With Missouri’s archery deer-hunting season already underway and firearms season starting in mid-November, a University of Missouri Health Care trauma surgeon cautions hunters to take safety precautions, especially in deer stands.

“I’m an avid hunter and outdoorsman myself, so I always look forward to both the archery and firearms portions of deer season,” said Jacob Quick, M.D., a trauma surgeon at University Hospital’s Frank L. Mitchell Jr., M.D., Trauma Center and assistant professor of acute care surgery at the MU School of Medicine. “However, as a trauma surgeon, I’m also part of a team that treats about 40 patients each year with hunting-related injuries, and most are caused by falls from tree stands. We’ve recently treated a few hunters for serious injuries sustained from these types of falls, and we anticipate that number rising, especially during the popular firearms season.”

Approximately 500,000 Missourians deer hunt each year. Many use elevated tree stands to provide a clearer view during hunting.

“Tree stands offer a better vantage point for hunters by expanding their field of view,” Quick said. “However, this usually puts the hunter at least 15 feet off the ground. A fall from even 10 feet can be devastating, especially if the hunter lands on something other than just the ground, such as hunting gear, brush or a tree stump. This can cause serious injuries to the head, neck and spine that may result in paralysis or even death.”

Quick said that tree stand falls usually are caused by improper safety procedures, such as attempting to climb up or down a ladder one-handed while carrying gear in the other.

TREE STAND SAFETY TIPS

Tree stands also are a contributing factor to many accidents during deer hunting season. Here are some safety precautions:

• Practice with your stand at ground level, gradually going higher.

• Several conservation department shooting ranges and outdoor education centers have practice poles for free use.

• Use proper procedures for securing the stand to a tree.

• Read the warnings and instructions from the stand manufacturer before each season.

• Use only stands meeting the standards of the Treestand Manufacturers Association (TMA) rated for your weight and all your equipment you wear or have with you on the stand.

• Always use a safety harness that meets TMA standards and is rated for your weight and any gear you wear.

• Attach your safety harness to the tree from when you leave the ground, throughout the hunt and when you descend to the ground.

• Always position yourself so that you step down onto your tree stand to test its stability.

• Never climb into a tree with a loaded gun or arrow ready to shoot.

• Always use a haul line to raise or lower your gear, including unloaded firearms, bows and arrows.

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