Editor’s Note: This is the most-important article you'll read this hunting season that can save your life, keep you from losing 1 week to 6 months of work, save you thousands of dollars and prevent pain and suffering for many years. The longer you’ve hunted from a tree stand, the more likely that you’ll fall. We all think of tree stand accidents happening during hunting season, but this week we’ll look at three people who work with and shoot video for the Mossy Oak Pros Mark and Terry Drury of Drury Outdoors, who have fallen before the season. Part of the reason they fell was they believed they were bullet-proof from tree stand accidents.
Blair Goins of Florence, Alabama, films for the Drury Outdoors “Dream Season TV” Show.
In the summer of 2013, I had gone to an outfitter’s property where I planned to hunt during the fall. I took my 4-wheeler and some herbicide to spray the green fields I would be hunting over to kill all the weeds.Then I planned to plant my fall crop of Mossy Oak BioLogic. The outfitter had put several stands up and wanted me to climb one particular stand to see if I thought I’d have a clean shot from that stand to take a deer. A lady I was dating climbed up in the stand just to look around - but she only was just over 5-feet tall and weighed about 100 pounds. Then I climbed up. I had left my Muddy Safety Harness in my truck, because I wasn’t planning to climb into a tree stand. I was just spraying the herbicide over the green fields.
I've been deer hunting for 28 years, and I’ve climbed into and out of tree stands thousands of times without ever having an accident. I climbed up into the fixed-position stand, stood up, looked and then turned around to step off the stand onto the stick ladder I’d used to climb the tree. The ratchet straps that attached the stand to the tree broke. As I was falling, I worried that the stand would fall on top of me. However, the stand kicked out away from the tree. I landed on my feet just like a cat that jumps from a high place but all the weight of my body came crashing down on my left ankle and pretty much destroyed it. I was wearing snakeboots but one of the bones in my ankle came through the skin, through the boots, and out on the outside of the boot. Later, I learned I also had a stress fracture in my backbone and some broken ribs.
The outfitter called the paramedics, and I was rushed to the hospital in Murray, Kentucky. My injury was so bad I was immediately sent to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, and underwent surgery. The doctors had to use an external fixation device (put screws into the bone above and below the fracture and attached a device outside the skin to the screws that could be adjusted to realign the bone). My fracture was so bad the doctors couldn’t reset the bones. They cleaned out the wound and let the swelling go down before they went in and put plate screws in my ankle. Three weeks later I returned to the hospital and had plates put in my ankle to enable me to walk again. Three weeks later, my wound got infected, and I had to return to the hospital, had another surgery and had a halo frame put on my foot and leg that I had to wear for 5 months.
I was off from work for 18 months. During the deer-hunting season, I used crutches to get in and out of the woods, and I had to hunt out of ground blinds and box blinds. The box blinds were about 6 feet up off the ground. I could pull myself into the box blinds just using my arms to climb. I couldn’t walk into the woods. I either had to go in on a 4-wheeler or a truck to my stand.
Some lessons we learn easy, and some lessons we learn the hard way. From my fall, I learned that I’ll never go up a tree stand without a safety harness again. I would advise you to never climb a tree without a safety harness attached to the tree from the time you leave the ground, go up the tree – until you come down the tree and are standing on the ground again.
All the pain and suffering I’ve been through isn’t worth not taking the time to buckle up before you go up. Once you get your tree stand attached to the tree, I also highly recommend using the new life lines available as you climb into your tree stand and come down. That way, you can stay connected the entire time you're climbing. Most novice tree stand hunters fall either when they're climbing up or coming down the tree, however, most experienced tree stand hunters often fall due to malfunctions with their tree stands or not checking their stands just before they hunt. I know several experienced tree stand hunters who’ve fallen because the straps around the tree that have held their fixed position stands have broken. Or, when they’ve gotten into a tree stand someone else has set-up, they’ve assumed the stand’s safe, but haven’t checked it out for themselves. Although the lady I was dating got in and out of the stand before I went up, she weighed a lot less than I did.
To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ new eBook and print book, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows.” You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or Smartphone.
For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from http://johninthewild.com/free-books.
Tomorrow: Add New Straps to Fixed Position Stands