Treestand safety cover photo

Despite all the horror stories, awareness campaigns and innovative safety gear, treestand-related accidents remain the most common cause of injury or death while hunting, according to a study conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The study gathered data from two statewide hunter-surveys conducted in 2013, hunting-license purchases, and north-central Wisconsin hospital records from between 2009 and 2013. Its findings show that falls from trees remain a very real threat. The study outlined a few key conclusions:

  • Although fewer hunters use a bow than a gun, bowhunters have a 4.5 greater chance of injury because of the longer season.
  • The average probability for serious injury was 1 out of 71 for a 25 year period of hunting participation.
  • Avid lifetime deer hunters, characterized as those who hunt during the gun- and bow-season, have a 1 in 20 chance of being injured from a fall.

The study recommends beefed-up safety education for new hunters, but also pointed out that it is more important to get established hunters to consistently use proper safety gear while hunting from a treestand. Consistency is the key word here. A 2003 survey by the WDNC found that of the 84 percent of deer hunters that hunted from treestands, 62 percent owned a safety harness, but only 31 percent “Always” used one, and 14 percent “Usually” used one. While these numbers have certainly changed since, the problem clearly remains. Despite the possible consequences of broken bones, paralysis and death, many hunters remain stubborn.

The two most common reasons for not using safety gear were “being extra careful while climbing,” and “never having fallen in the past.” These reasons clearly don’t hold water. After all, what would you say to someone who removed their car’s airbags because they had never been in a crash? Further, despite “careful climbing,” around 50 percent of falls or near-falls occurred during ascent and descent from stands.

This topic has been viewed as beating a dead horse, but this study and others are proof that the problem must continue to be addressed. Use a safety harness 100 percent of the time and encourage others to do the same, or these studies will continue to show the same grim findings.

Click here to read the complete study.