AUSTIN, Minn. — Deer stand injuries can be one of the most common accidents throughout the hunting season. In fact, an International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) study finds that one in every three hunters who hunts from a tree stand will fall at some point in their hunting career. Greg Angstman, M.D., Family Medicine physician (and avid hunter) on the Austin campus of Mayo Clinic Health System – Albert Lea and Austin, says with archery and crossbow deer hunting in full swing and gun season soon approaching, it’s time to reestablish safety practices to prevent accidents from occurring.
“These injuries can easily be avoided if hunters use caution and common sense,” says Angstman. “Multiple injuries and even death can result from falling asleep, slipping while climbing in or out of the stand, and having faulty equipment.”
Angstman emphasizes the use of the safety harness. “It is a necessary yet simple, preventive measure all hunters can and should use,” he says. “When using a safety harness, make sure it is fully secured.” He also suggested if you have an older style waist harness, consider purchasing a chest or five-point harness as these provide better support through the upper body and reduce chance of injury to internal organs.
Angstman points out statistics from the Tree Stand Manufactures Association stating 82 percent hunters who fall from tree stands are not wearing full body harnesses.
Mayo Clinic Health System also suggests these safety tips:
- Assess tree stand placement. Selecting trees that are substantial enough to hold the hunter’s weight is critical. Hunters also should choose trees that are visibly alive, standing straight, and have course-type bark for gripping purposes. Never place stands on utility poles or other smooth surfaces for risk of slipping.
- Count your contact points. Angstman strongly emphasizes having three points of contact on the tree while climbing into and out of the stand; either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand at all times. The less contact points, the higher risk of falling and injury.
- Do not forget firearm safety. As obvious as it may be, it is still easy to forget the basic safety precautions while climbing to and from tree stands. Hunters should never climb with a bow or firearm in their hand. This can take away an important contact point while moving up or down the tree. When raising or lowering a bow or firearm, hunters must make sure it is unloaded, points down, and the safety is engaged.
- Educate yourself. Anyone planning to use a tree stand this season should consider a simple 15-minute online safety course. The Tree Stand Manufacturers Association provides a free, interactive course.