The 2023 firearm deer season is upon us and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) urges hunters to ensure their safety, particularly regarding tree stand hunting, which according to IDNR, has now become the leading cause of hunting-related accidents and fatalities in the state.
Jed Whitchurch, director of IDNR's Office of Law Enforcement, places utmost importance on hunter safety, stating his goal is to ensure hunters return home unharmed after every hunt. The fall 2023 hunting season, encompassing archery deer season, has already seen two fatalities, both due to tree stand incidents. Whitchurch opines that tree stand accidents can be avoided through use of reliable fall arrest systems and comprehensive inspection of the tree stand before using it, with the aim of avoiding lasting trauma for hunters and their families.
The risk of injury or even fatality from tree stand falls remains high, despite fluctuating numbers of related falls over the past few years (14 in 2020, 13 in 2021, and 6 in 2022). Accidents can result in injuries such as broken bones, spinal damage, paralysis, concussions, organ trauma, internal bleeding, sprains, cuts, and bruises.
The repercussions of these falls are significantly affecting hunters' lives. In Jefferson County, a hunter who fell from a tree stand and broke both legs crawled almost half a mile before help arrived. Another hunter in Saline County suffered severe back pain after a 25-foot fall caused by breaking straps. In Cass County, a fall resulted in injury requiring surgical intervention for a hunter.
To prevent such accidents, the IDNR advises hunters on tree stand safety measures through its press release. It recommends, among other things, the use of a fall arrest system including a safety harness, regular tree stand inspections, and use of a haul line for bringing up unloaded firearms and other equipment. Communication of hunting plans to someone else and having a phone for emergencies are also important.
The IDNR also stresses the importance of avoiding substance use before and during hunting as this can result in impaired judgment and accidents. Following these safety guidelines can contribute to a safer and more enjoyable hunting season.
For more educational resources and assistance on safe hunting practices, IDNR recommends its comprehensive hunter safety website.