will go a long way here. As for other everything else, I created a quick bullet list below that outlines several measures you can take to ensure that you don’t become another statistic.
- Always wear a high-quality safety harness
- Clip into your safety line as soon as possible
- Take some time and care when climbing up and down
- Don’t be lazy when setting up your treestand – make sure it’s properly secured to the tree
- Make sure the area beneath your treestand is clear of rocks and debris
- Don’t put your treestand up too high – do you really need to go higher than 15 feet?
- Check your gear and make sure it’s in good condition and that no straps are beginning to fail
- Don’t drink heavily and use your treestand (…c’mon guys!)
- Keep a phone on you in case of emergency
These are simple and easy precautions you can take to make sure that you don’t become another statistic here. I know I know, “it won’t happen to you”. And I hope it doesn't! But the old adage “you’re better off safer than sorry” really does apply. It’s like not wearing a seatbelt in the car – why would you ever not wear one?
Hope this helps shed some light on the importance of safety out there and happy hunting!
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