Tree Stand Injuries - interesting statistics
November 29, 2010
This is an interesting article. While hunting orgs minimize the number of
accidents that take place every year, every so often an article like this
slips through and we get a more accurate estimate of what the true numbers
Back in 2009, Ron Kolbeck, a certified HuntSAFE instructor in South
Dakota stated that there were 4,114 hunting accidents in the state in 2008.
When we posted this info the hunters went nuts, telling us that we were
making these stats up.
So here is another article I recently found that also discloses that the
number of accidents that take place are far higher than the hunters will
Tree Stand Injuries
Hunting in the U.S.
Hunting is a popular sport in this country. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service estimates 12.5 million Americans 16 and older hunted in 2006. The
hunters took 185 million trips and spent $22.9 billion.
More than 85 percent of hunters go after big game, like deer and elk.
Roughly 38 percent hunt for smaller game like rabbits and squirrels. Less
than 20 percent hunt birds.
Tree Stands for Hunters
A tree stand is an elevated platform placed from 15 feet to 30 feet above
the ground and secured to a tree. The platform is typically small, with just
enough room to sit or stand. Tree stands can be purchased from a retailer or
built by hand. Many permanent tree stands are constructed by hunters rather
There are several different kinds. One of the most popular types is the
climbing stand. These are designed to be moved as the hunter climbs the
tree, then secured when the desired height is reached. A fixed position
stand attaches to a tree trunk for an extended period of time (like all of
hunting season). A vertical ladder stand has a ladder attached to the
platform. The ladder can often be disassembled and reassembled for carrying
the stand into and out of the woods. The last type of stands are permanent
tree stands. As the name suggests, these are designed to remain permanent
and used season after season.
According to the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, more than 90
percent of hunters use some type of tree stand for hunting. Although tree
stands were initially most popular with bowhunters, many rifle hunters use
them also. Elevation enables the hunter to see game at a greater distance.
In addition, the hunter canít easily be seen or smelled by animals,
improving the odds of bagging game. Some tree stands also have canopies that
protect the hunter from the cold, wind, rain and sun.
Injuries Associated with Tree Stands
Researchers estimate about 10 percent of hunters who use tree stands are
injured while using the platforms. Investigators at the University of
Alabama at Birmingham, looked at hunting accidents across the U.S. from 2000
to 2007. During that time, there were about 46,860 injuries to hunters
associated with tree stands (Note: This averages to be 5,875 tree stand
related injuries per year. Add to this all the other accidents that do not
have anything to do with tree stands - JM) , mostly from falls. Male hunters
were twice as likely to suffer a tree stand injury as females.
The researchers found injury rates to be highest among hunters 15 to 24
and lowest among those 65 and older. Gerald McGwin, M.S., Ph.D., Injury
Epidemiologist, says the reasons for the highest rates of injury among
younger hunters aren't clear. However, he believes younger hunters are not
aware of, or may not take appropriate safety precautions while using tree
stands (like wearing a safety harness). Younger hunters may be more apt to
take risks than older, seasoned hunters. Alcohol may also play a role in the
risk for tree stand-related injuries. One study found 17 to 18 percent of
hunters injured during use of a tree stand had been drinking at some point
prior to the accident (NOTE: this means that 999 - 1,056 accidents per year
- JM) .
The investigators found the most common consequences of tree stand
injuries were fractures (especially of the spine, shoulder and arms),
lacerations of the head and neck, and abrasions and bruises of the torso.
McGwin says head and spinal injuries can be especially devastating to
younger patients because they have to live with potential long-term
disabilities. In the most serious cases, hunters may die from tree stand
falls Ė either as a direct result of their trauma or by
strangulation/asphyxiation when caught up in an improperly secured harness.
Tree Stand Safety
Many tree stand injuries can be prevented by taking a few extra steps:
Check your stand. Experts discourage using home-made tree stands because
they may not be properly constructed or unable to hold your weight. Even
tree stands that are purchased from reputable dealers need to be inspected
every season to ensure they are solid and will hold the weight of your body
Use a harness. Researchers estimate more than half of all hunters injured
in a tree stand accidents didnít use, or failed to properly use, a safety
harness. A harness is attached to the tree and designed to prevent a fall or
catch a hunter who steps over the side of the tree stand. The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service recommends a full body harness. The harness should be
inspected before each use and replaced if it shows any signs of wear or
weakness. Roughly 50 percent of tree stand injuries occur when going into or
leaving a tree stand. So itís important to put the harness on before
climbing the tree and keeping it on until you are safely back on the ground.
Donít carry equipment while climbing or disembarking. Carrying equipment
can affect your balance and cause you to fall. In addition, a gun can be
accidentally discharged. Use a separate line to haul equipment up to the
tree stand after you are settled in the tree stand. Also, donít load the
weapon until it is safely in the tree stand with you.
Have a plan. Let others know where you will be hunting and how long you
expect to be gone. Carry a cell phone in case you have an emergency and need
help. Carry emergency equipment in case you fall. While the harness may
prevent you from hitting the ground, you can still die if you are suspended
upside down for a significant amount of time and are unable to free
yourself. Some experts even suggest practicing how to free yourself from the
harness so you are better prepared to handle an emergency.
For information and tips on preventing tree stand injuries:
The National Bowhunter Education Foundation, Project STAND
Treestand Manufacturerís Association
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service .
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