Hunting accidents can and do happen — and they can have tragic consequences. Safety awareness is an essential part of hunting. As a hunter, knowing common hunting accident injuries helps you avoid circumstances that lead to hunting injuries. Even seasoned hunters may be surprised by the most frequent cause of hunting accident injuries.
Hunting Accidents Involving Guns
When someone says “hunting accident,” gunshot injuries are usually the first thing that comes to mind. Hunting gun accidents happen for many different reasons, including:
- Judgment mistakes of hunters
- Safety rule violations
- Lack of education, practice, and control
- Mechanical failure
Judgment mistakes often cause the most serious hunting accidents. Failure to identify the target is the most frequent cause of gunshot hunting injuries. Sometimes, the victim may even be out of sight of the shooter.
Accidents and mistakes also occur when a hunter swings on game, moving the gun or bow toward the target rather than holding still and waiting for the game to move into sight. Careless handling of guns also causes injuries, often to the hunter himself or herself.
Gun experts maintain that most firearm injuries result from pointing a gun in an unsafe direction. They advise knowing where the muzzle is at all times. Diverting your attention even for a split second can have terrible consequences.
Proper training and education (required for Virginia hunters between the ages of 12 and 15), as well as practice shooting and handling firearms is the best ways to avoid weapon accidents. Constant vigilance while hunting is always essential as well.
Tree Stand Accidents Cause Most Hunting Injuries
While accidental shootings are often associated with hunting accidents, the most common cause of hunting injuries is not gun-related. According to national statistics, tree stand injuries and fatalities far outnumber hunting injuries from guns.
Tree stand accidents can be fatal. Victims who survive can end up permanently disabled.
A tree stand typically sits 10 to 30 feet above the ground. Any fall from that height is dangerous. Injuries often include spinal cord or brain damage. The remote location of many tree stands complicates discovery of and prompt treatment for tree stand accident victims.
Basic tree stand safety requires wearing a full body harness and using it properly. While this safety measure could prevent many accidents, statistics indicate that 85% of tree stand injuries occur to hunters who do not use a harness. An even higher 90% of deaths from tree stand accidents occur to hunters not wearing a harness.
About 40% of tree stand falls occur from the platform itself. Roughly an equal number (23% and 22% respectively) occur while the hunter is ascending or descending the stand, accounting for half of all stand accidents.
Accident cause varies. Slipping on or missing steps and losing grip or balance accounts for 28% of accidents. Breaking straps cause 16% of injuries. Human error accounts for 11% of tree stand accidents. Breaks in the stand or ladder account for 15% of accidents.
Interestingly, the stand type — manufactured, climber, ladder, or homemade — does not make a significant difference in the likelihood of a tree stand accident. Archery and firearm stand accidents are almost equally common, at 45% and 39% of all accidents respectively.
One study estimates that a third of all hunters who use tree stands suffer a fall sometime in their hunting career. Here is a quick run-down of safety measures to help you stack the odds in favor of avoiding an accident when you use your tree stand.
Before you go hunting:
- Use a sturdy tree stand. There are industry standards for commercially built tree stands.
- Practice using the tree stand in both morning and evening hours.
- Inspect your tree stand before and after each use. Look for wear, rust, cracks, missing hardware, and rot. Check straps, chains, and other attachment devices.
- Remove logs, rocks, and other debris on the ground below your stand as a precaution.
When you are hunting:
- Tell everyone in your hunting group the location of your stand. Leave a map on your dashboard with a note indicating your expected return time.
- Keep a whistle, horn, radio, or cellphone in your pack, along with a first-aid kit and flashlight.
- Wear a full-body safety harness properly (maintaining three points of contact) at all times.
- Attach your stand securely to a healthy tree.
- Harness up before you climb.
- Use a haul line for your gear and keep your hands free when climbing.
- Unload your gun or bow before climbing and descending.
- Wear solid blaze orange or solid blaze pink on the stand and elsewhere as required. (On July 1, 2018, specific requirements went into effect for wearing blaze pink in Virginia instead of traditional blaze orange. You can read the details about wearing blaze pink on the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.)
- Don’t fall asleep while on your stand — many stand accidents occur after the hunter falls asleep. Stay alert by moving your arms and hands.
Safe hunting with a tree stand involves a lot of thought and preparation. To seasoned hunters, most of it just comes naturally. Even so, it is a good idea to brush up on all the safety measures at the beginning of the season. Then you can enjoy one of America’s favorite pastimes knowing that you covered all the right bases.
Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Hunting Accident Injury Attorney
If you suffered serious injuries in a hunting accident or you lost a loved one in a hunting accident, you may be able to recover compensation. At The Jeff Brooke Team, our experience includes recovering financial payment for hunters who suffered injuries in a hunting accident. We always vigorously pursue your case to get the full compensation you deserve. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.