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Accidentally getting shot by another hunter is always a danger, but recent ten-year surveys of hunting-related accidents at some hospitals show that many hunters come in to the E.R. with broken bones after they have fallen out of their tree-stands. They advise hunters to keep their safety harnesses on while hunting.
Tree Stands for Hunting
Hunters build these platforms up in trees as high as 10 to 30 feet, and they use them as perches to wait out of sight for the deer to walk by. Deer rarely look upward in the trees for predators and this gives the hunters the advantage, in that they are out of the line of fire and they can take their time in sighting and shooting their prey.
The stands are popular in the forests of the Midwest and the South. Tree stands first came out commercially on the market in the 1970s and by the 1990s, there were over 100 manufacturers according to John Louk, the executive director of the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association.
Hunting-Related Injuries Statistics
Half of the injuries that sent hunters to the ER were caused by falls. Of those, 92% resulted from tree stand falls; gunshot wounds accounted for 29% of the injuries and fewer than 2.3% were related to alcohol use. He advised that all hunters should keep their safety harnesses on while they perch in their tree stands. Often a tired hunter can fall asleep and tumble out of the tree, or he might get excited when he spots his quarry and slip out of the stand.
Other Injuries to Hunters
Hunters most often injure themselves. The self-inflicted injuries generally account for about 50% of Missouri deer-hunting accidents. Often hunters may lean their rifle against a tree and put their hand over the muzzle of a gun and get injured when the weapon fires.
Most of the hunters who don’t shoot themselves at least know the person who shot them. Often these people are friends or relatives. Sometimes hunters can injure themselves while loading or unloading, cocking or uncocking firearms or even putting the safety on or off on the weapon. It is wise to keep shotguns or rifles unloaded except when hunting.
Hunting Safety Rules
Often the most accidents occur on the first day of hunting season when the hunters are not as diligent about hunting safety. Several common sense hunting safety rules include:
- Never point a weapon near another person or yourself.
- Do not load the firearms before hunting and unload immediately after the hunting is over.
- Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
- Keep the safety on until you are ready to use the gun.
- Don’t get excited and careless. Stay in the moment and think about what you are doing.
- Identify the game by sighting the entire animal before shooting it.
- Always unload guns before climbing over fences or fallen trees.
Minor problems can cause serious problems. For example do not wear contact lenses while hunting, since a branch might slap you in the face and knock the lens out. It’s hard to find a contact lens in the forest floor litter.
Other considerations include:
- Be prepared for insect stings or an allergic reaction that might sent you into anaphylactic shock.
- Keep a well-stocked first aid kit handy.
- Wear good footwear that is comfortable, water-tight and supportive.
- Wear comfortable, appropriate clothing. Keep as dry as possible. Hypothermia can set in and cause injury.
- Keep liquids available to avoid dehydration.
- Take a compass, a map or a GPS with you. Getting lost in the forest with bad weather can be fatal.
- Matches or a fire-starting device can help you start a fire and keep warm. Also a good flashlight and a cell phone can help you avoid accidents or at least get help if required.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the experience and have a good time.