September 25, 2015
A Note on Hunting Season Safety from Dr. Argo:
As hunting season nears in Indiana and Ohio, many of us prepare stands and scout the woods for that perfect hunting spot. We hope, plan, and dream of the trophies, memories, and the friendships involved in the outdoors experience. I grew up in Tennessee where, like southern Indiana, hunting is a way of life. I’ve climbed hundreds of trees, built many tree stands, and spent enough time with Mother Nature that it’s like second nature to me. Until recently I never really considered hunting as a dangerous activity. My dad taught me, as his dad taught him, how to handle a firearm, how to climb trees, how to build stands, and how to respect the outdoors. However, over the years, I’ve realized that I need to be more careful and practice greater hunting season safety.
I was trying to take down a ladder stand and actually had the stand collapse right out from under me resulting in a tangle of body parts and metal free falling about 17 feet to the rock hard ground below. As the stand fell it caught my leg and flipped me; forcing my head and face to absorb most of the impact (leading to between 40 and 50 stitches – I stopped counting at 40), injuring my wrist and ankle. I heard from my wife, my partners, my friends and several of my patients, “What on earth is a surgeon doing in a tree stand?”
The fact is that the tree stand straps broke just as I got to the top. How? Over the last four years the tree grew, the straps got tighter and weathered to the point of breaking when I climbed onto the stand. My point is: I thought that a ladder stand was the safest, most reliable stand out there. I still believe they are, but I neglected to inspect, replace and maintain the stand and the straps. I read on several internet sites recently that close to 100 hunters die or are permanently injured annually from tree stand related accidents. Another shocking statistic is that 1 out of every 3 deer hunters has fallen or had a tree stand related injury during their lifetime. The average age of an injury is around 40 years old. That means these are experienced hunters who know what they are doing: hunting season safety is not just for amateurs and new hunters.
So, I’d like to offer some advice to the novice and a reminder to the master hunters out there. 1) Never climb into a stand without a safety system. A full harness and lineman’s strap is strongly recommended. 2) Inspect and maintain your stand. Check your straps, steps, braces, screws, and bolts every time you depend on them. 3) Avoid permanent, “homemade” stands. Remember nails rust, trees grow, sway with the wind, and wood rots. This makes for a bad combination. 4) Always create a “step down” entry onto hanging stands. This means don’t use the stand as a pull up to enter the stand. This makes the stand rock and twist and could make it unstable. 5) Either hunt with a buddy or leave specific information with a family member or friend as to your exact hunting location so that if something were to happen, help can get right to you.
I heard a story this week about a man who lay at the base of a tree for over 18 hours before being found. So, I’m preaching to myself as well as patients. Be careful, take the time to do the right thing, be ethical, and always follow the rules……and I hope you get your trophy.