It’s the most wonderful time of the year — and for many in East Texas, that has diddly-squat to do with the holidays.
White-tailed deer hunting season is underway, and there are plenty among us who would rather bag a big buck than have a big-buck item come from Santa’s bag.
But the thrill of the hunt is not all fun and games, as a recent article from our outdoors writer Matt Williams reminded us.
Hunting accidents happen every year, and they don’t always involve firearms or bows and arrows. Reports circulating in the news of hunters injured or killed in falls from tree stands serve as stark reminders that one can never be too careful in the woods.
Williams’ article details a recent report out of Georgia of a 46-year-old deer hunter who was pronounced dead at the scene after his body was found in the woods of Putnam County near a climbing tree stand.
The October incident is still being investigated, but authorities say it appears the man fell from the tree when the climbing stand he was using broke or malfunctioned.
Closer to home, a Tyler County hunter suffered a terrifying accident Halloween evening, falling almost 20 feet from a tree stand and winding up hanging upside down by his boot, according to a Free Range American article.
The Tyler County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from the unidentified hunter requesting help while he was “stuck with his (buttocks) in the air, dangling 18 feet above the ground,” the article states.
“He was high off the ground, with his right foot wedged in the framework of his climbing stand,” Deputy Cory LeBlanc told KFDM/Fox. “He’d been hanging long enough that his fluids and blood were rushing to his head. He’s lucky his phone didn’t hit the ground.”
The hunter was 18 feet in the air “and my ankle was the only thing that was holding me up,” the hunter said in an interview. “I held my phone in my mouth. I knew if I dropped this, I’ll die.”
The hunter openly grieved the loss of his hunting boot, which first responders had to cut off to free his foot from the tree stand, but was fortunate to only suffer minor injuries to his pride.
And just last month, the following hunting accidents occurred:
■ An Arkansas hunter’s ladder slipped out from beneath him as he scrambled from his stand for a follow-up shot on a Booner buck. He suffered a fractured leg and broke three vertebrae in his back.
■ The body of a 63-year-old man was found by a Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office bloodhound Oct. 29 in Louisiana’s Kisatchie National Forest. Evidence at the scene suggested a chain on his tree stand malfunctioned, causing the hunter to fall to his death.
■ A 66-year-old Iowa hunter was reported missing in Jo Daviess County, Illinois, Oct. 30. He was found unresponsive at the base of his tree stand and eventually pronounced dead at the scene from injuries sustained during a fall.
While accidental shootings have been steadily decreasing for decades — a trend attributed to hunter education — hunters are 2 to 3 times more likely to be injured in a tree stand accident while hunting than they are from a firearm, according to medical specialists.
The important takeaway here is that hunters should always use a safety harness when using a tree stand.
And Williams urges hunters to take further precautions while hunting aloft by following the ABC’s of tree stand hunting safety established by the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation:
A.) Always remove and inspect your equipment before you use it.
B.) Buckle your full-body harness securely each time you put it on.
C.) Connect to the tree using some sort of safety rope before your feet leave the ground.
Virginia archer Glen Mayhew had a key hand in founding the TSSA in 2016, Williams wrote. Mayhew’s findings show 35% of falls are related to failure to inspect stands and equipment, 86% due to not wearing a safety harness and 99% because victims are not connected to the tree while climbing it.
“You can pretty much eliminate the risk of falling to the ground by following those steps,” he said.