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Hunting Season Hazards: The Dangers of Tree Stands

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Many thousands of Americans take to the woods this time each fall; there are inherent dangers of hunting deer from elevated tree stands, a popular tool during deer season. Every autumn there are a number of casualties of outdoorsmen who fall from tree stands.

tree standA safety strap or rope of some type is a necessary precaution to take.  These straps are made commercially, and most tree stands come equipped with them. Many safety straps fit around a hunter’s waist or shoulders, with another strap that attaches to the tree. Should a hunter fall or should the stand tumble, a hunter won’t plummet to the ground.

In our region, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost was recently severely injured in just such a hunting accident.  His stand gave out from under him and he fell to the ground.  His recovery once he was rescued from the scene was even more gruesome, as reported by national media including SB Nation:

“Once I got to the hospital, they got me on the table, and all of a sudden I felt a shot — the doctor had drilled a hole through my leg and through my bone and inserted a rod into it. Then he put two 10-pound weights on each side of the rod for traction. Then they picked me up and put me in these compression pants — it was so painful, I can’t even tell you.”

“I kept asking, ‘What are you doing?’ The trauma surgeon said, ‘We got to do this to save your life.’ I’m like, ‘Save my life? What are you talking about?’ What I didn’t notice was that they kept giving me units of blood. They gave me seven or eight units of blood. They said, ‘Look, your pelvis is full of blood vessels and arteries, and when you shatter it like you did, you have a lot of bleeding in there. We have to get it stopped.'”  - Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost


Safety Tips with Tree Stands

Had Yost’s tree stand functioned properly, this wouldn’t have happened.  What Yost was doing was checking the safety of his climbing belts, a necessary first step for preserving life and limb, and usually the best defense against a falling mishap.

Climbing belts are available that allow hunters to firmly place stands and ladders without falling.  While a tree stand safety belt is the best defense against a falling mishap, there are other safe precautions tree stand hunters should take to prevent accidents:

  1. Thoroughly inspect the tree you’re about to use before getting into it. Make sure there are no broken limbs around or above the stand site.
  2. Make sure a tree selected for a stand is a solid one.
  3. Look for wasp and bee nests in the tree you’ll be hunting.
  4. Beware of impenetrable bark.  Some mature trees, particularly oak and pine, have such thick, coarse bark that sometimes screw-in tree steps do not actually find purchase in the tree’s wood core, but only are tapped into the bark on the surface.  Most screw-in tree steps must be driven in completely to work effectively. If they are not, they can bend under a hunter’s weight, and then break.
  5. Falling out of a tree stand is bad enough, but even with a full-body harness the challenge isn’t over.  The hunter has to then get out of clinging to the tree since strap pressure from the harness on leg arteries can cause suspension trauma. That limits blood flow from the legs to the heart, which can cause unconsciousness and death.  “Recover, release, and rescue” is the mantra for surviving unharmed.  If recovery is impossible due to complete stand failure, it’s necessary for a fallen hunter to relieve weight pressure on his harness to allow ample blood flow.  Some safety harnesses possess a suspension relief device in the form of a web or rope strap that allows a person to stand and increases blood circulation while still in the harness.

If a stand is defective, serious injury can occur, even if you follow the advised safety steps.  In this trade article, it is estimated that one in three deer hunters in stands will eventually fall from their perch at some time.  Hunting is a great pastime but if the basic rudimentary steps above are followed, you can avoid some of the dangers that come with hunting from tree stands.

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