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Be safe when hunting from tree stands


As people across Illinois prepare for this weekend’s firearm deer season, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is urging hunters to use safety harnesses when hunting from tree stands in the field. Tree stands are the No. 1 source of hunting-related accidents and fatalities in Illinois.

The remaining 2023 firearm deer season dates are Nov. 30–Dec. 3.

“Our utmost priority is ensuring hunters’ safety so they can return home unharmed after every hunt,” said Jed Whitchurch, director of IDNR’s Office of Law Enforcement. “While we want them to enjoy themselves and achieve success in the field, we emphasize putting safety first. Our recommendation for hunters is to prioritize safety above all other considerations.”

So far during the fall 2023 hunting season, which includes archery deer season, Illinois Conservation Police have documented two hunting-related fatalities, both of which involved tree stands. One fatality occurred when a hunter fell out of a 15-foot-tall ladder tree stand. The second occurred when a hunter who’d been reported missing was eventually found deceased on the ground at the base of his ladder stand.

Tree stand falls, often from heights of 20 to 30 feet, can cause significant injuries, including broken bones, spinal damage, paralysis, concussions, organ injuries, internal bleeding, sprains, cuts, and bruises. Most of these injuries are preventable by using fall arrest systems, avoiding drug and alcohol use, and making sure the tree stand equipment is in good working order.

“By using a functional and trustworthy fall arrest system and thoroughly examining every tree stand component prior to use, most tree stand accidents can be avoided,” Whitchurch said. “The consequences of falling from a tree stand can have a lasting impact on hunters and their loved ones. The Illinois Conservation Police strongly emphasize prioritizing safety in all hunting endeavors.”

Conservation police have already documented several tree stand falls that resulted in injuries this season. Among them:
• A hunter in Jefferson County fell from a tree stand, resulting in two broken legs. He crawled nearly a half mile before a passerby saw him and called 911.
• A hunter in Saline County fell 25 feet from a tree stand when the straps broke. He suffered from severe back pain from landing on his feet.
• A hunter in Cass County fell from a tree stand after a climbing stick strap broke. His injuries required surgery.

Tree stand-related falls in previous years:
• 2022 – 6;
• 2021 – 13;
• 2020 – 14, one of which was fatal.

Tree stand safety tips include:
• Use a fall arrest system that includes a safety harness and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines that come with it.
• Inspect the tree stand for wear and tear before each use.
• Use a haul line to bring up unloaded firearms, bows, and other hunting equipment.
• Take a cell phone.
• Tell a friend or loved one where you intend to hunt and when you intend to return.
• Avoid drug or alcohol use before and during hunting.

For more information about hunting safety, visit IDNR’s hunter safety website at dnr.illinois.gov/safety.html.

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