Most West Virginians know that hunting accidents in this state due to careless shooting have taken a big decline in the past 10-15 years. This has been discussed in past columns.
At the present time, according to Hoy Murphy in Charleston, tree stand falls are the biggest cause of hunting-related injuries.
I know a few individuals who have suffered injuries from tree stand falls. In Randolph County in the mid 1970s, a local medical doctor fell from a tree stand on the first day of the deer bow season and had to have emergency room services. In the 1980s, also in Randolph County, a close friend of mine fell several feet from a deer stand and was hospitalized for several days with fractured ribs and internal injuries. I was on his standby list to donate blood if he needed it. Fortunately, he did not require any transfusions.
The statewide deer bow hunting season opened Oct. 1. The state has had three tree stand incidents as of Oct.19. And another that happened prior to the bow season.
On Sept. 1, a 42-year-old man from Spencer in Roane County was injured when he was trying to install a tree stand. He was using an old ratchet strap that broke causing him and his tree stand to fall around 20 feet. The victim suffered broken ribs, bumps on the head and had to have a breathing tube inserted when medical help arrived.
On Oct. 1, a 24 year-old Fairmont man was injured near Fairview in Monongalia County when his tree stand broke while he was standing on it. The victim was left hanging by his harness approximately 15 feet above the ground. Thanks to his harness, he only suffered bruises with sore legs and feet.
On Oct. 3, a 48-year-old man from Milton in Cabell County was injured while climbing into a tree stand. This person was not wearing any harness. The victim suffered a fractured spine, broken shoulder, fractured pelvis, broken hip and broken leg. Chances are this person is out for the 2011 deer hunting season. He will most likely be under a doctor's care for several months. When people suffered multiple injuries of this severe nature, healing is a long process, possibly requiring physical therapy.
On Oct. 11, a 38-year-old woman from Given in Jackson County was injured while bow hunting. The lady had shot a deer and started climbing out of her stand. She slipped and fell about six to eight feet. She was able to call 911 and was life-flighted to Charleston Area Medical Center where she was diagnosed with only minor bruising.
Too many hunters seem to think that they are indestructible, or they have the attitude that falling from a tree stand will never happen to them. But when it does happen, you will find yourself lying in severe pain on the frosty forest floor with multiple fractures and internal bleeding.
It's quiet, you're miles room civilization, and your cell phone is broken from the fall, or it doesn't have reception in the area. One slight movement in the wrong direction can turn a wonderful morning into the worst tragedy of your life.
The personnel at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources have seen these tragic situations too many times. Hunter safety instructors insist that all tree-stand hunters invest in a quality full-body safety harness. In case you slip or fall, it will not only catch you, but it will not cut you in two.
The DNR also says that too many tree-stand hunters pick the wrong kind of tree to mount their stand. Pick a tree that has a thick bark like elm. A slick-barked tree is not going to hold the stand very well.
It is really impossible to know how many hunters are injured from tree stand incidents because not all accidents are reported and not everyone seeks medical attention. However, the leading causes for tree stand accidents are as follows:
n Improper stand installation.
n Careless use.
n Structural failures from homebuilt and wooden stands.
n Hunters not wearing safety straps or harnesses.
There have also been reports of injured hunters going to sleep while on the stand, and a few injured hunters have had some alcohol in their blood.
Frankly, anyone hunting from a tree stand after they have been drinking any kind of alcoholic beverage is simply not very responsible.
The DNR recommends that a person use good judgment for the elevation of the stand. The distance of the fall is often directly related to the severity of the injuries.
All the height that is needed is to be above the deer so they will have to raise their head to be able to see you.
Remember, when using a tree stand, your fall restraint system is your most important piece of equipment.
A full body harness is preferred. A single belt around the waist can tighten during the fall and cause serious internal injuries.