Home Hunting Deer Season Safety: Tree Stands Kill Far More Hunters Than Guns Do

Deer Season Safety: Tree Stands Kill Far More Hunters Than Guns Do

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It’s that time of year again. The woods are full of hunters looking for that prize buck. But with all of those people carrying all of those guns, a few unfortunate incidents are bound to happen. The majority of the time, however, hunting-related injuries don’t involve firearms.

Take, for example, this story that follows a recent death in Louisiana . . .

Hunter Justin Lanclos said outside of a tree collapsing, the chances of injury while hunting are slim to none.

“The first reaction any time I see these types of incidents is that it’s gut wrenching and they’re 100 percent preventable, mine included, I’m a little over 6 years out of my fall, it’s gut wrenching, it’s heart breaking,” Lanclos said.

Lanclos said back in 2016 he fell 22 feet from a tree stand, resulting in multiple surgeries and even being wheel chair bound for three months. All because he was not properly connected to his tree stand.

“It was in July, we were setting up for the season so it was before the season, I was not connected, I was not attached to the tree as you should be, I was climbing out and lost my grip and I severely broke my leg, had some other damages to my ankles, my hips, my back,” Lanclos said. “Had my son not been there with me that day, I would’ve laid out there all day.”

Dr. Charles H. Cook is a trauma surgeon at the Ohio State University Medical Center and, I presume, a hunter. Reading between the lines of this 2010 story — Tree stands, not drunken gun-wielders, are the greatest threat to hunters — from the Los Angeles Times, it seems Dr. Cook got fed up with people suggesting that hunters are a bunch of drunken louts with a tendency to get tanked and shoot each other.

Cook and his colleagues collected data from the two Level 1 trauma centers in Columbus, Ohio for a decade. They ended up with the profiles of 130 patients who suffered hunting-related injuries.

And the survey said . . .

Sixty-five of the injuries were falls, and 60 of those were falls from tree stands, where hunters would stand or sit in wait for deer or other prey. Of those victims, 59% suffered fractures and 47% experienced lower-extremity fractures; 18% suffered injuries to their heads. Surgery was required for 81% of the fall-related injuries and 8.2% of the victims suffered permanent neurological damage. Of the other falls, four were from ground level and one was from an elevated outhouse.

Yes, an elevated outhouse.

Other injuries included 10 from crashes involving all-terrain vehicles, five arrow wounds, three injuries from falling branches — those trees again — three burns, two wounds from assaults, one self-inflicted stab wound, one bicycle crash and two wounds inflicted by prey.


So . . . what about, you know, the rifles? And the booze?

Alcohol was involved in only 2.3% of the injuries and drug abuse in 4.6% . . . Gunshot wounds accounted for 29% of the injuries, and 58% of those were accidentally self-inflicted.

Long story short: be careful out there…and use a safety harness, OK?

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  1. Tree stands and archery broadheads are a particularly nasty combination. I’ve seen hunters sliced up pretty badly from getting mixed up with a hunting broadhead in the midst of a fall out of a tree stand.

  2. I wonder if there has ever been a study on how many hunters get killed and injured going to or coming from their hunts in motor vehicles?

  3. Hey squirrell , you see that human fall out of that tree? Laying over there with a busted leg now, didnt fall but twenty feet.They claim to be at the top of the food chain.

    • Two words:
      “Terminal, ” “Velocity.”

      Squirrels fall from trees often enough.

      Fortunately; the larger and heavier the object, the faster the velocity at which the force from air resistance equals the force of gravity.

      The terminal velocity of a 175 pound hunter is more than sufficient to be lethal at impact.

      The terminal velocity of 4 ounce squirrel is sufficient to assault the varmit’s dignity and make him the laughing stock of the forest as he scampers back up the tree.

      • And the squirrel is pre-programmed by the factory (before delivery) to spread their limbs in free-fall allowing them to fall even slower.

        Possums just freeze in the headlights of the oncoming F-150, ensuring insects get a tasty meal… 😉

      • The words are actually, “kinetic energy.” A tree is not nearly high enough for a human to reach terminal velocity. Gravity will accelerate both a human and squirrel at the same rate. The greater mass of a human results in greater forces and likely injury at the end of that fall.

        • “Gravity will accelerate both a human and squirrel at the same rate.”

          In a vacuum, yes. In the air? No.
          Sectional density is a thing. Wind resistance is another thing.

        • Big Bill – If you want some real scientific observation, then go stand on your best tile. In one hand hold a marble. In the other hold a brick. Drop them from the same height. They will land at the same time. Which one cracked your floor? Why? (Hint: it is kinetic energy)

        • SD and wind are not pertinent in this case – only that gravity is constant. The bullet flying from the muzzle and the one dropped by hand will also land simultaneously (at point blank) Gravity acts on them both equally.

        • You people fail to understand the “in a vacuum” part. Humans don’t have the fur squirrels have, which is a smaller example of why a bowling ball and a feather will accelerate at the same rate in a vacuum.
          In our atmosphere, they will not fall at the same rate.
          This is high school physics.

      • I suppose we’d be pretty good at jumping from tree to tree if that was our only life skill. Hey, Tarzan was pretty good, wasn’t he?

      • The terminal velocity of the hunter might matter.. if he was falling from a tree stand 1500 ft up… that’s about how far he would have to fall before reaching 120 mph in about 12 seconds..
        At tree stand height, air resistance will play a trivial part.. it’s all about the gravity…

  4. I have a friend who’s family has owned a lovely but remote chunk of land in the Ozarks for generations and we’ve hunted on it many times – as have many others, some without permission. From time to time, he spots a poacher’s/freeloader’s tree stand out there and, naturally, he destroys and/or confiscates them. Once, several years ago, as he was tearing one out of a tree, it came down and bashed him in the face and gave him a nice black eye. So, I don’t know anyone who has fallen from a tree stand, but I know a guy who has had a tree stand fall on him

  5. Wouldn’t you hate to be the guy with the “elevated outhouse” related injury?

    “So Fred, how’d you do on opening day?”

    • “Wouldn’t you hate to be the guy with the “elevated outhouse” related injury?”

      So, gallon milk or wide-mouth Gatorade jugs aren’t a thing in a tree stand?

  6. Tree stands for deer are to me like hunting bear over bait. People just gave up walking down there so their fat asses can wait for animals to come to grain or garbage? Probably falling because they are drunk or stoned.

    • George from Alaska,

      In the jurisdiction where I hunt for deer, our state limits firearms to handguns, shotguns, muzzleloaders, and only recently allowed rifles in a few odd calibers which limit maximum range to 200 yards at the extreme, and more like 125 yards in practice.

      Plus, we must wear “hunter orange” when out hunting. And terrain/foliage often limits shots to under 100 yards.

      Furthermore, there is massive hunting pressure. Most bucks and many experienced does become entirely nocturnal by hunting season. And the few bucks and experienced does which are not nocturnal are extremely weary and it is impossible to “stalk” them. If you are moving, they will see you from great distances and run away. If you are still and wearing orange, they will see you from great distances and run away. (I once had a doe spot me with my orange hat three rows into a corn field over 250 yards away and promptly vacate the area.)

      Thus, if you are on the ground, wearing orange, and trying to stalk or “still hunt”, you will virtually always be limited to small deer which are 6 months old or at most 1.5 years old. And even then you will usually come up empty handed.

      Get 20+ feet off the ground into a tree, however, and now you have a reasonable chance of bagging a large buck or doe — which is why so many people in this area use tree stands.

      • Sitting quietly and waiting is an entirely legitimate way to hunt. It’s also a form of self-discipline that has almost entirely disappeared in the modern world.

        Also, I’ve heard that hot pink is far superior to blaze orange for hunting purposes. To the human eye, they’re equally bright and visible. To a deer, the hot pink just looks gray, while blaze orange looks like a splash of unnatural yellow. Some places won’t allow anything except orange, though.

        • I hunted for years in Ohio, WV, and KY. Most folks there don’t have access to large plots of lands. They own small farms or pay for a hunting lease. Either way stalking isn’t a real option.

          So they go up.

        • Ing,

          Everything that you said is true and accurate. Unfortunately, my state will not allow hot pink because a fair number of people are red color blind and will see that hot pink as gray just like the deer.

          Otherwise, I would do hot pink in a heartbeat because, as you said, deer see hot pink as gray rather than a splash of unnatural yellow in the black, gray, brown, and tan forest and meadows.

          (That was why the doe picked me out from 250 yards away across a large field even though I was three rows into a cornfield wearing a good camouflage match for field corn!)

        • Color vision. I can’t say what the “typical” color impaired guy sees. I can tell you that hunter orange, rose red, and hot pink are all equally invisible to me, in the woods. I am both red and green color blind, but the work “blind” is misleading. Under good, natural light, I can point to box of crayons, and distinguish between red and green, but I can’t distinguish between brown and green. I can find the red crayon, almost always, but I can’t identify purple, lavender, nor can I distinguish between the many shades of red. So, I simply do not see any hunter’s safety colors. The one color that I do see, readily, in the woods, is the neon green that loggers wear. Of course, it doesn’t look much different from neon yellow. Those, and blue. I’ll see a bright blue from miles away. Long story short? I’ll spot your head, or arms, or legs, and probably even your gun(s) long before those safety orange vests register with me.

      • While deer can see orange, they don’t see it as orange, but as a brown or grey.


        • Big Bill,

          The research that I found says that deer see orange as a pale yellow. And from what I know of how cone cells work in our eyes, that makes sense. It also coincides with my experience when out hunting. (A deer would not “bust” me when I was 250 yards away across an open field and three rows into a corn field if my orange hat looked brown or gray.)

          And, let’s get a bit technical. Deer have blue and green cone cells in their eyes. Blue cone cells will register green at low levels and of course green cone cells will register green at high levels. Thus, a deer’s brain will integrate low output from blue cells with high output from green cells as pure green. Blue cone cells will not register yellow, orange, or red at all. And green cone cells will register yellow and orange as low levels on green cone cells. Thus, a deer’s brain will register low levels on green cone cells only as yellow. (They have no way to differentiate yellow from orange without red cone cells.)

          And one last point: even the photo in your link displays that hunter’s orange vest as a pale yellow. While that isn’t super bright, of course, it really stands out to a deer that is extremely weary from hunting pressure in a forest which has no yellow at all.

          Perhaps the research that I read and my understanding is wrong. If that is the case, I would really like to hear from a reliable, authoritative source.

        • @ Uncommon_Sense:
          I was referring to was your line “Plus, we must wear “hunter orange” when out hunting.”
          That’s not as much a limitation as you seem to think, because, as I pointed out in my link, the deer don’t see it as something really strange in the woods (or anywhere else).
          While our research may lead us to slightly different ends, the impact on the deer isn’t as great as you seem to think.

      • And another thing for commenter George from Alaska,

        I forgot to mention the most important reason to hunt from a tree-stand:

        For those of us who choose not to drive over three hours to the sparsely populated region of my state, everything in this region is 99.9% private land which is fractured into small parcels. Many people are hunting on as little as 5 acres. And even if you are on a private property parcel that is 40 acres, there is a very high probability that most of that is pasture or crops with a small island or finger of forest. And it is pretty flat.

        As I stated earlier, we are required to wear “hunter orange” and I absolutely guarantee you that you will NOT successfully stalk deer across a 30 acre open, flat field of soybeans wearing hunter orange.

        Oh, and if that doesn’t change your frame of mind: quite often there are NO deer on your little parcel of land that you are hunting and your only option is to wait for them to come onto your parcel from an adjacent parcel or two parcels over.

        Put all these facts together (including huge hunting pressure) and your only realistic option for success is to hunt from a tree stand or a large, fixed blind. And when you are a guest on someone else’s property, a large fixed blind isn’t an option. All that is left therefore are tree-stands. Or an empty freezer.

        • @uncommon_sense:
          You did not mention that from a tree stand the hunter will most likely be shooting at a considerable angle of depression, and the projectile won’t go far if he or she misses the prey. This could be a definite safety consideration in the sort of terrain you describe, which puts me in mind of any rural area in southeastern Michigan (my home state).

    • “Tree stands for deer are to me like hunting bear over bait.”

      How about for wild hogs? Aren’t drop traps better than gate traps because hogs tend not to look up?

    • I agree, sitting up in a tree drunk ain’t hunting. What ever happened to stalking, good field craft? A little exercise never hurt anyone

  7. You have lamestream media, madison ave, and hollywood to thank for the distorted perception that hunters are a drunken lot.
    Being someone who hunts (and EDCs) I know what I accept of myself and others is a clear and unaltered state of awareness while around firearms.
    It’s all about swaying public opinion to make violating the 2nd A easier. No thanks Soros and Blumburg.

  8. I wear a harness and it’s on a rope around the tree so I’m not falling out
    Watch the left try to ban tree stands. For the children.

  9. The other thing killing hunters is their dogs while the hunter is negotiating a fence. There’s something about a dog’s paw, or nose or maybe that waggy thing in the back half that just naturally loves to catch a trigger.

  10. Even so, the study says there were 38 gunshot wounds (29% of the total) among this relatively small sample, so it is not accurate to suggests that tree stands cause are dangerous but guns are not. And the tree stands were not the majority of the injuries, even if they were the most common. The other thing distorting this study is that it is from a trauma center, which treats only those with injuries, not those who are already dead. So we do not have the numbers for how many people were in fact killed by tree stands versus gunshot wounds, or what percentage of the hunter fatalities were alcohol-related. It is entirely possible that drunk hunters are more likely to have fatal accidents.

    • If hunting is to scary for you, stay home and be skeptical from the safety of your couch. The rest of us will enjoy life.

      • How do you conclude that Skeptical Reader finds hunting scary? All he’s doing is trying to sort out what conclusions the data support and what they don’t.
        You protest too much, methinks.

    • There are no standardized reporting formats for hunting accident data, so studies often conflict. A study of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinic’s hunting injury admissions from 1999 to 2004 found 8 firearms inflicted injuries and 16 tree stand related injuries for a total of 24 admissions from their service region. Two of the UWHC tree stand injury admissions during the study period were fatal:


      Since this period, serious tree stand injuries have been rising and hunting firearms injuries have been declining. Tree stand related injuries probably outnumber firearms injuries during hunting today, but not all tree stand injuries are reported as such. Firearms injuries are always subjected to more accurate reporting and this skews statistics.

      A follow on study of UWHC’s tree stand accident patients lays out the severity of these injuries in stark terms:


      Quite a few tree stand falls result in paralysis and the attendant requirement for lifetime care. Far fewer hunting firearms injuries result in paralysis. So there is a cost factor to consider as well.

      • How many injuries happened when the tree stand was getting set-up? What do you have to hold on-to when it’s not secured yet? I’ve never hunted deer, but I’ve been in a tree stand just to look out. Beautiful up there!

        • All of the various state level studies (and there are at least 8) describe the circumstances leading up to injurious falls as “multifactorial”. A couple of the studies mention tree stand set up accidents, but falling asleep unharnessed and entry/exit misadventures seem to be the most common factors reported. Surprisingly, alcohol and other substances are low single digit percentages of the causes in all the reports where they were compiled.

          It should be noted that all of the studies indicate that less than a quarter of all tree stand injuries presented to hospitals are reported to trauma databases as tree stand related, or as hunting related. Most just get reported as falls of an unspecified nature.

  11. I watched a documentary on tree stand danger that said that most of the injuries were caused by failure to take the stand down and reinstall it on a regular basis. The tree does not remain in the exact shape that it had when the stand was installed, and the stand fits into the tree worse and worse and is not supported well enough to support the hunter.
    Specific recommendations for reinstallation intervals are at least supposed to be in the stand’sowner’s manual. Otherwise, hunters must do their own homework. Intervals vary by tree type and local ecosystems; trees grow faster where rain is plentiful and soil is good, etc.


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